Atlantic Coast Slimy Salamander
© 2014 Joan Davis (1 of 8)
Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: United States
Plethodon chlorobryonis Mittleman, 1951
David A. Beamer1
1. Historical versus Current Distribution. Atlantic Coast slimy salamanders (Plethodon chlorobryonis) occur in the Coastal Plain Physiographic Province of southeastern Virginia, North Carolina, and northeastern South Carolina. They also enter the Piedmont Physiographic Province in southeastern Virginia and central and western South Carolina, and the Blue Ridge Physiographic Province in northeastern Georgia. Following surveys of historical sites, Highton (2003) reports he could find no animals in three of ten populations—two populations in South Carolina (Aiken and Florence counties) and one in Virginia (Dinwiddie-Sussex County).
2. Historical versus Current Abundance. Highton (2003) reports a decline in all ten Atlantic Coast slimy salamander populations he sampled prior to 1985 and re-sampled after 1995 under similar sampling conditions and with a similar search effort. These populations should continue to be monitored to determine if Highton's data are indicative of true declines or natural population fluctuations.
3. Life History Features. Atlantic Coast slimy salamanders were recently elevated to species status (Highton, 1989). In this time, there has been no published work done on this species. As a portion of his larger research program, R. Highton has collected basic life history and natural history information on Atlantic Coast slimy salamanders and has plans to publish these data in a monographic treatment.
A. Breeding. Reproduction is terrestrial.
i. Breeding migrations. Undocumented, but breeding migrations are unknown for any Plethodon species.
ii. Breeding habitat. Unknown.
B. Eggs. Eggs in early gastrula stage were discovered on 30 May near Carrsville, Virginia. Two females collected at the same time had fully gravid ovaries indicating egg deposition was not complete by this date (Wood and Rageot, 1955).
i. Egg deposition sites. The eggs of this species were reported from a damp pile of paper cement bags in southeastern Virginia (Wood and Rageot, 1955).
ii. Clutch sizes. Seven eggs (average size 5.0–5.5 mm) were reported from a nest located within a damp pile of paper cement bags in southeastern Virginia (Wood and Rageot, 1955). A gravid female from the Carrsville area of Virginia contained 19 ova; a second, slightly smaller individual contained 16 ova (Wood and Rageot, 1955).
C. Direct Development.
i. Brood sites. The same as egg deposition sites; the only known site was within a damp pile of paper cement bags in southeastern Virginia (Wood and Rageot, 1955).
ii. Parental care. Five Atlantic Coast slimy salamanders were found within a damp pile of paper cement bags, which contained a nest. One individual was a juvenile and the other four were adults. Three of the adults were females, of which two were gravid and one had “spent” ovaries. It is likely that the spent female was guarding the eggs, but the shifting of the bags during collection made it impossible to determine if the female was in attendance of the eggs (Wood and Rageot, 1955).
D. Juvenile Habitat. A juvenile Atlantic Coast slimy salamander was found in a damp pile of paper cement bags in southeastern Virginia (Wood and Rageot, 1955).
E. Adult Habitat. The type specimens were collected in dry bottomlands along a small creek. Populations in Pitt County, North Carolina, were found under logs on slopes above a cypress swamp (Robertson and Tyson, 1950; Eaton, 1953). According to Mittleman (1951), Atlantic Coast slimy salamanders have prehensile tails and show "a marked predilection for climbing." Highton (personal communication), however, disputes this claim. As with other members of the P. glutinosus complex, Atlantic Coast slimy salamanders likely seek shelter under cover objects during the day, and are active nocturnally, with activity levels proportional to moisture levels. Atlantic Coast slimy salamanders likely avoid dry and cold extremes by moving to underground sites.
F. Home Range Size. Unknown, but small home ranges are typical for Plethodon species.
G. Territories. At least some members of the Plethodon glutinosus complex aggressively defend territories (Thurow, 1976); it is unknown whether Atlantic Coast slimy salamanders establish and defend territories.
H. Aestivation/Avoiding Dessication. Generally unknown, but Atlantic Coast slimy salamanders likely avoid desiccating conditions by seeking shelter in underground sites.
I. Seasonal Migrations. It is likely that Atlantic Coast slimy salamanders move vertically from forest floor sites to underground sites in response to seasonal dry and cold conditions. For instance, on a transect in Pitt County, North Carolina, no Atlantic Coast slimy salamanders were found beneath cover objects during May or August. However, several individuals were discovered beneath these same cover objects in October (D.A.B., personal observations).
J. Torpor (Hibernation). Generally unknown, but Atlantic Coast slimy salamanders likely avoid cold conditions by seeking shelter in underground sites.
