© 2017 Alexander Murray (1 of 22)
Plethodon richmondi Netting and Mittleman, 1938
Thomas K. Pauley1
1. Historical versus Current Distribution. Netting and Mittleman (1938) described southern ravine salamanders (Plethodon richmondi) from specimens collected at Ritter Park in Cabell County, West Virginia. Early distribution records indicated that ravine salamanders were limited to Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and West Virginia (Netting and Mittleman, 1938; Netting, 1939; Bishop, 1943). Netting and Mittleman (1938) reported the range from Bedford and Allegheny counties in Pennsylvania, south to Grant, Cabell, and Wayne counties in West Virginia, and west into southeastern Ohio to Hamilton County. Bishop (1943) included eastern Kentucky within their range, and Grobman (1944) listed them in western Virginia. Netting (1939) described a limited distribution (in just three counties) in Pennsylvania. Highton (1962a) described the total range from Centre County, Pennsylvania, south through Maryland, West Virginia, western Virginia, northwestern North Carolina, and northeastern Virginia, west to Ohio, southeastern Indiana, and eastern Kentucky. Wallace (1969) reported specimens in 31 counties in eastern Kentucky. Barbour (1971) showed a slightly western expansion of the range, from Whitley County northeast to Jefferson County. Prior to 1972, the total range of southern ravine salamanders was considered to extend in the West from Lake Erie in north-central Ohio southwest into extreme eastern Indiana, eastern Kentucky, western Virginia, extreme northeastern Tennessee, and extreme northwestern North Carolina. In the East, they were thought to extend from the New River in West Virginia and Virginia north to the Susquehanna River Valley in Pennsylvania. Highton (1971) described individuals in the East as Valley and Ridge salamanders (P. hoffmani). Highton (1999a) split the western populations into two species. Those north of the Kanawha and Ohio rivers were described as northern ravine salamanders (P. electromorphus) and those south of these rivers remained P. richmondi (Highton, 1999a; Regester, 2000a,b). Southern ravine salamanders reach 1,300 m in elevation on Big Black Mountain in Harlan County, Kentucky (Barbour, 1953).
The distribution of southern ravine salamanders has updated for Tennessee (Redmond and Scott, 1996) and for Virginia (Mitchell and Reay, 1999).
2. Historical versus Current Abundance. Little quantitative historical information is available for southern ravine salamanders. Welter and Barbour (1940) reported southern ravine salamanders to be as common as eastern red-backed salamanders (P. cinereus) in Rowan and Carter counties in eastern Kentucky. In Tazewell County, Virginia, Hoffman and Hubricht (1954) reported that they observed over 30 specimens in March in < 1 hr. Ten days later they found another large number at a nearby locality. They reported that salamanders were particularly abundant in a nearly cleared pasture, under logs and split fence rails, but not flat stones. Studies of abundance of northern ravine salamanders in West Virginia were conducted by Jewell (1991) and Kramer (1996) prior to the recognition of northern ravine and southern ravine salamanders into separate species (Highton, 1999a).
3. Life History Features.
A. Breeding. Reproduction is terrestrial.
i. Breeding migrations. This species does not migrate. Females exhibit a biennial reproductive cycle (Nagel, 1979; Jewell and Pauley, 1995).
ii. Breeding habitat. As with most Plethodon, breeding probably takes place at night on the forest floor. Southern ravine salamanders mate from fall to early spring. In the northeastern Tennessee populations, southern ravine salamanders mate from November–March, and egg deposition occurs in May (Nagel, 1979). Spermatophore deposition in West Virginia populations occurs in April–May, and egg deposition occurs in April (Jewell and Pauley, 1995).
i. Egg deposition sites. Nests are located in deep underground cavities (Petranka, 1979, 1998) or beneath rocks buried deeply in the soil (Wallace and Barbour, 1957). Egg deposition in Kentucky populations occurs from May to early June (Wallace, 1969). Eggs hatch in early fall, but most neonates do not migrate to the surface until the following spring (Nagel, 1979). A juvenile (23 mm TL) was reported in West Virginia in mid October (Netting and Mittleman, 1938). Two adult southern ravine salamanders with two eggs and two newly hatched juveniles were found in late August in Kentucky (Wallace and Barbour, 1957).
ii. Clutch size. Clutch sizes have been determined primarily on counts of mature follicles. Reports of mature follicles vary from 8.5 in Kentucky (Wallace, 1969) to 8.3 in Tennessee (Nagel, 1979).
C. Direct Development.
i. Brood sites. In deep underground cavities (Petranka, 1979, 1998) or beneath rocks buried deep in the soil (Wallace and Barbour, 1957).
ii. Parental care. Likely; present in all Plethodon species where clutches have been observed.
D. Juvenile Habitat. Juveniles have been found in the same habitat as adults (Netting and Mittleman, 1938).
E. Adult Habitat. Habitat includes steep to sloping hillsides and ravines, and mesic forests with flat rocks, rock outcrops, logs, and abundant leaf litter (Wallace, 1969; Barbour, 1971; Martof et al., 1980; Green and Pauley, 1987; Redmond and Scott, 1996). Southern ravine salamanders are less common in floodplains or on dry ridge tops (Netting, 1939). They are found occasionally in pastures adjacent to wooded areas (Hoffman and Hubricht, 1954).
