Species Description: Tilley SG, Eriksen RL, Katz LA 2007 Systematics of dusky salamanders, Desmognathus (Caudata: Plethodontidae), in the mountain and Piedmont regions of virginia and North Carolina, USA. Zool J Linn Soc 152:115-130,
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Desmognathus planiceps looks very similar to many species of the genus Desmognathus, including D. fuscus, D. monticola, and D. quadramaculatus but can be differentiated by D. planiceps having a flattened head, dorsal makings (see next paragraph), and tan spots on the venter. Desmognathus planiceps and D. fuscus were considered the same species and genetics is the best way to differentiate between the two. However, there are minor morphological differences between the two, including tooth morphology, in which D. planiceps has “broader” premaxillary teeth than D. fuscus, along with a “zone of distal crown expansion” closer to the tooth base than D. fuscus (Tilley et al. 2008). Desmognathus planiceps also has a similar morphology to D. marmoratus, mainly due to the flattened head. These species can be differentiated by the “inconspicuous inner naris, compressed tail, and absence of a premaxillary fontanelle of the latter” (Newman 1955).
Desmognathus planiceps is a brown (variation between shade of brown) colored salamander with a few distinct markings. The most noticeable marking is the dorsal marking. This marking is a black outlined, reddish-brown band that extend from the most dorsal region of the gular fold to the posterior section of the vent. Within the band are dark spots that line up along the mid-dorsal line. Other distinct markings are the yellow spots on the edge of the band above the forelimb junction with the body and the black spot on the center of the posterior section of a reddish-brown head. Dark-bordered light blotches line the tail region. There is brown and whitish-grey mottling on the sides of the body that stops abruptly on the outer edge of the belly. The sides of the tail have a row of light spots with dark borders. The ventral side of D. planiceps is white-tan and plain other than two sections. The first section, throat and gular fold region, is mottled with tan spots, while the other has the same mottling, except it occurs posterior to the hind limbs (Newman 1955).
There is evidence of sexual dimorphism with males having well-developed heads (Martof and Rose 1962). Males have a more pointed mental glad than females do. There is also variation in the ventral mottling with a select few individuals with full mottled ventral side (Newman 1955).
Distribution and Habitat
Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: United States
U.S. state distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Virginia
The species was collected in shallow, active streams that were cool in temperature with heavy shading (Newman 1995).
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
On 27 August 1955, a 47 mm (snout-vent length) gravid female was found to have 19 large eggs filled with yolk. The eggs measured 2 – 4 mm in diameter (Newman 1955).
Trends and Threats
Possible reasons for amphibian decline
General habitat alteration and loss
The most closely related species to Desmognathus planiceps is Desmognathus fuscus. Between 1962 and 2008, D. planiceps was considered part of the D. fuscus species complex. However, maximum parsimony and maximum likelihood analysis of a fragment of Cyt b and cluster analysis of 22 allozyme loci showed that D. planiceps was genetically different from D. fuscus. Morphological differences were also found (Tilley et al. 2008). Other closely related species include Desmognathus carolinensis and Desmognathus monticola.
The genus name, Desmognathus, means “ligament jaw.” The specific epithet, planiceps, means “flat head.”
Desmognathus planiceps was discovered and described by Newman in 1955. In 1962, Martof and Rose placed D. planiceps within the D. fuscus species complex because of confusion involving the storage of the type specimens. This placement was reversed in 2008 by Tilley, Eriksen, and Katz (Mitchell 2013).
Martlof, B. S., Rose, F. L. (1962). ''The taxonomic status of the Plethodontid salamander, Desmognathus planiceps.'' Copeia, 1962, 215-216.
Mitchell, J.C. (2013). ''Emmett Reid Dunn and the early history of herpetology in Virginia.'' Banisteria, 41, 27-39.
Newman W.B. (1955). ''Desmognathus planiceps, a new salamander from Virginia.'' Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences, 45, 83–86.
Orser, P.N., Shure, D.J. (1972). ''Effects of urbanization on the salamander Desmognathus fuscus fuscus.'' Ecology, 53, 1148-1154.
Tilley, S.G., Eriksen, R.L., Katz, L.A. (2008). ''Systematics of dusky salamanders, Desmognathus (Caudata: Plethodontidae), in the mountain and Piedmont regions of Virginia and North Carolina, USA.'' Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 152, 115-130.
Written by Jacob F. Brumley (Jacob.brumley228 AT topper.wku.edu), Western Kentucky University
First submitted 2017-06-02
Edited by Ann T. Chang and Jarrett Johnson (2017-06-02)
Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2017 Desmognathus planiceps: Flat-headed Salamander <http://amphibiaweb.org/species/7014> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Jun 23, 2017.
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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2017. <http://amphibiaweb.org> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 23 Jun 2017.
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