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Salamanders


Figure 7. Oak-pine forest. - click to enlarge Figure 7. Oak-pine forest.

       Terrestrial salamanders (see Life History) include species that are: restricted in distribution in the Great Smokies; wide ranging but not common species; and wide ranging in higher or lower elevations, and generally common. Because they do not have larvae, they must be sampled where they carry out their entire life cycle, usually on the forest floor and under leaf litter and other debris.

 

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Table 1. Identification and life history of the nonpermanently aquatic salamanders of Great Smoky Mountains National Park
[mos, months; yr, year; mm, millimeter; TL, total length; SVL, snout-vent length; ~, approximately; <, less than; >, greater than] - click to enlarge

Species

Egg deposition

Hatching

Larval
period

Hatching
size

Size and time of
Metamorphosis

Spots on dorsum

Dorsal pattern

Belly pattern

Tail attributes

Notes

Ambystoma maculatum

Jan. to late Mar. (mountains-late Feb. to early Mar.); 4-7 weeks incubation

April-May

2-4 mos

12-17 mm TL

29-32 mm SVL; 43-60 mm TL (to 75 mm TL if overwinter); mid-June to August

 

dull olive green, no conspicuous markings

white or light

tail fin lightly mottled or finely stippled; dark at tip

Breeding occurs in 2-3 bouts following rain; pond type larvae

A. opacum

Oct-Nov (in pond by Sept.); 9-15 days incubation, but must be flooded 1-2 days

winter

5-7 mos

10-14 mm TL

~33 mm SVL; 49-58 mm TL; late March mid-June

 

blackish, drab; older larvae have mottling on body

throat stippled; scattered melanophores on lateral sides

dorsal fin extends almost to front limbs

Pond type larvae; series of ventrolateral light spots forming a line below limb insertions

A. talpoideum

Sept. to Mar. (winter)

winter to early spring

3-4 mos, but variable

~10 mm SVL

32 to 50 mm SVL; May to Sept.

 

black and yellow blotches along midline of back

dark band on midline (poor in some specimens)

yellow and black on tail fin

Pond type larvae; variable life histories with regard to timing of events

Desmognathus conanti

early May to early July, perhaps to mid-August; 45-60 days incubation

July to early fall

<1 yr

8-12 mm SVL; 12-20 mm TL

9-12 mm SVL, to 20 mm SVL; July to early fall?

5-8 pairs of even or alternating spots or blotches

sides with dorsolateral stripe; dorsum variable

 

spot pattern continues on tail

In older larvae, spots or blotches may fuse

D. imitator

late spring to early summer?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

D. marmoratus

late spring to early summer?; 10-12 weeks incubation

mid-Aug to mid-Sept.

3 yrs (10-20 mos)

11 mm SVL

26-38 mm SVL; May to Oct.

2 rows light spots

dark, conspicuous light flecks on sides

 

spatulate

more slender, with longer legs than DQ

D. monticola

mid-June to mid- August; 2 mos incubation

early summer to fall; Sept.

10-11 mos

11-12 mm SVL

June-July

4-5 pairs light dorsal spots between limbs

 

 

 

 

D. ocoee

July to early Aug. to Sept.; 52-74 days incubation

Aug to late Sept.

9-10 mos

13-18 mm TL

11-15 mm SVL; May to June

4-6 pairs of alternating light spots on dorsum

 

 

 

round snouts

D. quadramaculatus

May to June

July to Sept.

3-4 yrs

11-16 mm SVL

35-42, to 54 mm SVL; mid-summer

6-8 pairs light spots between limbs

light brown

 

 

much larger than all other Desmogs; lots of yolk 1-2 mos after hatching

D. santeetlah

early May to early July, perhaps to mid-August; 45-60 days incubation

July to early fall

<1 yr

8-12 mm SVL; 12-20 mm TL

9-12 mm SVL, to 20 mm SVL; July to early fall?

4-5 pairs of even or alternating spots or blotches

 

 

 

 

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Table 1. continued

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Table 1. Identification and life history of the nonpermanently aquatic salamanders of Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Continued),
[mos, months; yr, year; mm, millimeter; TL, total length; SVL, snout-vent length; ~, approximately; <, less than; >, greater than] - click to enlarge

Species

Egg deposition

Hatching

Larval
period

Hatching
size

Size and time of Metamorphosis

Spots on dorsum

Dorsal pattern

Belly pattern

Tail attributes

Notes

Eurycea guttolineata

winter

early to mid- Mar?

3.5-5.5 mos (< 1 yr), but may over-
winter

11-12.5 mmSVL

22-27 mm SVL, to 32 mm SVL; June to August

no paired light spots

cream; uniformly stippled; then dark broad dorsolateral stripe; narrow mid- dorsal stripe

immaculate

dorsal fin does not extend forward of rear legs

stream type

E. junaluska

at least by mid-May

early June?

1-2 yr

7-9 mm SVL;
11-13 mm TL

34-42 mm SVL; mid-May to August

 

deep olive green to brown

no iridophores

 

dense, well-defined cheek patches; lower margin of dark pigmentation straight

E. longicauda

late autumn to early spring

Nov-March after 4-12 weeks

normally <1 yr (4-7 mos)

18-21 mm SVL; 40 mm TL;

23-28 mm SVL; >50 mm TL if over- wintering; mid-June- July

 

cream colored; then uniformly dark, similar to adults; no paired spots

immaculate

 

 

E. lucifuga

Sept. to Feb.

 

6-18 mos; most 12-15 mos

9-12 mm SVL; to 17.5 mm TL

31-37 mm SVL; to 70 mm TL; spring

 

sparse pigmentation with 3 longitudinal series of spots on the side

 

 

 

E. wilderae

Feb. to May; 4-10 weeks incubation

May to August

1-2 yr

7-9 mm SVL; 11-14 mm TL

18-19 mm SVL in 1 yr, to 32 mm SVL in 2 yr; April to July

6-9 pairs light dorsolateral

dusky

light with iridophores

 

stream type; tail fin stops near insertion of rear limbs; reddish gills; square snouts

Gyrinophilus porphyriticus

summer

late summer to autumn

to 4 yr

18-22 mm TL

55-65 mm SVL, to 70 mm high elevation; late June to August

 

light yellow brown to gray with fine flecking

 

 

long truncated snouts with small eyes

Hemidactylium scutatum

Feb to May

May-June?

21 to 61 days

 

11-15 mm SVL; 17-25 mm TL; July?

 

nondescript, yellow brown; dorsal fin extends to head

 

 

pond type larvae; joint nesting occurs; brooding

Pseudotriton montanus

autumn to early winter

winter

15-17 mos to 29-30 mos

<13 mm SVL

35-44 mm SVL; mid- May to Sept.

 

light brown; older with widely scattered spots

immaculate

 

stream type; over- wintering occurs; larvae can be very large

P. ruber

autumn to early winter; 3 mos incubation

mid-Dec to mid-Feb

1.5 to 3.5 yr (27-31 mos)

11-14 mm TL

34-46 mm SVL; 62- 86 mm TL; May to July

 

light brown; weakly mottled or streaked

dull white

 

stream type; no black chins or dorsal spots

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       Monitoring programs can target each type of distributional pattern or habitat listed below, depending upon the objectives of the researchers and the funds and personnel available. For example, whereas a few people can easily monitor the status of the Southern Zigzag Salamander, a much more elaborate protocol will be necessary to monitor populations of the Southern Red-backed Salamander. A number of these species are syntopic, making multispecies monitoring a realistic objective. As much as possible, single species sampling and monitoring should be avoided in favor of multispecies sampling and data recording. Some examples of typical distribution patterns follow:

Species restricted in distribution

    Southern Zigzag Salamander (Plethodon ventralis).

Wide ranging, but not common, species

    Southern Appalachian Salamander (Plethodon oconaluftee).

Species that are common and wide ranging at higher elevations

    Pigmy Salamander (Desmognathus wrighti); Jordan’s Salamander (Plethodon jordani); Southern Gray-cheeked Salamander (Plethodon metcalfi).

Species that are common and wide ranging at lower elevations

    Northern Slimy Salamander (Plethodon glutinosus); Southern Red-backed Salamander (Plethodon serratus).

Figure 8. Middle Prong at Tremont. - click to enlarge
Figure 8. Middle Prong at Tremont.

       River-dwelling salamanders inhabit only the largest of the Smokies rivers (fig. 8), including Little River, Middle Prong, Oconaluftee River, Little Pigeon River, Abrams Creek, the lower reaches of Deep Creek and, perhaps, Hazel Creek. There are only two true river-dwelling salamanders in the Great Smokies, the Hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis), known presently only from Little River, Oconaluftee River, and Deep Creek (Nickerson and others, 2002; Dodd, 2004) (fig. 9), and the Common Mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus), known only from Little River and Abrams Creek. One additional salamander, the Junaluska Salamander (Eurycea junaluska), tends to be associated with some of the Park’s larger western and northwestern streams and rivers on the Tennessee side of the Smokies.

Figure 9. Ideal habitat for Hellbenders in Lower Abrams Creek. - click to enlarge
Figure 9. Ideal habitat for Hellbenders in Lower Abrams Creek.

Larvae are found near the shore, and the adults inhabit streambanks for at least part of the year. However, this species also inhabits some smaller streams, and it is by no means a “river dwelling” species.

       Creek and stream salamanders have larvae that develop in the creeks and streams of the Park (figs.10,11,12), whereas the adults may be aquatic, semi-aquatic, or even terrestrial to a greater or lesser degree. Many of these species are widespread in the Park because of the large number of creeks and streams available for colonization. A few species are found only at higher mountain elevations (for example, the Ocoee and Imitator Salamanders), whereas others are lowland species (Spotted Dusky, Threelined, and Long-tailed Salamanders). Instead of a circumscribed area, their habitat is often linear, following the streams and streamsides.

Figure 10. Small stream in unnamed tributary to Falls Branch. - click to enlarge
Figure 10. Small stream in unnamed tributary to Falls Branch.

