Cheoah Bald Salamander
© 2011 Timothy Burkhardt (1 of 13)
Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: United States
Plethodon cheoah Highton and Peabody, 2000
David A. Beamer1
1. Historical versus Current Distribution. Cheoah Bald salamanders (Plethodon cheoah) are known from the Cheoah Bald in Graham and Swain counties in North Carolina. The type specimens were collected at an elevation of 1,445 m.
2. Historical versus Current Abundance. Generally unknown, but Highton (2003) sampled a population in Graham County, North Carolina, in 1987–'88 and again in 1992–'97 and found a slight decrease from 8.5 to 6.7 animals/sampling effort. Additional sampling will be necessary to determine whether these data reflect a true decline or a natural population fluctuation.
3. Life History Features. Until recently (Highton and Peabody, 2000), Cheoah Bald salamanders were considered to be a variant of Jordan's salamanders (P. jordani). Therefore, little specific information is known about the life history and natural history features of this species. As a portion of his larger research program, R. Highton has collected basic life history and natural history information on Cheoah Bald salamanders and has plans to publish these data in a monographic treatment.
A. Breeding. Reproduction is terrestrial.
i. Breeding migrations. Unknown, but breeding migrations are unlikely in members of the genus Plethodon.
ii. Breeding habitat. Unknown.
i. Egg deposition sites. Unknown.
ii. Clutch size. Unknown.
C. Direct Development.
i. Brood sites. Unknown.
ii. Parental care. Unknown, but it is likely that females brood, as is true of other species of Plethodon.
D. Juvenile Habitat. Unknown, but likely to be similar to adults.
E. Adult Habitat. Unknown.
F. Home Range Size. Unknown.
G. Territories. At least some members of the Plethodon jordani complex aggressively defend territories (Thurow, 1976); it is unknown whether Cheoah Bald salamanders establish and defend territories.
H. Aestivation/Avoiding Dessication. Undocumented, but animals likely move from forest floor habitats to underground sites in response to desiccating surface conditions.
I. Seasonal Migrations. Animals likely make vertical migrations, moving from the forest floor to underground sites with the onset of seasonally related cold or dry conditions, then back up to the forest floor with the return of favorable surface conditions.
J. Torpor (Hibernation). Generally unknown, but Cheoah Bald salamanders likely avoid cold conditions by seeking shelter in underground sites.
K. Interspecific Associations/Exclusions. Cheoah Bald salamanders are sympatric with southern Appalachian salamanders (P. teyahalee) throughout their range, but these two species rarely hybridize (Highton and Peabody, 2000). Members of the P. jordani complex usually are not found with members of the P. glutinosus complex over wide elevational ranges and especially at high elevations. However, Cheoah Bald salamanders and southern Appalachian salamanders are an exception, as both species occur together in this area even at the highest elevations (1,543 m; Highton, 1970).
L. Age/Size at Reproductive Maturity. Unknown. The holotype is an adult male 50 mm SVL; the allotype is an adult female 52 mm. The largest individual from the type locality is a female 63 mm SVL; the range of adult sizes in 45–60 mm.
M. Longevity. Unknown.
N. Feeding Behavior. Unknown.
O. Predators. Unknown.
P. Anti-Predator Mechanisms. All Plethodon produce noxious skin secretions (Brodie, 1977).
Q. Diseases. Unknown.
R. Parasites. Unknown.
4. Conservation. Cheoah Bald salamanders are not protected in North Carolina, the only state within their range. Among members of the P. jordani complex, Cheoah Bald salamanders have one of the smallest distributions. Within this range there are federal properties that contain suitable habitat for these salamanders.
As with all species of Plethodon, Cheoah Bald 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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