Peaks of Otter Salamander
Plethodon hubrichti

Common Name:

Peaks of Otter Salamander

Scientific Name:

Plethodon hubrichti



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


hubrichti is in honor of Leslie Hubricht (1908-2005).

Average Length:

3.2 - 4.8 in. (8.1 - 12.2 cm)

Virginia Record Length:

5.1 in. (13.1 cm)

Record length:

5.1 in. (13.1 cm)

Virginia Wildlife Action Plan Rating Tier II - Very High Conservation Need - Has a high risk of extinction or extirpation. Populations of these species are at very low levels, facing real threat(s), or occur within a very limited distribution. Immediate management is needed for stabilization and recovery.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: This is a slender species up to 13 cm in length. The dorsum is black or very dark brown with abundant brassy metallic spots or blotches occasionally forming an irregular stripe. The sides and ventral surface are plain, dark gray to black. There are usually 19 costal grooves *891,1171*. The body has purplish reflections due to blood and visceral pig- ments and the body and tail are slender and elongate. The body and tail base is rounded, slightly flattened, and has a median dorsal impressed line. The tail is round, tapering very gradually from behind the vent to near the tail tip. It has a triangular skull and rectangular branchial area posteriorly making up the head. It is widest just behind the eyes at the angle of the mouth. The toes are slightly webbed at the base and vomerine teeth number 6-6, in two rows curving inward and backward from behind the outer edge of the internal nares. The males have a large but poorly defined mental gland area. Large hedonic gland openings are clustered around the vent and along part of the tail ventrum. There is no mental gland and ventral hedonic gland develop ment in the females *979*.

REPRODUCTION: Oviposition is probably in June. The number of mature ova averages 11.5. The reported clutch size is ten *9286*. This species shows direct development and internal fertilization by means of a spermatophore. The males have a well-developed mental hedonic gland cluster *893*. Egg development requires a moist microhabitat *10816*.

BEHAVIOR: When the habitat becomes hot and/or dry, they retreat further underground *891*. Defensive mechanisms include immobility, tail autonomy, coiling, and noxious secretions *894*. They inhabit moist forests characterized by the presence of oak, rhododendron, yellow birch, and hemlock at higher elevations of the Peaks of Otter region *979*. They are found abundantly under cover of rocks, logs, and surface debris where suitable moisture conditions prevail. They will consume almost any invertebrate that can be consumed. It probably is nocturnal or crepuscular although occasional individuals may be encountered by day in its deeply shaded habitat *891,10816*. They are only active on the surface following a rain event *10816*. They forage on the ground and nest/den sites are under rocks, in burrows and under leaves. This species breeds in the summer and is non-territorial *9286*.

ORIGIN: They are native to Virginia *891*.

POPULATION PARAMETERS: Nothing is reported on the population ecology *9286*.

References for Life History

  • 891 - Dodd, C.K., Jr., Linzey, D.W. (Ed.), 1979, Peaks of Otter salamander, Proc. Symp. on Endangered and Threatened Plants and Animals of Virginia, pg. 384, 665 pgs., Ext. Div., Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State Univ., Blacksburg
  • 893 - Dodd, C.K., Jr., E.D. Brodie, Jr., 1976, Observations on the mental hedonic gland-clusters of eastern salamanders of the genus Plethodon, Chesapeake Sci., Vol. 17, pg. 129-131
  • 894 - Dodd, C.K., Jr., J.A. Johnson, E.D. Brodie, Jr., 1974, Noxious skin secretions of an eastern small Plethodon, P. nettingi hubrichti, J. Herpetol., Vol. 8, pg. 89-92
  • 979 - Thurow, G.R., 1957, A new Plethodon from Virginia, Herpetologia, Vol. 13, pg. 59-66
  • 1171 - Bury, R.B., C.K. Dodd, Jr., G.M. Fellers, 1980, Conservation of the Amphibia of the United States: A review, Res. Publ. No. 134, 34 pgs., U.S. Dep. Inter., Fish and Wildl. Serv., Washington, D.C
  • 9286 - Terwilliger, K.T., 1991, Virginia's endangered species: Proceedings of a symposium. Coordinated by the Virginia Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries, Nongame and Endangered Species Program, 672 pp. pgs., McDonald and Woodward Publ. Comp., Blacksburg, VA
  • 10816 - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1994, Federal Register, Department of the Interior, Vol. 59, Num. 219, U.S. Gov't Printing Ofc., Washington, DC


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Verified County/City Occurrence

Bedford County
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Rockbridge County
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