Photo Credit: Roger Birkhead
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Plethodon websteri
DESCRIPTION: This is a small salamander between 2 ¾”- 3 ¼” long. It is similar in appearance to the Southern zigzag salamander. The sides are brown to dark gray with a yellowish or orange colored striped running longitudinally down the dorsum. The stripe can vary from even-edged to a wavy or lobed appearance. The belly is light and mottled with dark pigment of varying intensity. Most Alabama specimens have 18 costal grooves.
DISTRIBUTION: Occurs in small isolated populations in Louisiana, south central Mississippi, central and east central Alabama, and west Georgia. It is known to occur in all of Alabama’s physiographic regions above the Fall Line Hills except the Interior Plateau. A disjunct population in a small area of the Coastal Plain has not been confirmed in many years.
HABITAT: They prefer upland rocky woodlands dominated by hardwoods, most often encountered under rotten logs and rocks. They are also quite common near springs and mouths of caves.
FEEDING HABITS: Webster’s salamanders forage along the forest floor in search of small insects.
LIFE HISTORY AND ECOLOGY: This salamander is only separated from the Southern zigzag salamander by geographic location and was determined to be a distinct species by molecular biologist T. Preston Webster. Little is known about their reproductive history. They are known to be completely terrestrial, omitting the aquatic larval stage. Presumably, nesting occurs in subterranean cavities and passages, probably during the summer months.
Conant, Roger. 1975. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, MA. 442-443 pp.
Mount, Robert H. 1996. The Reptiles & Amphibians of Alabama. The University of Alabama Press. Tuscaloosa, AL. 144-145 pp.
AUTHOR: Matt Brock, Wildlife Biologist, Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries