Species Profile

Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander Carolinian population

Scientific Name: Desmognathus ochrophaeus
Taxonomy Group: Amphibians
Range: Ontario
Last COSEWIC Assessment: April 2007
Last COSEWIC Designation: Endangered
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered


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Quick Links: | Description | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander

Description

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.

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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.

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Habitat

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.

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Biology

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.

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Threats

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.

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Protection

Federal Protection

The 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

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Recovery Initiatives

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

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Documents

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

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Update Status Report on the Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander (Desmognathus ochrophaeus) in Canada (2007)

    The Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander, Desmognathus ochrophaeus, is a small, slender salamander belonging to the family Plethodontidae (lungless salamanders). Mature salamanders average 70 to 100 mm in total length. 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, brown, tan, yellow, and orange, to red depending on age and sex. The stripe also commonly contains a row of chevron-shaped dark spots down the middle.

COSEWIC Assessments

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander, Carolinian population (2007)

    This is a small and secretive salamander, with aquatic larvae, that inhabits forested brooks, cascades, springs, or seeps where there is abundant cover in the form of crevices between stones, leaf litter, or logs. This species’ entire range in the Carolinian faunal province consists of a single, cascading stream in the Niagara Gorge, occupying no more than about 0.005 km2. The locality is isolated from any other population of the same species, the nearest being about 22 km away in New York State. Surveys to date have located and identified some 22 individuals and indicate a total adult population that is probably fewer than 100 individuals. Its minute range makes this salamander highly susceptible to stochastic events and the species would easily and rapidly become extirpated if any change to its habitat were to take place. The major threats to this salamander in Carolinian faunal province are any activities that could affect the water table and dry out the spring that supplies its habitat, degrade groundwater flow and quality or deplete groundwater reserves.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander (Desmognathus ochrophaeus) – Carolinian population in Canada (2016)

    The Minister of the Environment and Climate Change is the competent minister for the recovery of the Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander – Carolinian population and has prepared the federal component of this recovery strategy (Part 1), as per section 37 of SARA. SARA section 44 allows the Minister to adopt all or part of an existing plan for the species if it meets the requirements under SARA for content (sub-sections 41(1) or (2)). The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (now the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) led the development of the attached recovery strategy for the Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander (Part 2) in cooperation with Environment and Climate Change Canada. The Province of Ontario also led the development of the attached Government Response Statement (Part 3), which is the Ontario Government’s policy response to its provincial recovery strategy and summarizes the prioritized actions that the Ontario government intends to take and support.

Orders

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.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act - Terrestrial Species (2008)

    As part of its strategy for protecting wildlife species at risk, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Please submit your comments by March 25, 2008 for species undergoing normal consultations and by March 27, 2009 for species undergoing extended consultations.

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016)

    Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances. Last update March 17, 2017