Dusky Salamander

Desmognathus fuscus
Northern Dusky Salamander

NPS Photo

Family: Plethodontidae

Desmognathus fuscus

Northern Dusky Salamander

Size: 6.4 to 14.1 cm long (2 ½" to 5 ½")

General Description: Dusky tan to dark brown back color with plain or mottled sides, sometimes with a wavy stripe on each side of back. Lighter colored stripe may run down middle of back. 5 to 8 pairs round yellowish spots on juveniles. Pattern darkens and becomes obscured as animal ages. Pale line from eye to angle of jaw on head. Tail makes up just less than half of the total length and is laterally compressed on the basal third. Belly lighter gray to whitish color and often mottled with gray or brown. Hind legs larger than front legs. Often a light colored line from eye to angle of jaw. 14 costal grooves. Toe tips are not cornified. Albinos are rare, but have been documented. Hatchlings have whitish gills and a persistent yolk sac that may take over two months to absorb. Larvae are aquatic. Range map above under-represents current known distribution.

Habitat: Streams, stream margins, and riparian areas.

Similar Species: May have subspecies. Seal Salamanders, Desmognathus monticola, typically have heavy black or dark brown spots on their backs and are larger as adults than this species. Mole Salamanders, Ambystoma talpoideum, are distinguished by their lack of nasolabial grooves. Plethodon species do not have a light line from the eye to the angle of the jaw, their hind and front legs are about the same size, and their body form is long and slender.

Reproduction: Breeds June to September.

Habitat: Prefers mucky or rock-strewn areas along woodland creeks, seepages, springs, floodplains, upland streams etc.

Behavior: This species can shed its tail as a defense against predation. It lacks chemical defenses, but may try to flee or bite to deter predation. Typically more active at night. During warmer months may be seen on the ground near sources of moisture. Moves underground into burrows or hidden retreats during colder times.

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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