Pigeon Mountain Salamander
© 2013 John P. Clare (1 of 29)
Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: United States
Plethodon petraeus Wynn, Highton and Jacobs, 1988
John B. Jensen1
1. Historical versus Current Distribution. Pigeon Mountain salamanders (Plethodon petraeus) are known only from the eastern slope of Pigeon Mountain in northwestern Georgia (Wynn et al., 1988). The original description reported them from only two sites, both in Walker County (Wynn et al., 1988). Since that time, several additional sites have been discovered on Pigeon Mountain, including one in Chattooga County (Highton, 1995a; Buhlmann, 1996; J.B.J. and C.D.C., unpublished data).
2. Historical versus Current Abundance. Wynn et al. (1988) reported the species as abundant, far outnumbering other syntopic salamander species. Recent surveys at two of the known sites indicated no detectable change in their abundance (Buhlmann, 1996; J.B.J., personal observations), however Pigeon Mountain salamanders have become uncommon at one locality, possibly due to disturbance created by increased cave visitation and/or perhaps scientific over-collection (Jensen, 1999a).
3. Life History Features.
A. Breeding. Reproduction is terrestrial.
i. Breeding migrations. Mating and migratory behavior unknown.
ii. Breeding habitat. Breeding and nest sites unknown.
i. Egg deposition sites. Unknown, but likely in caves (Jensen et al., 2002).
ii. Clutch size. Based on the number of developing oocytes found in dissected, mature females, Jensen et al. (2002) determined an average clutch size of 19.3.
C. Direct Development. As a member of the genus Plethodon, direct development of Pigeon Mountain salamanders is assumed, however eggs and hatchlings are unknown.
D. Juvenile Habitat. Thought to be the same as adult habitat.
E. Adult Habitat. Pigeon Mountain salamanders are associated with limestone outcroppings, boulder fields, and caves (Wynn et al., 1988). Those found in caves are rarely deeper than the twilight zone. Individuals are most often found in and around cracks and crevices within rocks. These microhabitats are embedded within mesic deciduous forests consisting of an overstory comprised primarily of oak and hickory (Jensen, 1999a). However, Pigeon Mountain salamanders are rarely encountered away from rock outcrops or caves (Jensen et al., 2002).
F. Home Range Size. Unknown.
G. Territories. Unknown.
H. Aestivation/Avoiding Dessication. Little is known, although individuals are difficult to find during extremely dry conditions (J.B.J., personal observations).
I. Seasonal Migrations. Unknown.
J. Torpor (Hibernation). Little is known, although individuals are difficult to find during winter (Jensen, 1999a).
K. Interspecific Associations/Exclusions. Unknown, however aggressive interference is common among other species of Plethodon, and laboratory trials involving Pigeon Mountain salamanders and sympatric northern slimy salamanders (Plethodon glutinosus) revealed territorial defense and aggression (J.L. Marshall, C.D.C., and R.G. Jaeger, unpublished data). In addition to northern slimy salamanders, other salamanders often found in the same microhabitats include cave salamanders (Eurycea lucifuga), long-tailed salamanders (E. longicauda), southern zigzag salamanders (P. ventralis), and green salamanders (Aneides aeneus; Jensen et al., 2002).
L. Age/Size at Reproductive Maturity. Females mature at a larger size (≥ 65 mm SVL) than males (≥ 56 mm) and grow to a greater maximum size (85 mm for females, 80 mm for males). Males mature at a minimum of 3 yr, females at 4 yr (Jensen et al., 2002).
M. Longevity. Unknown.
N. Feeding Behavior. Jensen and Whiles (2000) found ants and beetles to be especially important prey items, though many other invertebrates also are consumed. While Pigeon Mountain salamanders are often opportunistic feeders “sitting and waiting” for prey (J.B.J., personal observations), the presence in dissected stomachs of larval beetles and flies associated with rotting logs, dung, and other moist substrates indicates that prey are also actively searched for and removed from such substrates. Larval insects associated with small, stagnant pools of water are also found in dissected stomachs, suggesting that Pigeon Mountain salamanders also forage in aquatic microhabitats.
O. Predators. Unknown.
P. Anti-Predator Mechanisms. Pigeon Mountain salamanders produce slimy tail secretions, similar to those found in the Plethodon glutinosus complex, that may be noxious or irritating to predators (J.B.J., personal observations).
Q. Diseases. Unknown.
R. Parasites. Unknown.
4. Conservation. Listed as Rare and thus protected by the State of Georgia. The restricted distribution of Pigeon Mountain salamanders makes them especially vulnerable to threats. The vast majority of their range is under public ownership as the Crockford-Pigeon Mountain Wildlife Management Area. However, mineral rights to a portion of this property are leased to a mining company that has proposed quarrying operations, which may threaten both this species and green salamanders, another rare amphibian. Over-collection for scientific study and possibly the illegal pet trade, as well as disturbance from recreational spelunkers, may threaten populations. Loss or reduction of moisture-trapping canopy cover as a result of timber removal on private lands could pose a future threat.
1John B. Jensen
2Carlos D. Camp
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. <http://amphibiaweb.org> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 18 Jan 2021.
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