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Range Map

Eastern Red-backed Salamander

Eastern Red-backed Salamander
Plethodon cinereus

Occurs in northeast corner of TN, while the identical Southern Red-backed Salamander occurs in southeast corner of TN.

Description: A small, slender salamander (2.5 to 4.0 inches in length) with two color morphs, striped and lead-backed. The striped morph has a red to orangish-red broad stripe from the head to the tail, while the body color is brown to dark brown. The lead-backed morph has no stripe on the back and is uniformly dark gray in color. Both the morphs have a black and white patterned belly producing a “salt-and-pepper” effect.

Similar Species: Distinguished from identical Southern Red-backed Salamander by range (and genetic analysis).

Habitat: Prefers cool, moist microhabitats in mature deciduous and conifer forests; typically under rocks, leaf litter, or rotten logs.

Diet: Ants, termites, beetles, flies, spiders, snails, mites, and other small invertebrates.

Breeding information: Adults breed on land between fall and spring. Females lay an average of 6-9 eggs in moist natural cavities such as leaf litter, soil burrows, or rotting logs. Female typically broods eggs for 6-8 weeks and sometimes male will remain as well. Juveniles often remain in the nest cavity with the mother 1-3 weeks after hatching.

Status in Tennessee: Local populations can be numerous; however some have been extirpated due to deforestation.

Fun Facts:

  • The Eastern Red-backed Salamander plays an important role in the nutrient cycle of the eastern forest ecology.

Best places to see in Tennessee: Mature forests in northeast corner of TN.

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.