Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander
Desmognathus ochrophaeus

Common Name:

Alleghany Mountain Dusky Salamander

Scientific Name:

Desmognathus ochrophaeus



Desmos is Greek for  "ligament",  gnathos is Greek for "jaw"  - This refers to the bundle of ligaments holding the jaw.


ochros is Greek for "yellow" or "pale", phaeos is Greek for "light". This refers to the bright coloration of some specimens.

Average Length:

2.8 - 4 in. (7 - 10 cm)

Virginia Record Length:

Record length:

4.4 in. (11.1 cm)

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Total length=70-111 mm; amazing variation in color, markings, body proportions, and size; male averages 12% longer than female; most young are dorsally spotted; many adults are drab and nondescript but some are brightly colored; many from Northern Va. have straight-edged, light dorsal bands; more southern specimens have an uneven and more variable dorsal band; male has a darker body and a more curved jaw margin than female *1014*.

REPRODUCTION: Spawning occurs mostly in July and August; females emerge from brooding as early as late August *925*. Courtship and spermatophore deposition occur in September, October, and April; the average clutch is 12 with a range of 3-27 eggs; hatching occurs in October *10812*. eggs may be attached singly, in pairs, or in clusters *868*; philopatric oviposit in same segment of stream in successive years *904*.

BEHAVIOR: Uncommon at lower elevations where it inhabits seepages and stream margins; at high elevations it ranges away from streams and appear under rocks, leaves, and logs in woodlands *1014*; inhabits wet rock faces where there is a constant supply of water *925*; inhabits wet rock faces, seepage areas, woodlands, and the margins of small streams at elevations from under 300 m to 2000 m *984*; high elevation populations exhibit delayed maturity, relative to low elevation popula- tion *983*; oviposit and brood eggs beneath rocks, moss, and decaying logs in seepage areas and along montane brooks *1009*; female remains with clutch until after hatching, a period ranging from 52 to 69 days *903,981*; females remain in the nesting cavity and seldom forage while attending eggs *903*; female will accept eggs belonging to another conspecific female *981*; exhibit a potential for passive altruism; olfactory cues are essential to clutch recogniton by female *905*; Batesian mimicry of Plethodon jordani *926*; disturbed female may consume eggs; presence of dead eggs in clutch elicits oophagy *981*; female attends clutch; attending behavior anti-predator and anti-pathogenic device *906*; larvae hatch in both late summer from clutches brooded during summer, and early spring from clutches brooded during the winter; eggs typically deposited in small cavities hollowed out by female in soil under moss or in moss, a few cm above shallow running water *982*; from May to September adults feed mostly on land *2293*; in winter may congregate in crevices of shale banks bordering woodland streams *865*; active at night and on dark humid days *1008*; adults semi-aquatic, larvae aquatic *865*. They generally use seeps as nesting and hibernation sites, the seeps are also used to avoid competition with and being eaten by the larger species *10812*.

ORIGIN: Native.

POPULATION PARAMETERS: 1:1 sex ratio *984*.

AQUATIC/TERRESTRIAL ASSOCIATIONS: Aquatic - Desmognathus fuscus fuscus, Eurycea bislineata bislineata, Tendipedidae sp., Plecoptera sp., Chara sp. *865,2293*; Terrestrial: Desmognathus fuscus fuscus, Eurycea bislineata bislineata, Collembola sp., Acarina sp., Isopoda sp., Formicidae sp. *865,2293*.

References for Life History

  • 865 - Bishop, S.C., 1941, The salamanders of New York, New York State Mus. Bull., Vol. 324, pg. 1-365
  • 868 - Bishop, S.C., H.P. Chrisp, 1933, The nests and young of the Allegheny salamander Desmognathus fuscus ochrophufus (Cope), Copeia, Vol. 1933, pg. 194-198
  • 903 - Forester, D.C., 1974, Parental care in Desmognathus ochrophaeus Cope (Urodela: Plethodontidae): A behavioral study, Ph.D. Diss., North Carolina State Univ., Raleigh, UNPB
  • 904 - Forester, D.C., 1977, Comments of the female reproductive cycle and philopatry in Desmognathus ochrophaeus (Amphibia, Urodela, Plethodontidae), J. Herpetol., Vol. 11, pg. 311-316
  • 905 - Forester, D.C., 1979, Homing to the nest by the female mountain dusky salamanders (Desmognathus ochrophaeus) with comments on the sensory modalities essential to clutch recognition, Herpetology, Vol. 35, Num. 4, pg. 330-335
  • 906 - Forester, D.C., 1979, The adaptiveness of parental care in Desmognathus ochrophaeus (Urodela: Plethodontidae), Copeia, Vol. 1979, pg. 332-341
  • 925 - Huheey, J.E., R.A. Brandon, 1973, Rock-fare populations of the mountain salamander, Desmognathus ochrophaeus, in North Carolina, Ecol. Monogr., Vol. 43, pg. 59-77
  • 926 - Huheey, J.E., R.A. Brandon, 1974, Studies in warning coloration and mimicry. VI. Comments on the warning coloration of red efts and their presumed mimicry by red salamanders, Herpetology, Vol. 30, Num. 2, pg. 149-155
  • 981 - Tilley, S.G., 1972, Aspects of parental care and embryonic development in Desmognathus ochrophaeus, Copeia, Vol. 1972, pg. 532-540
  • 982 - Tilley, S.G., 1973, Life histories and natural selection in populations of the salamander Desmognathus ochrophaeus, Ecology, Vol. 54, Num. 1, pg. 3-12
  • 983 - Tilley, S.G., 1973, Observations on the larval period and female reproductive ecology of Desmognathus ochrophaeus (Amphibia: Plethodontidae) in western North Carolina, Am. Midl. Nat., Vol. 89, pg. 394-407
  • 984 - Tilley, S.G., 1980, Life histories and comparative demography of two salamander populations, Copeia, Vol. 1980, pg. 806-821
  • 1008 - Barbour, R.W., 1971, Amphibians and reptiles of Kentucky, 334 pgs., Univ. of Kentucky Press, Lexington, KY
  • 1009 - Bishop, S.C., 1943, Handbook of Salamanders, 555 pgs., Comstock Publ. Co., New York, NY
  • 1014 - Martof, B.S., Palmer, W.M., Bailey, J.R., Harrison, III J.R., 1980, Amphibians and Reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia, 264 pgs., UNC Press, Chapel Hill, NC
  • 2293 - Bennett, B.M., E.D. Bellis, 1972, Comparative food habits of Desmognathus f. fuscus and Desmognathus o. ochrophaeus along a Pennsylvania stream, Proc. PA Acad. Sci., Vol. 46, pg. 57-58


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