Plethodon wehrlei
Wehrle's Salamander
Subgenus: Plethodon
family: Plethodontidae
subfamily: Plethodontinae

© 2017 Alexander Murray (1 of 12)
Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN (Red List) Status Least Concern (LC)
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 wehrlei Fowler and Dunn, 1917(a)
Wehrle’s Salamander

Thomas K. Pauley1
Mark B. Watson2

1. Historical versus Current Distribution. Bishop (1943) and Grobman (1944) described the range of Wehrle's salamanders (Plethodon wehrlei) from southwestern New York through western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, and West Virginia, with disjunct populations in western North Carolina and extreme eastern Tennessee. Early distributional records include Pennsylvania (Netting, 1936a; Burt, 1942), Virginia (Netting et al., 1946; Grobman, 1949; Hoffman, 1967), and West Virginia (Netting, 1936b). Current work shows the range from Cattaraugus County, New York, south through western Pennsylvania, western Maryland, eastern Ohio, West Virginia, and southwestern Virginia to the northern edge of North Carolina in the East, and through eastern Kentucky to the northern edge of Tennessee in the West (Highton, 1971, 1987b). Wehrle's salamanders have not been found in Ohio since the 1930s (Pfingsten, 1989e). Yellow-spotted morphs are known to occur in Summers County, West Virginia (Cupp and Towles, 1983; Highton, 1987b; Waldron et al., 2000), Letcher County, Kentucky (Cupp and Towles, 1983), and Campbell County, Tennessee (Redman and Jones, 1985).

2. Historical versus Current Abundance. No historical information is available. Hall and Stafford (1972) estimated that these are the most abundant salamanders in their habitat and have a high density and biomass. They estimated 1,000 salamanders/ha or 0.1 salamander/m2 in one Pennsylvania site. Pauley (1980, 1993a) found them to be common in West Virginia at elevations from 305 m in mixed deciduous forests to 1,446 m in red spruce forests. Mitchell et al. (1999) determined existing and potential threats to Wehrle's salamander to be deforestation.

3. Life History Features.

A. Breeding. Reproduction is terrestrial.

&nb sp; i. Breeding migrations. Wehrle's salamanders do not migrate.

&nb sp; ii. Breeding habitat. Times of mating and egg deposition vary throughout the range. Mating occurs in September–October, and egg deposition occurs in January–March in Pennsylvania (Hall and Stafford, 1972); in New York, mating in captive salamanders occurs in September–October, and eggs are deposited in March–April (Johnson, 1961); in West Virginia, mating is in March–April and egg deposition prior to May (Pauley and England, 1969). Dodd and Brodie (1976) described the hedonic gland- cluster.

B. Eggs.

&nb sp; i. Egg deposition sites. Because eggs have never been found on the surface of the ground, they are most likely deposited in underground nests in mixed deciduous and coniferous forests (Green and Pauley, 1987). Fowler (1952) found one nest of six eggs in a cavity in a cave in Virginia. Gross (1982) studied the morphology and physiology of Wehrle’s salamanders in caves in West Virginia but was unable to locate nests.

&nb sp; ii. Clutch size. Hall and Stafford (1972) determined that the number of mature follicles varied from 7–24. This range of sizes is correlated to the sizes of the females.

C. Direct Development. Females likely tend nests.

D. Juvenile Habitat. Juveniles have been found in the same habitat as adults (T.K.P., unpublished data).

E. Adult Habitat. Habitat varies from mixed deciduous forests in the Allegheny Plateau and Cumberland Plateau to coniferous forests of the high elevations in the Allegheny Mountains. Ground cover in these habitats includes logs, rocks, and leaves (Hassler, 1932; Bishop, 1941b; Brooks, 1945; Pauley and England, 1969; Hall and Stafford, 1972; Green and Pauley, 1987). They also occur in caves (Netting, 1933; Reese, 1933; Netting et al., 1946; Pope and Fowler, 1949; Fowler, 1951; Newman, 1954b; Cooper, 1961; Gross, 1982; Holsinger, 1982; Pauley and Keller, 1993). In West Virginia, Wehrle's salamanders inhabit dry hillsides and are associated with plants indicative of xeric habitats when in sympatry with eastern red-backed salamanders (P. cinereus; Pauley, 1978b,c). Pauley and Keller (1993) found that when in sympatry with eastern red-backed salamanders, Wehrle's salamanders use larger burrows than eastern red-backed salamanders, and there was a significant negative correlation between cloacal temperatures and burrow size for eastern red-backed salamanders but not Wehrle's salamanders.

