AmphibiaWeb - Plethodon pauleyi


(Translations may not be accurate.)

Plethodon pauleyi Felix, Wooten, Pierson & Camp, 2019
Yellow-spotted Woodland Salamander
Subgenus: Plethodon
family: Plethodontidae
subfamily: Plethodontinae
genus: Plethodon
Species Description: Felix ZI, Wooten JA, Pierson TW, Camp CD 2019 Re-evaluation of the Wehrle's salamander (Plethodon wehrlei Fowler and Dunn) species group (Caudata: Plethodontidae) using genomic data, with the description of a new species. Zootaxa 4609: 429-448.
Plethodon pauleyi
© 2022 Bryce Wade (1 of 17)
Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN Red List Status Account
NatureServe Use NatureServe Explorer to see status.
National Status None
Regional Status Deemed “Critically Imperiled” by Kentucky and Tennessee


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Plethodon pauleyi is a medium-small sized woodland salamander described from from two adult males, one adult female, and two juveniles. The males had a snout-vent length of 51.5 and 63.5 mm while the female was 52.4 mm, and the juveniles were 24.1 and 39.1 mm. This species shares a similar overall morphology with others in the same genus. Plethodon pauleyi has 16 - 17 costal grooves with two grooves being between adpressed limbs. The fingers and toes have distinct webbing. Webbing between all the toes, which is a shared character within the Plethodon wehrlei species group (Felix et. al 2019).

Plethodon pauleyi differs from other salamanders in the P. wehrlei species group, which consists of: P. dixi, P. jacksoni, P. punctatus, and P. wehrlei. Plethodon pauleyi is unique because of its two rows of yellow dorsal spots, which are absent in P. dixi and P. punctatus. These dorsal spots are red, not yellow, in P. jacksoni and P. wehrlei. Plethodon pauleyi has a lighter gray ventral coloration than P. punctatus and P. wehrlei, with less mottling. Plethodon pauleyi has a more lightly pigmented ventral mottling, as opposed to P. dixi and P. jacksoni, which have more pigmentation and salt-and-pepper-like mottling. Additionally, P. pauleyi has two costal grooves between its adpressed limbs, whereas P. dixi, P. jacksoni, and P. wehrlei have three to four, and P. punctatus has two or three. Lastly, both males and female P. pauleyi matured at smaller snout-vent length sizes than P. werhlei (Felix et al. 2019).

In life, P. pauleyi has a dark black, brown, or gray-ish dorsum. The coloration of the dorsal trunk and limbs is darker in younger individuals, but lighter in older specimens. The dorsal surface of the head, neck, between the forelimbs, and dorsal brachia are scattered with mini white specks. These white flecks are densely arrange above and on the eye and insertion of the limbs. There are two rows of 6 - 12 yellow, irregularly-edged, 1 - 2 mm sized spots on the dorsum that extend between the insertion of the forelimbs to just past the insertion of the hind limbs. The lateral sides of the head and trunk have distinct mottling originating from the lips, each side of the margins, both on the lateral and ventral sides. The ventral sides of the face and body are grey with minimal white mottling present. The throat has fewer melanophores, is lighter, and has larger mottling on the ventral sides. The throat slightly contrasts with the grey and translucent venter, which has white mottling that extends from the edge of the lateral side to the throat. Younger specimens may have more intense white flecks and mottling (Felix et. al 2019).

The yellow-spotted dorsum of P. pauleyi may become fainter and fragmented in older individuals with the overall body coloration becoming a lighter gray, compared to the dark gray or black found in younger individuals. Among P. pauleyi, the number of yellow spots in each row is often unequal, with 6 - 10 on the right and 7 - 10 on the left. Specimens differ in the intensity of coloration present in their spots. Mature P. pauleyi males have distinct mental glands, with a varying diameter (Felix et. al 2019).

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: United States

U.S. state distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia

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Plethodon pauleyi can be found on the Cumberland Plateau south of the New River, in the Central Appalachian in the United States. Plethodon pauleyi is only known in Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia, but many suggest the species is likely to be discovered in Virginia. Southernmost specimens are found along the Pine Mountain while northern specimens are typically found in the Bluestone River gorges portion of the Allegheny Plateau. Although Plethodon pauleyi is a specialist in rocky areas, it may venture into the surrounding temperate deciduous woodlands. The elevational range of this species is not known, but the specimens in the species description were collected at 548 m asl (Felix et al. 2019).

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors

Plethodon pauleyi is a nocturnal, terrestrial species, and a rock-outcrop specialist. Plethodon pauleyi is often found climbing after dark on shale and sandstone outcrops and rock faces common along the escarpment of the Cumberland Plateau. This species can be found sheltering in crevices during the day. It may also be found on leaf litter or rocks at the base of outcrops, or in the surrounding woodlands (Felix et al. 2019).

When found in woodland habitats, P. pauleyi is often in sympatry with Aneides aeneus, Eurycea longicauda, and Eurycea lucifuga (Felix et al. 2019).

The female specimen was found with yolked eggs that were approximately 3.4 mm wide (Felix et al. 2019).

Trends and Threats

Surface mining threatens the habitat of P. pauleyi. As a result, Kentucky and Tennessee have deemed populations of P. pauleyi as “Critically Imperiled” (Felix et al. 2019).


Bayesian inference of CytB and Maximum Likelihood of three nuclear RAD libraries indicate that P. pauleyi is sister to the clade composed of P. punctatus and P. wehrlei. The next most closely related species is P. jacksoni followed by P. dixi. The clade of P. jacksoni may be split into two species, but a more detailed geographic survey is needed (Felix et al 2019).

Plethodon pauleyi is named to honor Dr. Thomas K. Pauley, a Professor Emeritus from Marshall University for his studies on P. wehrlei and work done on the Bluestone River gorge in West Virginia (Felix et al. 2019).


Felix, Z., Wooton, J. A., Pierson, T. W., Camp, C.D. (2019). ''Re-evaluation of the Wehrle’s salamander (Plethodon wehrlei Fowler and Dunn) species group (Caudata: Plethodontidae) using genomic data, with the description of a new species.'' Zootaxa, 4609(3), 429-448. [link]

Originally submitted by: Linnea Schaefer (2021-11-04)
Description by: Linnea Schaefer (updated 2021-11-04)
Distribution by: Linnea Schaefer (updated 2021-11-04)
Life history by: Linnea Schaefer (updated 2021-11-04)
Trends and threats by: Linnea Schaefer (updated 2021-11-04)
Comments by: Linnea Schaefer (updated 2021-11-04)

Edited by: Arjun Mehta (2021-11-04)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2021 Plethodon pauleyi: Yellow-spotted Woodland Salamander <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Jul 17, 2024.

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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2024. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 17 Jul 2024.

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