Southeastern Slimy Salamander
Photo Credit: Suzanne L. Collins, CNAH
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Plethodon grobmani (Allen and Neill)
OTHER NAMES: The Southeastern Slimy Salamander was once considered part of a single salamander species (Plethodon glutinosus) distributed widely throughout the eastern United States. Genetic analyses of this salamander later revealed 13 distinct lineages, or species, distributed across various portions of the U.S. and distinguished by geography (Highton, Maha, and Maxsons 1989). The Southeastern Slimy Salamander represents the southernmost member of this species group.
DESCRIPTION: The Southeastern Slimy Salamander is large woodland salamander averaging 4-7 inches in total length. Like other slimy salamanders, this species is colored black to bluish-black with widely scattered white or brassy flecks. This flecking pattern varies among individuals and may occasionally merge to create a white, highly mottled pattern along the sides of the body. The belly is typically colored a uniform black.
DISTRIBUTION: The Southeastern Slimy Salamander is widely distributed across the northern half of Florida through southern portions of Alabama and southwestern Georgia. Within Alabama, Southeastern Slimy Salamanders are found generally to the south of the Coosa River and, across southern portions of its range, east of the Alabama River and Mobile-Tensaw Delta. The Southeastern Slimy Salamander exhibits some range overlap with Mississippi Slimy Salamanders across central portions of the state; however, these species are remarkably similar in appearance and are virtually impossible to distinguish without the aid of genetic samples.
HABITAT: Southeastern Slimy Salamanders are most commonly found under logs, rocks, or other scattered debris in forested habitats, especially hardwood-dominated forests. Individuals are not limited to undisturbed habitats and may occasionally be found in piles of discarded human debris, such as tires and roofing. This species may also be associated with karst (limestone) habitats embedded across extreme southeastern portions of the state, such as sinkholes associated with the Floridan Aquifer.
LIFE HISTORY AND ECOLOGY: Females are courted by males in midsummer (roughly mid-July to mid-August) using a combination of tactile, visual, and chemical cues. Eggs are deposited in clutches of 5-20 beneath or within rotting logs, with hatching in October-November. Unlike many amphibian species, the Southeastern Slimy Salamander is entirely terrestrial. In order to compensate for life on land, this species uses a strategy called ‘direct development,’ where offspring mature inside the egg without a free-living, aquatic larval stage. Females guard egg clutches from deposition to shortly after hatching, upon which young disperse from the nest.
Southeastern Slimy Salamanders use burrows as refuge from heat, cold, and predators. Adults also use burrows as a foraging site to ambush passing prey and, occasionally, as sites for egg deposition. Individuals will establish territories around burrows and defend them aggressively from other Southeastern Slimy Salamanders and other terrestrial salamander species (Cunningham et al. 2009). Known prey items consist primarily of invertebrates, including ants, beetles, spiders, snails, and millipedes.
Like other slimy salamanders, Southeastern Slimy Salamanders can excrete a noxious, sticky mucus from glands in the tail when threatened as a defense mechanism.
BASIS FOR STATUS CLASSIFICATION: Southeastern Slimy Salamanders are common across their range.
Cunningham, H. R., Rissler, L. J. & Apodaca, J. J. 2009. Competition at the range boundary in the slimy salamander: using reciprocal transplants for studies on the role of biotic interactions in spatial distributions. Journal of Animal Ecology, 78, 52-62.
Highton, R., Maha, G. C. & Maxson, L. R. 1989. Biochemical evolution in the slimy salamanders of the Plethodon glutinosus complex in the Eastern United States. University of Illinois Press, Urbana.
Lannoo, M. 2005. Amphibian declines: The conservation status of United States species, University of California Press, Berkeley.
Mitchell, J., & Gibbons, W. 2010. Salamanders of the Southeast. The University of Georgia Press, Athens
Pentranka, J. 1998. Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press. Washington, DC
AUTHOR: Walter H. Smith, University of Alabama, Alabama Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation