Desmognathus wrighti
Pygmy Salamander
Subgenus: Geognathus
family: Plethodontidae
subfamily: Plethodontinae

© 2010 Dr. Stephen G. Tilley (1 of 28)
Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN (Red List) Status Least Concern (LC)
NatureServe Status Use NatureServe Explorer to see status.
Other International Status None
National Status None
Regional Status None



View distribution map using BerkeleyMapper.

From the IUCN Red List Species Account:


Range Description

This species can be found in the United States. Southern Appalachians from southwestern Virginia into eastern Tennessee and southwestern North Carolina, primarily in high-elevation forests (Harrison 2000): Mount Rogers, Whitetop, Grandfather, and Roan mountains, Black Mountains, Great Smoky, Plott Balsam, and Great Balsam mountains, Wayah Bals, and Standing Indian Mountain. It can be found at elevations of 762-2,082m asl (Harrison 2000).

Habitat and Ecology

It is found chiefly in spruce-fir forests, also (in lower abundance) hardwood forests at lower elevations (Harrison 2000), though Petranka (1998) stated that these salamanders often occur at relatively high densities in mature mesophytic cove forests lower elevations. Hides under moss, leaf-litter, logs, bark on stumps, and rocks. Ascends trees to about 2m in wet or foggy weather. Spends winter in underground seepages. Eggs are laid in underground cavities among rocks of spring seeps, where they develop directly without a larval stage.


Total adult population size is unknown. It is common in old-growth forests, but uncommon in young forest stands (Petranka 1998). It is rare throughout its range (Pague 1991). Populations appear to be viable within the Virginia portion of the range (Mitchell 1991). Virginia population appears to be stable (J. Organ pers. comm., 1997). Populations across range are stable, common, and healthy; no reason to consider threatened (S. Tilly pers., comm., 1997). In Tennessee, listed as in need of management (Redmond and Scott 1996).

Population Trend


Major Threats

Threats include fragmentation of spruce-fir forest through logging and increased recreational development, factors that open the forest canopy (e.g., acid rain, spruce budworm, etc.), and (locally) over collecting (Pague 1991; J. Organ pers. comm., 1997). Occurs at high elevation; much of spruce-fir forest in this area has been destroyed by acid rain and Balsam woolly aphid (S. Tilly pers. comm., 1997). Red spruce-Fraser fir forests are declining in many high-elevation sites of the southern Appalachians. The extent to which local populations are being affected as these forests disappear is not known (Petranka 1998). Any loss of habitat would be a serious threat to populations in Virginia (Pague 1991).

Conservation Actions

Virginia populations are well protected, occurring entirely within the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area and national forest lands (Pague 1991; S. Roble pers. comm., 1997). However, logging activities and recreational development potentially threaten some parts of this range (Pague 1991). Mitchell (1991) recommended that trail development not include increased access to high-elevation spruce-fir forests (to discourage over collecting).

Red List Status

Least Concern (LC)


Listed as Least Concern in view of its relatively wide distribution, presumed large population, and because it is unlikely to be declining fast enough to qualify for listing in a more threatened category.


Geoffrey Hammerson 2004. Desmognathus wrighti. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2004: e.T59259A11907504. .Downloaded on 21 February 2019


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