Weller's Salamander
Plethodon welleri

Common Name:

Weller's Salamander

Scientific Name:

Plethodon welleri



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


Average Length:

2.5 - 3.1 in. (6.4 - 7.9 cm)

Virginia Record Length:

Record length:

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.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: This species is from 63.5-79.2 mm in length. Each side has 16 coastal grooves and a median, dorsal, impressed line from the head to the base of the tail. The hind feet have 5 toes and the forefeet have 4 toes. The dorsal surface is black with a profusion of dull golden or silvery blotches. There are a few golden flecks that extend down from the lateral surface and conspicuous spotting of white pigment or slate gray on the belly and lower flanks. The male is large and more brightly colored than the female *2077*. This is a small dark salamander reaching a maximum SVL of 48.5 mm (1.8 inches) and a total length of 85.1 mm (3.4 inches). Tail length constitutes approximately 30-40% of the total length. The head is slightly larger than the neck and is widest just anterior to the corner of the mouth. The forelimbs are nearly twice as large. The feet and hands are slightly webbed between short toes. Seventeen trunk vertebrae are present. 3.5-6 coastal folds are exposed between the adpressed limbs. Coloration is black, dark brown or gray-brown dorsally with a profusion of gold flecking which is often fused into spots or patches. Ventrally, a slate belly is often dotted with white spots. A pale band is often present at the gular fold. Some individuals are immaculate below. Hatchlings are 11.7-13.5 mm SVL appearing as miniature adults but with larger eyes and nares. Metamorphosis is completed within the egg. Sexual dimorphism is not evident except during the breeding season, when males have well-developed mental glands. These are not apparent in the spring and summer *9286*.

REPRODUCTION: Courtship is in the fall and brooding of the eggs and young in the summer *3823*. Clutches of 4-13 eggs are laid in small cavities of rotting conifer logs and are attended until shortly after hatching, by the female. Hatching occurs in the late summer. Males and females mature at approximately 30 mm SVL *9286*. Eggs are laid in early June and they hatch in August and September; the males mature at 3 years and the females at 4 years *10812*.

BEHAVIOR: This species is terrestrial, found beneath logs and stones in spruce forests covering upper slopes of mountains. It is active primarily at night. It has a vertical range from 2500-5700 feet, and is most frequently encountered in spruce forests above 5000 feet *2077,3823*. This species dwells in the litter of the spruce-fir forest, remaining under rocks, wood and litter during the day. On nights that are humid and warm but with little moon, they may forage on the ground surface. This species, as with all salamanders, in carnivorous, devouring a variety of small ground dwelling invertebrates. It forages on the ground and is non territorial *9286*. Limiting factors: This species is limited to red spruce-fraser fir forest. Populations may be impacted in high elevation forest nearest the road to Whitetop due to over collecting *9286*.

References for Life History

  • 2077 - Russ, W.P., 1973, The rare and endangered terrestrial vertebrates of Virginia, Ph.D. dissertation, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State Univ., Blacksburg, 339 pgs.
  • 3823 - Krakauer, Linzey, D.W. (Ed.), 1979, Spot-bellied Salamander, Endangered and Threatened Plants and Animals of Virginia, pg. 386-387, Ext. Div., VPI&SU, Blacksburg, VA
  • 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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