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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A Matter of Concern- The Peaks of Otter Salamander

The Peaks of Otter salamander (Plethodon hubrichti) is listed as a Federal species of concern and Virginia State special concern because they have one of the most restricted ranges of any salamander in the United States.

This salamander is only found in localities along the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is endemic to the Peaks of Otter region in central Virginia with its entire range in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Botetourt and Bedford counties between Apple Orchard Mountain and Sharp Top Mountain. The Peaks of Otter salamander can be found under downed logs, among wet leaves in middle to late successional stages of deciduous (oak, maple) woodland at elevations above 760 meters (2493.44ft.)

It is a slender species which can grow up to 13 cm (5.1in.) in length with a dorsum of black or very dark brown and with abundant brassy metallic spots or blotches occasionally forming an irregular stripe. Their sides and ventral surface are plain, dark gray to black and their body has a purplish reflection due to blood and visceral pigments. They have a slender and elongate body and tail that is rounded at the base, slightly flattened, and has a median dorsal impressed line. The number of mature ova averages 11.5 and the reported clutch size is ten.

The Peaks of Otter salamander will eat nearly any invertebrate on hand.

Note: Please don’t go looking for this unique and rare salamander and if you do happen upon one, take a picture if you like but do not touch it; let it alone to reproduce!

Images: From the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

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