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Range Map

Santeetlah Dusky Salamander

Santeetlah Dusky Salamander
Desmognathus santeetlah

Occurs in the higher elevations of the Great Smoky and Unicoi Mountains of east Tennessee.

Description: A medium-sized salamander (2.5 to 4.0 inches in length) with greenish-brown dorsum. Some specimens have a subdued pattern while others have small red spots enclosed by dark borders. A light yellow wash on belly and under limbs and tail. Also, has a yellow line from eye to angle of jaw. Tails are moderately keeled.

Similar Species:

  • Imitator Salamanders have dark or black bellies.
  • Spotted Dusky Salamanders have a brighter and bolder pattern.

Habitat: Found along small streams flowing through high elevation forests and on wet rock faces.

Diet: Small, aquatic invertebrates.

Breeding information: Females lay and brood an average of 17-20 eggs under moss, on top of rotting logs, or in soil very close to streams.

Status in Tennessee: Appears to be common in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which contains a significant portion of their population. They may be vulnerable to effects from acid precipitation. Also, may be vulnerable to mining and timber harvesting outside of the park.

Fun Facts:

  • ‘Santeetlah' is thought to mean "blue water" in the Cherokee language.
  • Santeetlah Dusky Salamanders have an elaborate courtship display, as do most other lungless salamanders, described as a "tail-straddle walk."

Best places to see in Tennessee: Higher elevation small streams in Great Smoky Mountains.

For more information:
The Salamanders of Tennessee web site


Conant, R. and Collins, J. 1998. Peterson Field Guides: Reptiles and Amphibians (Eastern/Central North America). Houghton Mifflin Company, New York. 616pp.

Dodd, Jr., C.K. 2004. The Amphibians of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville TN.