Seal Salamander

Desmognathus monticola
Seal Salamander

NPS Photo

Family: Plethodontidae

Desmognathus monticola

Seal Salamander

Size: 7.6 to 14.9 cm long (3" to 5 ¾")

General Description: Light brown or buff to grayish in color. Pattern variable with numerous dark brown or black blotches, streaks or reticulations surrounded by lighter areas of ground color. Light colored belly typically, with more uniformly distributed gray to brown pigmentation as animal ages. Abrupt transition on sides from dark above to light-speckled below. Pale stripe on head from eye to angle of jaw. Basal third of tail rounded, end two-thirds of tail sharply keeled, compressed with pointed tip. Tail about half of total length. 14 costal grooves. Young animals typically have two rows of four orange-brown to chestnut brown round spots down back. Specimens in southern part of range tend to have less evident patterning, while western specimens tend to have the strongest patterning. Toe tips cornified and darker than rest of toe.

Habitat: Streams, stream margins, and riparian areas.

Similar Species: Northern Dusky Salamanders, Desmognathus fuscus, have a light colored belly that is more mottled, eyes that are more "pop-eyed", and a slightly shorter tail than this species.

Reproduction: Breeds late fall to early spring.

Habitat: Prefers stream banks, sides of small rocky spring fed brooks, hardwood shaded ravines, burrows near water, etc. Hides under rocks or takes to streams when disturbed.

Behavior: More active at night. Tends to burrow or hide during the day, although occasionally found in open shady spots during the day. May perch on a wet rock or at the mouth of a burrow at night, appearing like a small seal. Females may be found with their eggs in cryptic locations near streams. May shed its tail to avoid predation. Home ranges are generally small and animals rarely travel long distances.

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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