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Salamanders

Salamanders are small lizard-like amphibians having moist, porous scaleless skin and four, often weak or rudimentary legs.  Although they resemble lizards, they lack the scales, claws and external ear openings of the reptile group.  Salamanders are carnivorous and most lay their eggs in water.  They are secretive, typically nocturnal and voiceless.

Mole Salamanders - Family Ambystomatidae

Flatwoods Salamander Ambystoma cingulatum. Endangered. Historically known from five sites in low pine flatwoods of Southern Coastal Plain, Dougherty Plain, and Southern Pine Plains and Hills. Highly secretive and burrowing. Not documented in Alabama in over two decades despite surveys from 1992 to 1995. May persist in scattered remnants of intact habitat, which continue to decline through fire suppression, development, and conversion of forest type. HIGHEST CONSERVATION CONCERN.

Spotted Salamander Ambystoma maculatum. Uncommon to fairly common statewide except southern Coastal Plain and much of southern portions of Dougherty Plain and southern Pine Plains and Hills. Believed to be declining. Found predominantly in low hardwood forest where it breeds in woodland pools in winter. Low Conservation Concern.

Marbled Salamander Ambystoma opacum. Fairly common and similar to spotted salamander in distribution, habits, and habitat requirements. Low Conservation Concern.

Mole Salamander Ambystoma talpoideum. Locally common to uncommon in Coastal Plain, with scattered populations known from Interior Plateau. Populations also known from southwestern Appalachians a few miles east of Georgia border, and expected in adjacent portions of northeastern Alabama. A burrowing salamander that breeds in winter in woodland pools. Low Conservation Concern.

Small-mouthed Salamander Ambystoma texanum. Poorly known in Interior Plateau and western two-thirds of Coastal Plain, where it may be largely confined to floodplains of rivers and larger streams. Extends eastward along Alabama River to Montgomery County. A winter-breeding, burrowing salamander; uses floodplain pools as breeding sites. Few records available from Alabama, where populations may be disjunct. MODERATE CONSERVATION CONCERN.

Eastern Tiger Salamander Ambystoma tigrinum tigrinum. Uncommon to rare in all major regions except possibly the Piedmont, from which records are lacking. Seldom encountered except at temporary ponds and woodland pools during winter breeding season, which may be December to March. Populations disjunct, and habitat requirements poorly understood. MODERATE CONSERVATION CONCERN.

Amphiumas - Family Amphiumidae

Two-toed Amphiuma Amphiuma means. Uncommonly encountered in Coastal Plain, from Blackland Prairie southward. A large, eel-like salamander of weedy ponds and swamps. Seldom seen due to highly aquatic and burrowing habits. Low Conservation Concern.

One-toed Amphiuma Amphiuma pholeter. Rare, poorly known, and peripheral. Known from one locality each in Southern Coastal Plain and Southern Pine Plains and Hills. Potentially occurs in southern portion of Dougherty Plain. Inhabits deep liquid organic muck of alluvial soils along streams. HIGH CONSERVATION CONCERN.

Three-toed Amphiuma Amphiuma tridactylum. Uncommon in western portion of Coastal Plain, in Tombigbee, Black Warrior, and Alabama River drainages. Similar in habitat preferences to two-toed amphiuma. Low Conservation Concern.

Giant Salamanders - Family Cryptobranchidae

Eastern Hellbender Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis. Rare and possibly endangered in Interior Plateau and adjacent Southwestern Appalachians in Tennessee River drainage. A very large aquatic salamander of free-flowing rivers and streams. In Alabama, now confined to a few free-flowing Tennessee River tributaries. HIGHEST CONSERVATION CONCERN.

Lungless Salamanders - Family Plethodontidae

Green Salamander Aneides aeneus. Rare to uncommon in Appalachian Plateau and Fall Line Hills and Transition Hills of extreme northwestern Alabama. Inhabits sandstone cliffs, bluffs, rock faces, and climbs trees. Populations thought to have declined throughout. HIGH CONSERVATION CONCERN.

Seepage Salamander Desmognathus aeneus. Rare and possibly threatened in western portion of Fall Line Hills from northern Hale County to southern Marion County, and eastern portion of Ridge and Valley and adjacent Piedmont. Highly secretive and dependent on shaded seepage areas in moist ravines of deciduous forest, where it lives beneath leaf litter. HIGH CONSERVATION CONCERN.

Apalachicola Dusky Salamander Desmognathus apalachicolae. Locally common in southeastern portion of Coastal Plain in Choctawhatchee and lower Chattahoochee River drainages. Occurs along edges of small seepage streams at bottoms of wooded ravines. Susceptible to siltation and pollution. Lowest Conservation Concern.

Southern Dusky Salamander Desmognathus auriculatus. Rapidly declining and possibly endangered due to unknown causes. In Alabama, known only from a few localities in southernmost tier of counties where it occurs in mucky areas in gum swamps, sphagnum bogs, and forested sluggish stream floodplains. HIGHEST CONSERVATION CONCERN.

