Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander Great Lakes / St. Lawrence population
Scientific Name: Desmognathus ochrophaeus
Taxonomy Group: Amphibians
Last COSEWIC Assessment: April 2007
Last COSEWIC Designation: Threatened
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Threatened
Image of Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander
The Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander is one of the smallest species of lungless salamanders. This slender salamander averages 7 to 10 cm in length; males are slightly longer than females. Adults typically have a light stripe that extends down the back from the head to the tail. This stripe is straight-edged and varies in colour from grey to brown, tan, yellow, orange or red, depending on the age and the gender. The stripe also commonly contains a row of chevron-shaped dark spots down the middle. This stripe and its chevron pattern become less apparent with age. The sides are mottled and the belly varies from dark brown to black. Juveniles typically have a wide yellowish or reddish dorsal stripe. The larvae, which are aquatic, have well-developed gills and a well-developed fin on the tail.
Distribution and Population
The Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander is commonly found throughout the Appalachian Mountain system of eastern North America, from the Canada-United States border in the north to northern Georgia in the south. The species was first discovered in Canada in 1988. It is found in only two isolated locations: one in southwestern Quebec, at Covey Hill, and the other in southern Ontario, in the Niagara River gorge near Queenston. Canada therefore has two known populations of the Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander: the Carolinian population, in Ontario, and the Great Lakes/ St. Lawrence population, which occupies a very small area in Quebec. In the latter locality, the salamanders live in some six to eight streams, all with a single source. Available data are currently insufficient to provide sizes and trends of these populations.
The Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander is found most commonly in or near forested brooks, rills, mountain cascades, springs or seeps. The species broods its eggs, forages, and overwinters in these heavily vegetated forest habitats. It nests near streams and in areas where water seeps from the ground. Shelter is provided in wet cavities along streams or seeps and in crevices between stones or under stones, leaf litter or logs.
This small, nocturnal salamander remains hidden beneath cover during the day and emerges at night to feed. During the coldest winter months, it hibernates in groups underground. In Quebec, hibernation typically begins in October. Females reach sexual maturity around three or four years of age, one year later than males. Females are thought to seek nest sites far in advance of egg laying, and they return to the same nest site year after year. Mating and egg laying occur in the fall and spring following an elaborate courtship ritual. The female lays a clutch of a dozen or more eggs in a moist depression and remains with the eggs until they hatch. On hatching, the young are in the form of larvae. The larval stage may last up to eight months and requires moist conditions, but not necessarily a body of water. The Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander lacks lungs and therefore breathes through its skin and mouth. The skin must therefore be moist and permeable in order to allow gas exchange to occur, and this requirement for moisture restricts the species to moist habitats. This salamander eats a diverse array of invertebrates (primarily insects) and some vegetation. Its predators include snakes, small mammals and a few birds, as well as other salamanders. The Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander escapes its predators by hiding or by losing its tail. In its natural environment, the species may live 15 years.
The main threats to this species are those that could affect groundwater reserves, either as a result of human activities or climatic variations. Fluctuations in water flow or contamination of water sources by runoff from industrial and urban areas are likely to have large impacts. In Quebec, physical barriers, such as roads and cultivated fields, could limit the species’ movements. By damaging or destroying the terrestrial habitat and altering the quality or abundance of surface water and groundwater, logging to clear land for farming or urban development could also pose threats to this species. Underground water reserves that feed seeps and springs inhabited by the Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander are essential: they provide brooding, feeding and overwintering habitat. Due to its very restricted range, this species could easily become endangered in Canada within a very short time if major changes to its habitat were to take place. Finally, other potential threats include all-terrain vehicle use, collecting of specimens, and recreational activities in or near salamander habitat.
Federal ProtectionThe Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander, Great Lakes / St. Lawrence population, is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.
In Quebec, the species is protected under An Act Respecting the Conservation and Development of Wildlife, which prohibits the purchase, sale or keeping of wildlife in captivity. In addition, the Quebec Environment Quality Act protects this species from unregulated changes in the quality of its environment.
Provincial and Territorial Protection
Status of Recovery Planning
Recovery Strategies :
Name Recovery Strategy for the Allegheny Mountain Dusty Salamander (Desmognathus ochrophaeus), Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Population in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry
CWS-Quebec Species at Risk Recovery Unit
Unité du rétablissement des espèces en péril du SCF-QC - Chair/Contact -
Phone: 1-855-253-6708 Send Email
Recovery team for stream salamanders in Quebec
Lyne Bouthillier - Chair/Contact - Government of Quebec
Phone: 450-928-7608 Send Email
PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.
4 record(s) found.
- COSEWIC Status Reports (1 record(s) found.)
- Response Statements (1 record(s) found.)
- Recovery Strategies (1 record(s) found.)
- Consultation Documents (1 record(s) found.)
COSEWIC Status Reports
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