F. Home Range Size. Unknown. Movements probably are similar to eastern red-backed salamanders (Kleeberger and Werner, 1982) and northern ravine salamanders (Jewell, 1991).
G. Territories. In laboratory studies, southern ravine salamanders were found not to be as aggressive in defending territories (Thurow, 1976). Jewell (1991) found that in a laboratory setting, northern ravine salamanders are more territorial than sympatric eastern red-backed salamanders.
H. Aestivation/Avoiding Dessication. Southern ravine salamanders are most active above ground during the fall, winter, and spring. During the hot summer months of June–September, they move to underground refugia (Nagel, 1979; Green and Pauley, 1987).
I. Seasonal Migrations. Southern ravine salamanders do not migrate.
J. Torpor (Hibernation). Southern ravine salamanders remain active on the surface during mild winters. Petranka (1979) observed that they can be abundant during winter thaws at shallow depths beneath rocks near talus slopes. After a severe winter in central Kentucky, Petranka (1979) found few southern ravine salamanders at sites that lacked talus. During the previous autumn, he found them to be common at these sites. He postulated that they may have frozen during the severe weather. Fat for winter inactivity is known to be stored in the first 18 mm of the tail of most Plethodon (Fraser, 1980). Southern ravine salamanders found in the fall after emerging from summer refugia (aestivation) have been reported to have tails smaller in diameter than those salamanders collected in the spring (Netting, 1939; Green and Pauley, 1987). This would suggest that southern ravine salamanders feed more during the winter than summer, thus supporting the idea that they are active during the winter.
K. Interspecific Associations/Exclusions. Southern ravine salamanders are sympatric with eastern red-backed salamanders, Wehrle's salamanders (P. wehrlei), and Cumberland Plateau salamanders (P. kentucki) in West Virginia (Waldron et al., 2000). In Kentucky and eastern Tennessee, their distribution overlaps with northern zigzag salamanders (P. dorsalis; Conant and Collins, 1998) and with northern ravine salamanders in northern Kentucky (Highton, 1999b). In the southern part of their range, southern ravine salamanders have been taken with Weller's salamanders (P. welleri), Yonahlossee salamanders (P. yonahlossee), and northern gray-cheeked salamanders (P. montanus; R. Highton, personal communication).
L. Age/Size at Reproductive Maturity. Male southern ravine salamanders in Tennessee populations become sexually mature in the fall of their third year of life and most females in their fourth year, but some may reach reproductive maturity in their third year (Nagle, 1979). Mature males in Tennessee had a mean SVL of 48.1 mm and gravid females 50.6 mm (Nagle, 1979). In Kentucky, Barbour (1953) reported body lengths of males from 34–50 mm and females from 34–50 mm. In another study in Kentucky, Wallace (1969) reported that the mean SVL of gravid females ranged from 47.6–53.1 mm. The smallest mature gravid female was 35 mm (SVL). Wallace and Barbour (1957) found a female (46 mm SVL) in Kentucky under a rock with two eggs and two hatchlings.
M. Longevity. Unknown. Probably similar to other small Plethodon (Snider and Bowler, 1992).
N. Feeding Behavior. Little is known about prey items of southern ravine salamanders. Several food studies have been conducted on northern ravine salamanders, a sibling species. Major prey items of northern ravine salamanders include ants, sow bugs, dipteran larvae, springtails, mites, snails, beetle larvae and adults, earthworms, termites, spiders, and larval ticks (Seibert and Brandon, 1960; Minton, 1972, 2001; Kramer, 1996).
O. Predators. Undocumented, but undoubtedly include woodland snakes, birds, and small mammals.
P. Anti-Predator Mechanisms. Southern ravine salamanders, like most small Plethodon, display an immobile, coiled, or contorted posture that makes them less obvious to predators when cover objects such as litter, logs, rocks, etc. are removed (Dodd, 1990c). Southern ravine salamanders also avoid substrates with odors from ring-necked snakes (Diadophis punctatus; Cupp, 1994).
Q. Diseases. Diseases of this species have not been reported.
R. Parasites. Parasites that have been identified include Batracholandros salamandrae (Baker, 1987), Thelandros salamadrae, and Cylindrotaenia americana (Dunbar and Moore, 1979).
4. Conservation. Mitchell et al. (1999) listed the conservation status of southern ravine salamanders as Scientific Interest in Tennessee because of their limited distribution in the Blue Ridge Mountain, Ridge and Valley and Cumberland Plateau. Petranka (1998) listed deforestation and urbanization as primary factors that have eliminated local populations of southern ravine salamanders throughout their range.
1Thomas K. Pauley
2Mark B. Watson
Literature references for Amphibian Declines: The Conservation Status of United States Species, edited by Michael Lannoo, are here.
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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2019. <http://amphibiaweb.org> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 23 Jul 2019.
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