SHENANDOAH SALAMANDER } Plethodon shenandoah

FAMILY: Plethodontidae

DESCRIPTION: A small salamander, approximately 3.5-4.5 inches in length. Individuals can occur in two color phases, one with a narrow red or yellow stripe on an otherwise brownish body, the other black with brass-colored flecks.

HABITAT: Cool and moist montane forests of oak or hemlock, usually above 800 meters with an understory that includes talus or rocky areas with crevices for sheltering during the day. Most Shenandoah salamanders are found on the north aspects of mountains, where moisture is likely to be retained.

RANGE: Three mountaintops in Shenandoah National Park; occupied habitats may extend to additional peaks beyond the park's boundary.

MIGRATION: The species is not known to migrate.

BREEDING: Breeding takes place in late spring or summer via internal fertilization. Complete development of the embryo takes place within the egg, which eliminates the need for an aquatic larval stage or habitat with permanent water. Small egg clusters (3-17 eggs) are guarded by the female after being laid in damp logs, moss, or other available crevices. Incubation lasts one to three months, during which time the female does not forage for food.

LIFE CYCLE: Females do not breed before four years of age, and breed only every other year. Adult survival is high and life span long, with a small percentage surviving 25 years or longer.

FEEDING: Insects and other small invertebrates.

THREATS: Habitat destruction, degradation and fragmentation due to road and trail construction/maintenance within Shenandoah National Park; invasive species; acid rain; and climate change

POPULATION TREND: The species' status is uncertain but likely declining.

Shenandoah salamander courtesy Flickr/Brian Gratwicke