Southern Dusky Salamander
Desmognathus auriculatus

Common Name:

Southern Dusky Salamander

Scientific Name:

Desmognathus auriculatus



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


auriculatus is Latin and means the external part of the ear. This refers to the oblong brownish spot found on each side of the head.

Average Length:

3 - 5 in. (7.5 - 12.5 cm)

Virginia Record Length:

Record length:

6.4 in. (16.3 cm)

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: The belly is strongly mottled, deep brown and white with the back dark brown, almost black. The lower sides are bluish-gray to grayish-brown. The dorsal surface of the tail has an anterior russet band, irregular edges, and often a dorsolateral row of small light dots and a second row on the lower sides between the legs and basal half of the tail. The light mark on the side of head from the eye to the angle of the jaw, is narrow to broad and bright, orange-red to russet. The length is up to 118 mm *867*.

REPRODUCTION: This species lays 9 to 20 eggs in cavities under logs or moss near water. In the summer the female stays with the eggs until they hatch in early fall. The larvae transform in the spring *1014*. The male becomes sexually mature at 3.5 years, and the female at 4.5 years *953*. The eggs are laid in the spring or early summer and number 9-20 eggs *1014*. Aggressive behavior of the males during the courting season was suggested to be the method by which sex recognition takes place *953*.

BEHAVIOR: They are abundant under leaf litter and rotten logs in swamps and bottomland forests *867*. They are found under logs, bark, and other surface debris in/or beside swamp streams and springs *867*. They are often found near cypress ponds or in stagnant or nearly stagnant pools with the environment muddy and chemically acid *883*. Th eggs are deposited in cavities beneath moss or within rotten logs near water. The females remain with the eggs until they hatch into aquatic larvae in the fall. The transformation occurs in the late spring *1014*.

References for Life History

  • 867 - Bishop, S.C., 1947, Handbook of Salamanders, 555 pgs., Comstock Publ. Co., Ithaca, N.Y
  • 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
  • 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


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Verified County/City Occurrence

Greensville County
Isle of Wight County
James City County
Mecklenburg County
Suffolk City
Surry County
Sussex County
Virginia Beach City
Williamsburg City
York County
Verified in 10 Counties/Cities.

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