Northern Gray-cheeked Salamander
Plethodon montanus

Common Name:

Northern Gray-cheeked Salamander

Scientific Name:

Plethodon montanus



plethore is Greek meaning "fullness or full of",  odon is Greek for "teeth". Referring to  the number of paravomerine and vomerine teeth.


montanus is Latin meaning "belonging to a mountain".

Average Length:

3.5 - 5 in. (8.9 - 12.7 cm)

Virginia Record Length:

Record length:

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: This species is black above with a dull bluish-gray belly. The throat is anteriorly flesh colored and the costal grooves number 15-16. There are 2-3 intercostal folds between the toes of the appressed limbs. The length is up to 135 mm *1009*.

REPRODUCTION: This species will nest in the fall *1014*. They court slowly and deposit a single spermatophore. There is a complex courting behavior with a high success for each spermatophore. The male chases rival males away from the female and courtship usually occurs at night between dusk and dawn but may occur during the day under cover. The olfactory system is probably important to courtship *951*. Courtship and spermatophore deposition take place in August and September; it is believed that eggs are laid underground during summer or late fall and that the young emerge the following spring *10812*. This species will reach sexual maturity at 3-5 years *3915,918*.

BEHAVIOR: This species is abundant in and beneath old rotten, moss-covered logs and bark and more rarely, beneath stones and slabs of rock, on heavily forested slopes *1009*. This species inhabits the forest floor and is active on the surface at night when the humidity is high and temperatures are mild. During the day it occupies burrows under stones and logs, or tunnels formed by rotted roots *1014*. This species is normally found above 3000 feet. They do not migrate during the breeding season and members possess an ability to home. They are found in subterranean passages *944*. And 2 of 7 subspecies exhibit an apparent aposematic coloration *924*. Population parameters: The annual survivorship is 0.38-0.57. This species lives to be no more than 7 years old *3915,918*.

References for Life History

  • 854 - Arnold, S.J., 1976, Sexual behavior, sexual interference, and sexual defense in the salamanders Ambystoma maculatum, Ambystoma tigrinum, and Plethodon jordoni, Z. Tierpsychol., Vol. 42, pg. 247-300
  • 918 - Highton, R., 1962, Geographic variation in the life history of the slimy salamander, Copeia, Vol. 1962, pg. 597-613
  • 924 - Huheey, J.E., R.A. Brandon, 1961, Further notes on mimicry in salamanders, Copeia, Vol. 1961, pg. 63-64
  • 944 - Madison, D.M., 1969, Homing behaviour of the red-cheeked salamander, Plethodon jordoni, Anim. Behav., Vol. 17, pg. 25-34
  • 951 - Organ, J.A., 1958, Courtship and spermatophore of Plethodon jordoni metcalfi, Copeia, Vol. 1958, pg. 251-259
  • 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
  • 3915 - Organ, J.A., 1961, Studies of the local distribution, life history, and population dynamics of the salamander genus Desmognathus in Virginia, Ecol. Monogr., Vol. 31, pg. 189-220


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Verified County/City Occurrence

Bristol City
Giles County
Grayson County
Russell County
Smyth County
Tazewell County
Washington County
Verified in 7 Counties/Cities.