Seal Salamander
Desmognathus monticola

Common Name:

Seal Salamander

Scientific Name:

Desmognathus monticola



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


monticola is Latin and means "mountaineer" or "highlander". This refers to the habitat where this salamander is found.

Average Length:

3.3 - 5 in. (8.3 - 12.5 cm)

Virginia Record Length:

Record length:

5.9 in. (14.9 cm)

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Robust; boldly patterned above; pale below; dorsum with strong black or dark brown markings on a ground of buff, gray or light brown; markings are extremely variable; venter white in juveniles becoming lightly and uniformly pigmented in old adults *1008*.

REPRODUCTION: Courtship in fall and spring; males sexually mature at 3.5 years; females sexually mature at 4.5 years; clutch size=27; eggs found June 16-September 4; eggs deposited in late spring and early summer; eggs hatch late summer and fall; remain with eggs through period of development to hatching; sex recognition may be related to aggressive behavior of males towards other males during courtship season; eggs attached either to underside of rocks or tree roots *953*. The eggs are attached individually by a single peduncle *10812*.

BEHAVIOR: Streambank species; inhabits banks of large and small streams at lower elevations; absent from headwaters of streams above 4300 feet; most nests in banks of aquatic sites; nest sites in the vicinity of rotting logs on stream banks; nests in the interstices between rocks; tranformed individuals hide in burrows in stream banks *953*; sometimes found in rocky streams, prefers muddier areas; enters water readily to escape danger *1008*; mainly nocturnal but sometimes appears in open in shady spots during daylight *883*; inhabits banks of swiftly flowing mountain streams *953,3817*.

ORIGIN: Native *953*.

POPULATION PARAMETERS: Survivorship of female similar to that of male *953*.

AQUATIC/TERRESTERIAL ASSOCIATIONS: Desmognathus quadramaculatus *953*; D. ochrophaeus; D. fuscus fuscus *953,1008,3817*; Plethodon cinereus cinereus; P. glutinosus; Rana sylvatica; Eurycea bislineata; Liriodendron sp.; Rhododendron sp.; Tsuga canadensis *953,970,3817*.

References for Life History

  • 883 - Conant, R., 1975, A field guide to reptiles and amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, 429 pgs., Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, MA
  • 953 - 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
  • 970 - Shealy, R.M., 1975, Factors influencing activity in the salamanders Desmognatus ochrophaeus and D. monticola (Plethodontidae), Herpetology, Vol. 31, pg. 94-102
  • 1008 - Barbour, R.W., 1971, Amphibians and reptiles of Kentucky, 334 pgs., Univ. of Kentucky Press, Lexington, KY
  • 3817 - Brandon, R.A., J.E. Huheey, 1971, Movements and interactions between two species of Desmognathus (Amphibia: Plethodontidae), Amer. Midland Naturalist, Vol. 86, pg. 86-92
  • 10812 - Organ, J.A., 1990, Salamander Survey Section One 1990, Prepared for the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, Jefferson National Forest, 40 pgs., Dept. of Bio. of the City College of New York, New York


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