The dusky salamanders (Desmognathus) are prominent in this group, but there are many exceptions to each habitat categorization listed below. Even Black-bellied Salamanders have been found well above the forest floor in rock crevices among boulders at considerable distances from water. Monitoring adults and larvae of these species requires very different techniques, and may require sampling very different types of habitats.

Nearly aquatic species

    Shovel-nosed Salamander (Desmognathus marmoratus).

Predominantly aquatic and streamside species

    Spotted Dusky Salamander (Desmognathus conanti); Seal Salamander (Desmognathus monticola); Black-bellied Salamander (Desmognathus quadramaculatus);

    Figure 11. Medium-sized stream in normal flow at Roaring Fork. - click to enlarge
    Figure 11. Medium-sized stream in normal flow at Roaring Fork.

    Santeetlah Salamander (Desmognathus santeetlah); Junaluska Salamander (Eurycea junaluska). The extremely high elevation areas where some streams first appear may be devoid of salamanders if the water emanates from the Anakeesta rock formation (Dodd, 2004).

frog graphicSpecies with aquatic larvae but are largely terrestrial as adults

    Imitator Salamander (Desmognathus imitator); Ocoee Salamander (Desmognathus ocoee); Three-lined Salamander (Eurycea guttolineata); Long-tailed Salamander (Eurycea longicauda); Blue Ridge Twolined Salamander (Eurycea wilderae).

       A few salamanders require very specialized habitats in the Great Smokies, or at least are usually found in these habitats. Some of these species have larvae which are found in the same streams and creeks as the preceding species, although the adults prefer to

Figure 12. Medium-sized stream in high water at Whiteoak Flats Branch. - click to enlarge
Figure 12. Medium-sized stream in high water at Whiteoak Flats Branch.

leave the streams. Whereas the larvae may be relatively easy to survey, adults often can be quite difficult to find with any regularity. One species, the Seepage Salamander, does not have a larval stage, and the adults are only found in wet seeps.

Cave inhabitants (fig. 13)

    Cave Salamander (Eurycea lucifuga).

       Known only from Stupkas Cave, the Calf caves, and one record from Whiteoak Sink. Other salamanders in the Smokies may live in caves, especially around the entrances (Dodd and others, 2001). The larvae of some salamanders (for example, E. longicauda in Gregorys Cave) develop in pools well inside cave passages (fig. 14).

Figure 13. Entrance to Gregorys Cave. - click to enlarge
Figure 13. Entrance to Gregorys Cave.

Rock face inhabitants (fig. 15)

    Spotted Dusky Salamander (Desmognathus conanti); Seal Salamander (Desmognathus monticola).

       Permanent to near permanent wet rock walls with hiding places, particularly along trails, road cuts, and in the vicinity of waterfalls, especially at lower elevations.

Figure 14. Rimstone pools and cave pool at Gregorys Cave. Salamander larvae develop in the pools, although they are unlikely to complete metamorphosis. - click to enlarge
Figure 14. Rimstone pools and cave pool at Gregorys Cave. Salamander larvae develop in the pools, although they are unlikely to complete metamorphosis.

Spring Inhabitants

    Spring Salamander (Gyrinophilus porphyriticus); Black-chinned Red Salamander (Pseudotriton ruber).

Inhabitants of swampy and mucky habitats (fig. 16)

    Mud Salamander (Pseudotriton montanus). Known only from a few scattered locations in the lowlands of the northern side of the Park.

Inhabitants of wet seepages (fig. 17)

    Seepage Salamander (Desmognathus aeneus).

salamander graphic       Known only from drainages on the southwestern side of the Park. Finally, there are salamanders that breed in ponds, and it is virtually only at this time that these species can be censused. Five species fall into this category: the Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum); Marbled Salamander (A. opacum); the rare Mole Salamander (A. talpoideum); Four-toed Salamander (Hemidactylium scutatum); and Eastern Red-spotted Newt (Notophthalmus viridescens). Breeding ponds are limited within the Park,

Figure 15. Rock face near Double Gap. - click to enlarge
Figure 15. Rock face near Double Gap.

being concentrated in Cades Cove and nearby Big Spring Cove (the four Finley-Cane sinkhole ponds), the Cane Creek drainage, and at scattered localities between Sugarlands and Cades Cove along Little River (at the Sinks and ditches along the road to Tremont). These locations are on the Tennessee side of the Park. Although beaver ponds are found in Bone Valley and Big Cove in North Carolina, and small scattered ditches and wetlands occur in Cataloochee Valley, no pond salamanders are known to breed in them.

Figure 16. Former trout pond mucky habitat in Cataloochee. - click to enlarge
Figure 16. Former trout pond mucky habitat in Cataloochee.

 

 

 

 

Figure 17. Seep at Big Spring Cove. - click to enlarge
Figure 17. Seep at Big Spring Cove.

 

 

 

 

Mud Salamanders are known only from a few scattered locations in the lowlands of the northern side of the Park.

 

Frogs

salamander graphic

 

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U.S. Department of the Interior
U.S. Geological Survey

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