Gyrinophilus palleucus
Tennessee Cave Salamander, Big Mouth Cave Salamander, Pale Salamander
family: Plethodontidae
subfamily: Hemidactyliinae

© 2010 Matthew Niemiller (1 of 2)
Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN (Red List) Status Vulnerable (VU)
NatureServe Status Use NatureServe Explorer to see status.
Other International Status None
National Status None
Regional Status Threatened in Tennessee; species of special concern in Georgia; protected in Alabama



View distribution map using BerkeleyMapper.

From the IUCN Red List Species Account:


Range Description

This species can be found in the southern Cumberland Plateau of south-central Tennessee and north-eastern Alabama, in the Nashville Basin south-east of Nashville, Tennessee, and north-western Alabama and north-western Georgia, USA. Godwin (1995b) regarded Jess Elliot Cave as the most significant site in Alabama. Cave Cove Cave supports the largest population in Tennessee (Caldwell and Copeland 1992).

Habitat and Ecology

It occurs in streams in caves that contain amphipods and other aquatic organisms that can serve as food; individuals may be found in rimstone pools, stream runs and pools, and pools isolated by receding waters. Water tends to be clear and free of sediment; substrates include rock, gravel, sand, and mud (Godwin 1995b). Sinkholes are an important habitat component, allowing for detritus inflow (Caldwell and Copeland 1992). Occasionally, it occurs in epigean environments; probably these individuals have been washed out of caves (Bury, Dodd and Fellers 1980). The habitats for breeding and non-breeding are likely to be the same, but courtship has never been observed in this species. This species is unlikely to tolerate habitat disturbance.


There are approximately two-dozen known populations, though others probably exist (Godwin 1995b). Godwin (1995b) reported this species in 6 of 14 Alabama sites surveyed in 1994-1995. Abundance is difficult to determine. Information available suggests populations contain small numbers of individuals, with densities ranging from 0.06-0.15 animals/m² (Petranka 1998). The population in Custard Hollow Cave, Tennessee, appears to be declining (Caldwell and Copeland 1992).

Population Trend


Major Threats

Threats include: flooding following dam construction; water pollutants in runoff from agricultural and residential areas; increased water flow and siltation resulting from deforestation, mining, and urbanization; and deposition of fill and trash in sinkholes (Caldwell and Copeland 1992; Godwin 1995b; Petranka 1998).

Conservation Actions

It occurs in Russell Cave National Monument (Godwin 1995b). This species is listed as Threatened by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. This species would benefit from protection of watersheds that drain into sinkhole systems (Petranka 1998).

Red List Status

Vulnerable (VU)


Listed as Vulnerable because its Area of Occupancy is less than 2,000 km2, its distribution is severely fragmented, and there is continuing decline in the extent and quality of its habitat, and the number of mature individuals, in Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia.

Taxonomic Notes

Three subspecies (palleucus, gulolineatus, and necturoides) have been recognized; intergradation between palleucus and necturoides is evident in some Alabama populations (A. Wynne, in Godwin 1995b). Some populations do not conform well to any of the named subspecies. One form in Tennessee might be sufficiently distinct biochemically to warrant recognition as a separate species (Redmond and Scott 1996). Gyrinophilus gulolineatus (Berry Cave Salamander) was treated as a species by Brandon et al. (1986), Collins and Taggart (2002), and Crother et al. (2000), but Petranka (1998) maintained this taxon as a subspecies of G. palleucus. In this assessment, Gyrinophilus gulolineatus is regarded as a distinct species.


Geoffrey Hammerson, Christopher Beachy 2004. Gyrinophilus palleucus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2004: e.T59281A11896704. .Downloaded on 19 February 2019


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