Red-legged salamander facts for kids
Quick facts for kidsRed-legged salamander
The red-legged salamander (Plethodon shermani) is a species of salamander in the family Plethodontidae. Formerly considered a subspecies of Plethodon jordani, it is native to the mountain forests of the southeastern United States.
They tend to be somewhere between 85-185mm in length and are characterized by their slate-grey to bluish-black bodies and red coloration on their dorsal side of their legs. In the Unicoi Mountains it rarely has red coloration on the legs, but has lateral white spotting. Sexually active males have obvious, rounded mental glands. Young juveniles may have paired red spots running along the back. It is a terrestrial breeder.
The red-legged salamanders make their habitats in cool, moderately humid forests in areas of high elevation, such as the Unicoi and Nantahala mountains as well as the southern Appalachians. While the species is mainly concentrated in North Carolina, they are also found in northern Georgia and southeast Tennessee. Due to being indigenous to less than five known regions, the species has been labeled as vulnerable to extinction. This species shelters under logs or rocks by day, and forages on the forest floor at night.
The red-legged salamander is a nocturnal forager that consumes a wide variety of small invertebrates found on the forest floor.
When courtship occurs, we see that adult male plethodontid salamanders transfer protein pheromones that augment female receptivity. The majority of plethodontid species apply pheromones transdermally to the female's dorsal skin. These pheromones will have diffused through the skin and enter into circulation, a unique type of pheromone delivery in vertebrates. In contrast, a behavioral and physiological transition occurred in the Plethodontinae, resulting in one clade of species (Plethodon glutinosus group) that uses a different pheromone delivery mode. We see that males within this clade apply pheromones directly to the nares of a female, and the pheromones subsequently are detected by the vomeronasal organ. Than they staged courtship encounters and recorded the behavior of females given either pheromones or control solutions on the dorsal skin for Female receptivity. They found that female red legged salamanders are not stimulated by pheromones delivered dermally and alludes that this condition may characterize all the members of the P. glutinosus group, which use olfactory pheromone delivery.
Most of the range occurs in the Nantahala National Forest, where some clear cutting also occurs. Benefits of the species should come with the conservation actions being taken. The species does not appear to be on any state or federal list of endangered species.
Red-legged salamanders are relatively resilient to disturbances such as those associated with timbering operations, and are frequently found in second-growth forests and relatively small, fragmented woodlots.
- Michael J. Lannoo. Amphibian Declines: The Conservation Status of United States Species. University of California Press, 2005 - Nature. ISBN: 978-05-202-3592-2
- Arnold, S. J. 1972. The evolution of courtship behavior in salamanders. Unpubl. Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan. Ann Arbor
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