Blue Ridge Gray-cheeked Salamander, Blue Ridge Graycheek Salamander
© 2013 John P. Clare (1 of 3)
Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: United States
Plethodon amplus Highton and Peabody, 2000
David A. Beamer1
1. Historical versus Current Distribution. Blue Ridge gray-cheeked salamanders (Plethodon amplus) are known from Blue Ridge Mountain sites in Buncombe, Rutherford, and Henderson counties in North Carolina. With the exception of local extirpations due to habitat destruction and modification, their current distribution is likely similar to their historical distribution, but there has been no documentation of their historical distribution.
2. Historical versus Current Abundance. Unknown.
3. Life History Features. Because Blue Ridge gray-cheeked salamanders have been described only recently (Highton and Peabody, 2000), little specific information is known about their life history and natural history features. As a portion of his larger research program, R. Highton has collected basic life history and natural history information on Blue Ridge gray-cheeked salamanders and has plans to publish these data in a monographic treatment.
A. Breeding. Reproduction is terrestrial.
i. Breeding migrations. Unlikely; breeding migrations are unknown in any Plethodon species.
ii. Breeding habitat. Unknown.
i. Egg deposition sites. Unknown, but likely to be in underground cavities.
ii. Clutch size. Unknown.
C. Direct Development.
i. Brood sites. Unknown, but probably include underground cavities or chambers.
ii. Parental care. Unknown, but it is likely that females brood, as with other species of Plethodon.
D. Juvenile Habitat. Unknown, but likely to be similar to adults.
E. Adult Habitat. Blue Ridge gray-cheeked salamanders are reported from crevices in metamorphic rock and from the forest floor (Adler and Dennis, 1962; Rubin, 1969).
F. Home Range Size. Unknown, but small home ranges are typical for Plethodon species.
G. Territories. At least some members of the Plethodon jordani complex aggressively defend territories (Thurow, 1976), but it is unknown whether Blue Ridge gray-cheeked salamanders establish and defend territories.
H. Aestivation/Avoiding Dessication. Conditions are almost always wet all summer, so aestivation is unlikely (R. Highton, personal communication). As with all Plethodon, their response to dry conditions is to move to moister (deeper) subterranean sites.
I. Seasonal Migrations. Unknown other than vertical movements from the forest floor to underground sites to avoid seasonally dry summer conditions and cold winter conditions.
J. Torpor (Hibernation). Unstudied, but in response to cold conditions, animals likely move to warmer, deep, subterranean sites.
K. Interspecific Associations/Exclusions. The following species were found on a cliff face with Blue Ridge gray-cheeked salamanders in Rutherford County, North Carolina: green salamanders (Aneides aeneus), Yonahlossee salamanders (P. yonahlossee), white-spotted slimy salamanders (P. cylindraceus), and Ocoee salamanders (Desmognathus ocoee; Adler and Dennis, 1962; Rubin, 1969).
White-spotted slimy salamanders are widely sympatric throughout the range of Blue Ridge gray-cheeked salamanders. There is no evidence of hybridization between these species (Highton and Peabody, 2000).
Blue Ridge gray-cheeked salamanders may contact southern gray-cheeked salamanders (P. metcalfi), although their geographic and genetic interactions have not been analyzed (Highton and Peabody, 2000).
Yonahlossee salamanders (P. yonahlossee) are widely sympatric throughout the range of Blue Ridge gray-cheeked salamanders. There is no evidence of hybridization between these species (Highton and Peabody, 2000).
L. Age/Size at Reproductive Maturity. Unknown. Females may be larger. The two largest animals (73 mm SVL) from the type locality were females (Highton and Peabody, 2000). The holotype is a male 63 mm SVL, the allotype a female 70 mm SVL. Other animals from the type locality ranged from 50–72 mm SVL.
M. Longevity. Unknown.
N. Feeding Behavior. The stomachs of four Blue Ridge gray-cheeked salamanders (average size 57.4 mm SVL) from Rutherford County, North Carolina, contained millipedes (32.5%), ants (18.8%), lepidopteran larvae (16.3%), spiders (13.8%), and centipedes (5.0%; Rubin, 1969).
O. Predators. Unknown, but likely to include small mammals, birds, snakes, and perhaps large predaceous invertebrates.
P. Anti-Predator Mechanisms. Nocturnal. Secretive. All members of the genus Plethodon produce noxious skin secretions (Brodie, 1977).
Q. Diseases. Unknown.
R. Parasites. Blue Ridge gray-cheeked salamanders from a cliff face population in Rutherford County, North Carolina, were infected with dermal mites (probably Hannemania hegeneri; Adler and Dennis, 1962).
Rankin (1937) lists parasites from at least two species of the Plethodon jordani complex. It is not possible to determine which parasites were found in which salamander species, but it is possible that some of these salamanders were Blue Ridge gray-cheeked salamanders. The following parasites are noted: Crytobia borrelis, Eutrichomastix batrachorum, Hexamitus intestinalis, Karotomorpha swezi, Prowasekella longifilis, Tritrichomonas augusta, Brachycoelium hospitale, and Crepidobothrium cryptobranchi.
4. Conservation. Blue Ridge gray-cheeked salamanders are not protected in North Carolina, the only state within their range. Among members of the P. jordani complex, Blue Ridge gray-cheeked salamanders have one of the smallest distributions. Within this range there are a few federal and state properties that contain suitable habitat for these salamanders.
As with all species of Plethodon, Blue Ridge gray-cheeked salamanders do not migrate to breeding grounds and they do not have large home ranges. Thus, they can exist in habitats of smaller size than many other amphibian species. Conservation activities that promote mature closed-canopy forests should benefit this species.
Acknowledgments. Thanks to Richard Highton, who reviewed this account and gave us the benefit of his insight and experience.
1David A. Beamer
2Michael J. Lannoo
Literature references for Amphibian Declines: The Conservation Status of United States Species, edited by Michael Lannoo, are here.
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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2021. <https://amphibiaweb.org> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 13 Apr 2021.
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