Spotted Dusky Salamander Desmognathus conanti. Fairly common to common statewide except where absent in extreme southern portion of Dougherty Plain and Southern Pine Plains and Hills. Alabama populations were formerly considered to be northern dusky salamander, D. fuscus. Some Coastal Plain populations may represent an undescribed species. Inhabits a variety of damp habitats, especially ravine streams, springs, and seepage areas. Commonly called “spring lizard.” Low Conservation Concern.

Seal Salamander Desmognathus monticola. Northern populations fairly common; southern populations uncommon to rare and may be declining. Northern distribution includes upper Appalachian Plateau Escarpment, Ridge and Valley, and Piedmont. Disjunct Coastal Plain populations known from one site in Fall Line Hills near Tennessee River, Autauga County, and several sites in Buhrstone/Lime Hills. Inhabits cool, shaded ravines with small permanent to semi-permanent streams. Low Conservation Concern.

Ocoee Salamander Desmognathus ocoee. Common, but extremely limited in distribution in northeastern portion of Southwestern Appalachians. Until recently (1996), Alabama populations were considered to be mountain dusky salamander, D. ochrophaeus. Known from fewer than 10 localities in Alabama. Inhabits cliff faces and damp talus areas, especially in mist zones of waterfalls. MODERATE CONSERVATION CONCERN.

Southern Two-lined Salamander Eurycea cirrigera. Common, essentially statewide. Inhabits a variety of shaded aquatic habitats, including springs, edges of small rocky streams, and (in Coastal Plain) floodplain pools. Lowest Conservation Concern.

Three-lined Salamander Eurycea guttolineata. Common throughout Coastal Plain, Piedmont, and Ridge and Valley, as well as portions of Southwestern Appalachians and Interior Plateau south of Tennessee River. Found in similar shaded habitats as two-lined salamander, including forested floodplains. Lowest Conservation Concern.

Long-tailed Salamander Eurycea longicauda. Fairly common north of Tennessee River in Interior Plateau and Southwestern Appalachians. Found near springs, seeps, and streams, often taking shelter under rocks. Lowest Conservation Concern.

Cave Salamander Eurycea lucifuga. Fairly common to common in Interior Plateau, Southwestern Appalachians, and Ridge and Valley. Most frequently encountered in, and around, caves and areas with karst topography. Lowest Conservation Concern.

Dwarf Salamander complex Eurycea quadridigitata (includes two undescribed species). Until distributions and habitat requirements of two undescribed forms are better defined, descriptions are tenuous. Fairly common in much of Coastal Plain except northwestern portion. Found in damp pine woods, edges of floodplains and swamps, and forested seeps and ravines. MODERATE CONSERVATION CONCERN.

Tennessee Cave Salamander Gyrinophilus palleucus palleucus. Rare in Interior Plateau and Cumberland Plateau of Southwestern Appalachians. Restricted to limestone caves containing water. Approximately 20 Alabama localities, all in Tennessee River drainage. HIGH CONSERVATION CONCERN

Spring Salamander Gyrinophilus porphyriticus ssp. Uncommon in all regions above Fall Line Hills except for Interior Plateau where it is apparently absent. Somewhat spotty distribution. Includes three intergrading subspecies, G. p. porphyriticus (northern spring salamander), G. p. duryi (Kentucky spring salamander), and G. p. dunni (Carolina spring salamander). Found in, and near, caves, springs, and seeps. Low Conservation Concern.

Four-toed Salamander Hemidactylium scutatum. Uncommon statewide, but possibly less secure in Coastal Plain, where it may be more locally distributed in disjunct populations. Secretive and infrequently encountered. Inhabits wet forested areas with sphagnum, often in stream floodplains. Alabama distribution and ecology poorly understood. Low Conservation Concern.

Red Hills Salamander Phaeognathus hubrichti. Threatened, but may be locally common under optimal conditions. Entire global distribution confined to five Alabama counties in Buhrstone/Lime Hills (“Red Hills”). Secretive, inhabits burrows on forested bluff and ravine slopes. Eliminated from many formerly inhabited sites by habitat disturbance. Designated the official state amphibian by the Alabama Legislature. Listed as threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. HIGH CONSERVATION CONCERN.

Slimy Salamander complex (three species). Formerly considered a single species, Plethodon glutinosus, these very similar species now known to be genetically distinct. At least one representative found in every Alabama county. Identification based on appearance is impossible. Found in wide variety of habitats, often in rotting logs and under rocks. The following distribution descriptions are approximate.

     Northern Slimy Salamander Plethodon glutinosus. Common. Eastern Alabama, from Southwestern    Appalachians south to Fall Line Hills. Lowest Conservation Concern.

     Southeastern Slimy Salamander Plethodon grobmani. Common. Coastal Plain east of Alabama River. Lowest Conservation Concern.

     Mississippi Slimy Salamander Plethodon mississippi. Common. Coastal Plain west and north of Alabama River, including western portions of adjacent Southwestern Appalachians and Interior Plateau. Lowest Conservation Concern.