F. Home Range Size. Unknown, but probably similar to other large Plethodon species such as P. punctatus (Cow Knob salamanders; Buhlmann et al., 1988) and northern slimy salamanders (P. glutinosus; Merchant, 1972).

G. Territories. Wehrle’s salamanders defend their territories against conspecifics and other salamander species (Thurow, 1976).

H. Aestivation/Avoiding Dessication. Members of this species remain active on the surface from March to early June in low elevations and April to early October in higher elevations (Pauley, 1978d, 1993a). In West Virginia, aestivation probably occurs from mid June to late September in the low elevations of the Allegheny Plateau, and during unusual drought conditions from late April to mid October in the Allegheny Mountains (Green and Pauley, 1987).

I. Seasonal Migrations. Wehrle’s salamanders do not migrate across the forest floor, but will move from surface sites to underground sites in response to seasonal dry and cold conditions and back to the forest floor when surface conditions become favorable.

J. Torpor (Hibernation). In the lower elevations in West Virginia, Wehrle’s salamanders remain active on the surface in late autumn until air and soil temperatures become too cold, and return to the surface in March as the temperatures increase. In the higher elevations, they are not active on the surface from late October to May (Green and Pauley, 1987; Santiago, 1999).

K. Interspecific Associations/Exclusions. Highton (1971) discusses the geographical interactions between Wehrle’s salamanders and Cow Knob salamanders. In West Virginia, habitat partitioning between Wehrle’s salamanders and eastern red-backed salamanders is regulated by soil temperature, soil moisture, and burrow sizes (Pauley, 1978b,c,d; Pauley and Keller, 1993).

L. Age/Size at Reproductive Maturity. Males probably mature in 4 yr, females in 5 yr (Hall and Stafford, 1972). Total length of adults is 100–170 mm with males being slightly smaller than females (Petranka, 1998).

M. Longevity. Unknown. Probably similar to other large Plethodon (Snider and Bowler, 1992).

N. Feeding Behavior. In West Virginia specimens, Pauley (1978a) found the major prey items (in order of percent consumption) for adults to be ants, beetles, mites, spiders, and collembolans; for juveniles, prey items include ants, collembolans, mites, beetles, and spiders. In Pennsylvania, prey items included annelids, gastropods, millipedes, centipedes, isopods, phalangids, spiders, mites, collembolans, orthopterans, homopterans, hemipterans, beetles, flies, and ants (Hall, 1976). Bishop (1941b) found New York specimens to prey on ants, lepidopteran larvae, crickets, beetles, craneflies, hymenopterans, aphids, and mites.

O. Predators. Predators include ring-necked snakes (Diadophis punctatus; Hall and Stafford, 1972) and probably garter snakes, rodents, and some birds.

P. Anti-Predator Mechanisms. Unknown. As with other Plethodon, mucous secretions in the tail may inhibit ingestion by small predators.

Q. Diseases. Diseases of this species have not been reported.

R. Parasites. Parasites have not been determined.

4. Conservation. Hall and Stafford (1972) estimated that Wehrle's salamanders may be the most abundant salamanders in their habitat. Deforestation may be the most important threat to Wehrle's salamanders (Mitchell et al., 1999). In fact, they have not been found in Ohio since the 1930s (Pfingsten, 1989e). Wehrle's salamanders are listed as In Need of Conservation in Maryland, In Need of Management in West Virginia, and Threatened in North Carolina (Levell, 1997).

1Thomas K. Pauley
Department of Biological Sciences
Marshall University
Huntington, West Virginia 25701

Allegheny Institute of Natural History
University of Pittsburgh at Bradford
Bradford, Pennsylvania 16701

2Mark B. Watson
Allegheny Institute of Natural History
University of Pittsburgh at Bradford
Bradford, Pennsylvania 16701

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

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