K. Interspecific Associations/Exclusions. Eaton (1953) reports occasionally finding Atlantic Coast slimy salamanders in wet situations shared with southern dusky salamanders (Desmognathus auriculatus). In Pitt County, North Carolina, Atlantic Coast slimy salamanders have been found beneath the same cover objects with red-backed salamanders (Plethodon cinereus) and dwarf salamanders (Eurycea quadridigitata; D.A.B., personal observations).
The type specimen of Mabee’s salamander (Ambystoma mabeei) was collected beneath a dead log near Dunn, Harnett County, North Carolina, in company with a marbled salamander (A. opacum) and a slimy salamander (Brimley, 1939). There has not been any work addressing the taxonomy of slimy salamanders from Harnett County; however, they appear to be within the range of Atlantic Coast slimy salamanders.
During a drift-fence study at the Savannah River Plant, Atlantic Coast slimy salamanders were captured with mole salamanders (Ambystoma talpoideum), marbled salamanders, tiger salamanders (A. tigrinum), eastern newts (Notophthalmus viridescens), red salamanders (Pseudotriton ruber), mud salamanders (P. montanus), dwarf salamanders (Eurycea quadridigitata), and southern two-lined salamanders (E. cirrigera; Gibbons and Semlitsch, 1981).
In McCormick County, South Carolina, Atlantic Coast slimy salamanders were found with Webster’s salamanders (Plethodon websteri), northern dusky salamanders (Desmognathus fuscus), southern two-lined salamanders (Eurycea cirrigera), and long-tailed salamanders (E. longicauda; Semlitsch and West, 1983).
An unusual association of large eastern Plethodon occurs in the vicinity of Rabun Bald, Rabun County, Georgia. Here, a wide hybrid zone exists between Atlantic Coast slimy salamanders and southern gray-cheeked salamanders (Plethodon metcalfi), a member of the P. jordani complex. In this same area, Atlantic Coast slimy salamanders are also sympatric with another member of the P. glutinosus complex, southern Appalachian salamanders (Plethodon teyahalee), but there is no evidence of hybridization between these species. Thus, two members of the P. glutinosus complex contact without hybridization in the same area where one of them (P. chlorobryonis) hybridizes with a member of the P. jordani complex. Atlantic Coast slimy salamanders also contact Southern Appalachian salamanders in northwestern South Carolina, where there is a parapatric hybrid zone in Anderson and Abbeville (Highton and Peabody, 2000).
Atlantic Coast slimy salamanders have a long contact with white-spotted slimy salamanders (P. cylindraceus) from southeastern Virginia to western South Carolina. Two transects, one in southeastern Virginia and one in northeastern North Carolina, indicate that there is a zone of parapatric hybridization (Highton and Peabody, 2000).
Atlantic Coast slimy salamanders contact Chattahoochee slimy salamanders (P. chattahoochee) in northeastern Georgia. A partially completed transect in White and Habersham counties indicate that there is a parapatric hybrid zone (Highton and Peabody, 2000).
L. Age/Size at Reproductive Maturity. Seven gravid or post-partum females examined by Mittleman (1951) ranged from 47.5–61 mm SVL; three sexually mature males ranged from 52–69 mm. The size of gravid or post-partum females from the Virginia coastal plain ranged from 56.8–62.5 mm SVL (Wood and Rageot, 1955).
M. Longevity. Unknown.
N. Feeding Behavior. Unknown, but as with other Plethodon species, feeding likely takes place at night under moist conditions. Prey items likely include a range of invertebrates, especially insects.
O. Predators. Undocumented, but likely to include forest snakes, birds, and small mammals.
P. Anti-Predator Mechanisms. All Plethodon produce noxious skin secretions (Brodie, 1977).
Q. Diseases. Unknown.
R. Parasites. Rankin (1937) reported the following parasites from salamanders that were likely Atlantic Coast slimy salamanders: Cryptobia borreli, Prowazekella longifilis, Tritrichomona augusta, and Brachycoelium hospitale.
4. Conservation. Among members of the P. glutinosus complex, Atlantic Coast slimy salamanders have one of the wider distributions; they are not protected by any state. Within their range, there are many federal and state properties that contain suitable habitat for these salamanders.
Atlantic Coast slimy salamanders are relatively resilient to disturbances such as those associated with timbering operations, and they are frequently found in second-growth forests (D.A.B., personal observation). In the vicinity of the type locality, most of the area has been converted to agricultural uses but populations still exist along larger, forested streams corridors.
As with all species of Plethodon, Atlantic Coast slimy 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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