Shovel-nosed Salamander
Desmognathus marmoratus

Common Name:

Shovel-nosed Salamander

Scientific Name:

Desmognathus marmoratus



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


marmoratus is Latin for "marbled".  This refers to the marbled dorsal pattern found on the salamander.

Average Length:

3.5 - 5 in. (9 - 12.5 cm)

Virginia Record Length:

Record length:

5.8 in. (14.6 cm)

Virginia Wildlife Action Plan Rating Tier III - High Conservation Need - Extinction or extirpation is possible. Populations of these species are in decline or have declined to low levels or are in a restricted range. Management action is needed to stabilize or increase populations.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: This is a large, robust, desmognathine with squarish yellowish-brown, alternating dorsal blotches, pale undersides, and a poorly defined line from the eye to the angle of the jaw *921*. The size is from 88-143 mm *1014*. It has a maximum weight of 13 grams. The dorsum is usually dark brown, usually with two rows of irregular, light-colored yellowish blotches. The color of the venter is variable, usually grayish. Males average about 10 percent larger than the females. The tail is reletively long. The prominent keel on the tail is often notched or ragged. The tip of the keel forms an angle of about 40 degrees. The outline of the snout is pointed. There is a poorly defined light-colored area extending from the eye to the angle of the jaw. The internal nares are slitlike openings *9286*.

REPRODUCTION: Spawning occurs chiefly in June, and the clutch size averages 40 *1014*. Up to 40 eggs are spawned in June, and attached to the underside of rocks in the main current. The female stays with the eggs until they hatch, in 2.5 months. The larvae mature after 10-20 months *1014,1009*. Hatching occurs in late August and September; egg clusters ranged from 27-54 eggs; the main part of egg laying occurs in June or July *10812*.

BEHAVIOR: This species rarely leaves the water and occurs under submerged rocks and stones, sometimes at a depth of 1 foot or more *921*. It inhabits cold mountain streams. The female stays with eggs throughout development and the hatchlings metamorphose 10-20 months after hatching when they are from 40-65 mm long. The eggs are attached to the undersides of rocks in a current *1014*. This species is basically nocturnal and primarily insectivorous taking larval or nymphal forms of aquatic insects *9286*.

POPULATION PARAMETERS: Data suggests that populations are small and scattered even in the streams where they are found *9286*.

AQUATIC/TERRESTRIAL ASSOCIATIONS: This species is associated with cold mountain streams under rocks and stones *1014*. Major predators include fishes, especially trout; other salamanders; water snakes, raccoon, crayfishes, dytiscid beetles, and other aquatic insects *9286*. Extreme drought may intensify competition between this species and a similarly sized sympatric species Desmognathus quadramaculatus *9286*.

References for Life History

  • 921 - Hoffman, R.L., Linzey, D.W. (Ed.), 1979, Shovel-nosed salamander, Proc. Symp. on Endangered and Threatened Plants and Animals of Virginia, pg. 382-383, 665 pgs., Ext. Div. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State Univ., Blacksburg, VA
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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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