AmphibiaWeb - Plethodon fourchensis
Plethodon fourchensis
Fourche Mountain Salamander
Subgenus: Plethodon
family: Plethodontidae
subfamily: Plethodontinae

© 2018 Timothy A. Clay (1 of 9)
Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN (Red List) Status Vulnerable (VU)
NatureServe Status Use NatureServe Explorer to see status.
National Status None
Regional Status None

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: United States



View distribution map in BerkeleyMapper.

bookcover The following account is modified from Amphibian Declines: The Conservation Status of United States Species, edited by Michael Lannoo (©2005 by the Regents of the University of California), used with permission of University of California Press. The book is available from UC Press.

Plethodon fourchensis Duncan and Highton, 1979
            Fourche Mountain Salamander

Carl D. Anthony1

1. Historical versus Current Distribution.  Fourche Mountain salamanders (P. fourchensis) were previously considered a variant of Rich Mountain salamanders (P. ouachitae; the Buck Knob variant; Blair and Lindsay, 1965), and originally described by Duncan and Highton (1979).  They are found only on Fourche, eastern Iron Fork, and Shut-In mountains (Blair and Lindsay, 1965; Duncan and Highton, 1979, 1986b; Plummer, 1982; Lohoefener and Jones, 1991).  Fourche Mountain salamanders will hybridize with Rich Mountain salamanders in a narrow zone of sympatry on western Fourche Mountain.  Their historical distribution is unknown.

2. Historical versus Current Abundance.  Abundant and widespread within their limited range.  Lohoefener and Jones (1991) noted a reduction in abundance at a number of localities.

3. Life History Features.

            A. Breeding.  Reproduction is terrestrial.

                        i. Breeding migrations.  Breeding may occur in late fall, winter, or early spring (Taylor et al., 1990).  Breeding migrations are unknown.

                        ii. Breeding habitat.  Unknown.  Ratios of reproductive to nonreproductive females suggest that females breed biennially (Taylor et al., 1990).

            B. Eggs.

                        i. Egg deposition sites.  Unknown, but most likely similar to that of other species in the P. ouchitae complex.

                        ii. Clutch size.  Taylor et al. (1990) reported a mean of 14.1 enlarged ovarian follicles from 14 mature females.

            C. Direct Development.  Unknown, but most likely similar to that of other species in the P. ouchitae complex.

            D. Juvenile Habitat.  Same as adult habitat.

            E. Adult Habitat.  Most commonly found at higher elevations of mixed deciduous, north-facing wooded slopes, especially in deep ravines (Plummer, 1982).  Lohoefener and Jones (1991) noted a positive relationship between salamander abundance and plant diversity, canopy cover, and overall wetness of site.  Rocks, logs, and other forest debris are common cover objects.

            F. Home Range Size.  Unknown.

            G. Territories.  Adults actively defend areas against conspecifics in laboratory chambers (Anthony, 1995).  Territory size is unknown.

            H. Aestivation/Avoiding Dessication.  Individuals move underground in late May but may return to the surface during periods of rainfall and/or cool weather.  By mid September, adults can again be found under cover objects at the surface. 

            I. Seasonal Migrations.  Unknown.

            J. Torpor (Hibernation).  Probably hibernate from mid November to late March.

            K. Interspecific Associations/Exclusions.  Fourche Mountain salamanders occur syntopically with western slimy salamanders (P. albagula) and southern red-backed salamanders (P. serratus).  Kuss (1986) found that habitat differed between western slimy salamanders and Fourche Mountain salamanders, with Fourche Mountain salamanders occurring more often at higher elevations, farther from ravines, and in association with denser vegetation.

            L. Age/Size at Reproductive Maturity.  Adults typically range in size from 60–78 mm SVL (Highton, 1986b).  Age at maturity is unknown.

            M. Longevity.  Individuals that were sexually mature when collected have been kept in the laboratory for at least 3 yr.  Longevity is probably greater than 6 yr.

            N. Feeding Behavior.  Unknown, but prey likely consists of small invertebrates such as worms, insects, and spiders.

            O. Predators.  Unknown.

            P. Anti-Predator Mechanisms.  Nocturnal.  All Plethodon produce noxious skin secretions (Brodie, 1977).  When handled, Fourche Mountain salamanders release an adhesive secretion.

            Q. Diseases.  Unknown.

            R. Parasites.  Winter et al. (1986) found trematodes, cestodes, nematodes, protozoans, and mites on six adults.  Intradermal mites of the genus Hannemania are common on the feet and toes and appear as raised red pustules.  Toe loss and damage have been attributed to these mites (Conant and Collins, 1991).  Duncan and Highton (1979) found that 89–92% of individuals from three populations had mite infestations.

4. Conservation.  Fourche Mountain salamanders have a limited distribution.  Within this range they can be abundant and widespread, although Lohoefener and Jones (1991) noted a reduction in numbers at several localities.

1Carl D. Anthony
Department of Biology
John Carroll University
University Heights, Ohio 44118

Literature references for Amphibian Declines: The Conservation Status of United States Species, edited by Michael Lannoo, are here.

Feedback or comments about this page.


Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2021. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 13 Apr 2021.

AmphibiaWeb's policy on data use.