Southern Redbacked Salamander Plethodon serratus. Poorly known. Documented from a few localities in upper Ridge and Valley near Anniston. May occur in adjacent Talladega Uplands of the Piedmont. Easily confused with southern zigzag and Webster’s salamanders. MODERATE CONSERVATION CONCERN.

Southern Zigzag Salamander Plethodon ventralis. Common. Until 1997, Alabama populations were known as northern zigzag salamander, P. dorsalis. Found in Interior Plateau and Southwestern Appalachians. Inhabits damp, rocky deciduous forest. Lowest Conservation Concern.

Webster’s Salamander Plethodon websteri. Found in all regions above Fall Line Hills except Interior Plateau. Similar in habits and appearance to southern zigzag salamander. A disjunct Coastal Plain population reported from Buhrstone/Lime Hills has not been confirmed in many years. Lowest Conservation Concern.

Gulf Coast Mud Salamanader Pseudotriton montanus flavissimus. Uncommon and secretive. Alabama distribution poorly understood, but most records are in Ridge and Valley, Piedmont, and Coastal Plain. Inhabits mucky seeps along stream floodplains, and is rarely encountered above surface. Low Conservation Concern.

Northern Red Salamander Pseudotriton ruber ruber. Fairly common above Fall Line Hills. Intergrades with southern red salamander in upper portions of Coastal Plain. Inhabits stream margins and springs in forested areas. Low Conservation Concern.

Southern Red Salamander Pseudotriton ruber vioscai. Uncommon to rare. Believed to be declining. Southern portion of Dougherty Plain and Southern Pine Plains and Hills of Coastal Plain. Intergrades with northern red salamander north of this region. Associated with springs, seeps, and other damp habitats. MODERATE CONSERVATION CONCERN.

Waterdogs and Mudpuppies - Family Proteidae

Black Warrior Waterdog Necturus alabamensis. Threatened. Restricted to upper Black Warrior River Basin in Southwestern Appalachians. Occurs only in Alabama. A permanently aquatic salamander of medium to large rocky streams. Surveys of 59 potential streams in the 1990s yielded this species at only 14 of 113 sites. Status in reservoirs unknown. Rarely encountered except during winter and early spring when may be found in submerged leaf beds. Susceptible to water quality degradation. Currently a candidate for federal listing. HIGH CONSERVATION CONCERN.

Gulf Coast Waterdog Necturus beyeri. Uncommon to common in suitable habitats. Widespread in Mobile Bay drainage of Coastal Plain. Occurs in lower densities in Ridge and Valley and Piedmont, possibly due to habitat limitations. Similar in habits to Black Warrior waterdog, but may be less dependent on rocks and crevices for shelter. Low Conservation Concern.

Common Mudpuppy Necturus maculosus. Uncommon. Restricted to Tennessee River drainage of Interior Plateau, Transition Hills of extreme northwestern Coastal Plain, and Southwestern Appalachians. Occurs in Tennessee River, its impoundments, and medium to large tributaries. Low Conservation Concern.

Unnamed Waterdog Necturus sp. cf. beyeri. A poorly known but locally common mudpuppy of lesser Gulf drainages from Mobile Bay eastward. Absent from greater Mobile Bay drainage. May ultimately be referable to N. lodingi. Low Conservation Concern.

Newts - Family Salamandridae

Eastern Newt Notophthalmus viridescens ssp. Fairly common statewide in all regions. Includes subspecies N. v. viridescens (red-spotted newt), N. v. louisianensis (central newt), and intergrades. Inhabits a variety of aquatic and terrestrial habitats, depending on life cycle. Larvae and adults are aquatic, and juveniles (efts) are terrestrial. Lowest Conservation Concern.

Sirens - Family Sirenidae

Lesser Siren Siren intermedia. Common. Widespread in Coastal Plain. Includes subspecies S. i. intermedia (eastern lesser siren), S. i. nettingi (western lesser siren), and intergrades. May include more than one species. An aquatic eel-like salamander of ponds, swamps, and sluggish streams. Lowest Conservation Concern.

Greater Siren Siren lacertina. Poorly known. Known from only one location in Alabama, a pond in Southern Hilly Gulf Coastal Plain of Henry County. A large aquatic eel-like salamander of ponds, oxbows, and sluggish streams. MODERATE CONSERVATION CONCERN.

Undescribed Siren Siren sp. Poorly known. A large undescribed siren of extreme southern Coastal Plain. Known in Alabama from two localities in Southern Pine Plains and Hills: Fish River, Baldwin County and Lake Jackson, Covington County. Likely similar in habits to Greater Siren. MODERATE CONSERVATION CONCERN.

References Cited:

Mirarchi. Ralph E., ed. 2004. Alabama Wildlife, Volume One.  A Checklist of Vertebrates and Selected Invertebrates: Aquatic Mollusks, Fishes, Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds and Mammals.  The University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, AL. 209 pp.

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