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Blue Ridge Dusky Salamander

Blue Ridge Dusky Salamander
Desmognathus orestes

One of five species formerly lumped together and called the Mountain Dusky Salamander, the Blue Ridge Dusky Salamander is best told from its near relatives (the Ocoee Salamander, the Carolina Mountain Dusky Salamander, the Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander, and the Cumberland Dusky Salamander) by it range. It is found in the northeastern corner of Tennessee.

Description: Coloration in this species (2.5 to 4.5 inches in length) is highly variable. They have a round tail and a light line from the eye to the angle of the jaw. Some individuals may have a stripe down the back that can vary in color from yellow to orange, red, or brown. This stripe can be irregular or straight. Other individuals may have spotting or flecking on the back instead of a dorsal stripe and others, especially males, may be dark with little or no patterning. Some individuals may exhibit red legs or cheek patches.

Similar Species: Separated from the Ocoee Salamander, the Carolina Mountain Dusky Salamander, the Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander and the Cumberland Dusky Salamander by its range and by genetic comparison.

Habitat: Typically found along streams, in seepage areas, and on wet rock faces. Some may be encountered far from water; those at higher elevations tend to be more terrestrial than those found lower levels.

Diet: Forest floor invertebrates make up this species' diet.

Breeding information: Females deposit their eggs under moss, rocks, or logs or under logs in or near flowing water. The female remains with her eggs until they hatch. Hatchling salamanders emerge from their eggs with external gills and spend up to 10 months as fully aquatic larvae before transforming into adults.

Status in Tennessee: Very common within its range.

Fun Facts:

  • The Blue Ridge Dusky Mountain Salamander can be the most abundant salamander in its range. Some population counts have yielded densities of more than 2,500 individuals per acre
  • Active primarily at night

Best places to see in Tennessee: The Blue Ridge Dusky Salamander is found in the northeastern corner of Tennessee.

For more information:

The Salamanders of Tennessee web site

Salamanders of North Carolina web site

Atlas of Amphibians in Tennessee web site