Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander Carolinian population
Scientific Name: Desmognathus ochrophaeus
Taxonomy Group: Amphibians
Last COSEWIC Assessment: April 2007
Last COSEWIC Designation: Endangered
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered
Image of Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander
The Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander is one of the smallest representatives of the family Plethodontidae (lungless salamanders). This slender species averages 7 to 10 cm in total length, with the males being slightly longer than the females. Adults typically have a light stripe down their back that extends from the head to the tail. This stripe is straight-edged and varies in colour from grey to brown, tan, yellow, orange or red depending on age and sex. The stripe also commonly contains a row of chevron-shaped dark spots down the middle. The stripe and chevron pattern usually become less apparent with age. The sides are mottled and the colouring of the belly ranges from dark brown to black. Juveniles typically have yellowish or reddish dorsal stripes. Aquatic larvae have visible gills and a well-developed fin on their tails.
Distribution and Population
The Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander is found commonly throughout the Appalachian Mountain System of eastern North America, from the Canada–United States border in the north to northern Georgia in the south. In Canada, the species is found only in two isolated locations: in Covey Hill in southwestern Quebec and in the Nigara Gorge in southern Ontario, near Queenston. Canada has two known populations of the Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander: the Carolinian population in Ontario, and the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Population in Quebec. There are not enough data to specify the size or trends of these populations. The species was discovered in Canada only in 1988.
The Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander is generally found near forested brooks, mountain cascades, springs, or seeps. It uses this habitat to forage, as well as for overwintering and brooding. It nests in springs and seeps. Shelter is provided in wet cavities along stream edges or seeps, or under stones, leaf litter, or logs.
This small nocturnal salamander remains hidden beneath cover objects during the day and emerges at night to feed. During the colder winter months, it hibernates in groups in underground retreats. Young females attain sexual maturity around three or four years of age, one year after males. It is believed that they search for nesting sites well before laying their eggs and that they return to the same site year after year. Mating and egg laying occurs in the fall and spring following an elaborate courtship ritual. The female lays a clutch of 12 or more eggs in a moist depression and remains with the eggs until hatching. When the eggs hatch, the young are in the form of larvae. The larval stage may last up to eight months and requires moist conditions but not necessarily a body of water. The Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander lacks lungs; instead, it breathes through its skin and mouth. As a result, its skin must be moist and permeable for gas exchange to occur, which restricts the species to moist habitats. This salamander feeds on a wide variety of invertebrates, mainly insects, and a small amount of vegetation. Its predators consist of snakes, small mammals, a few birds, and other salamanders. It escapes from its predators by hiding and amputating its tail. The species can live up to 15 years in its natural environment.
The main threats to this species are those that could affect the water table, either through human activities or climatic variations. Fluctuations in water flow or contamination of water sources through runoff from industrial and urban areas could have a large impact. In Ontario, any human activity that could alter the quantity, quality or temperature of the water supply, or impose change to the surrounding forest habitat, could be detrimental. Furthermore, because the species’ entire range consists of a single cascading stream, occupying no more than 0.005 km2, it is even more vulnerable to natural disasters such as the rock falls and mud slides that occur frequently in the Niagara Gorge. The species is even at risk of becoming easily and rapidly extirpated if any change to its habitat were to take place.
Federal ProtectionThe Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander, Carolinian population, is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.
The species, discovered recently in Ontario, does not benefit from any legal protection in that province. The population found in the Niagara Gorge is in a forest that is part of the Niagara Parks system, a provincial government organization. The site is therefore protected from development.
Provincial and Territorial Protection
Status of Recovery Planning
Recovery Strategies :
Name Recovery Strategy for the Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander (Desmognathus ochrophaeus) – Carolinian population in Canada
Status First posting on SAR registry
PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.
9 record(s) found.
- COSEWIC Status Reports (1 record(s) found.)
- COSEWIC Assessments (1 record(s) found.)
- Response Statements (1 record(s) found.)
- Recovery Strategies (1 record(s) found.)
- Orders (2 record(s) found.)
- COSEWIC Annual Reports (1 record(s) found.)
- Consultation Documents (1 record(s) found.)
- Recovery Document Posting Plans (1 record(s) found.)
COSEWIC Status Reports
COSEWIC Annual Reports
COSEWIC Annual Report - 2007 (2007)2007 Annual Report to the The Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
Recovery Document Posting Plans
- Date modified: