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Northern Pygmy Salamander

Fact File

Scientific Name: Desmognathus organi

Classification: Amphibian

Conservation Status:

Size: Up to 2 inches

Distribution: This species occurs at high elevation sites (3,500–5,000+ ft.) in Grayson, Smyth, and Washington counties, usually in spruce-fir forests. This is the most terrestrial species of Desmognathus and often found far from water.

Identifying Characteristics

This small salamander is red brown to copper, with black chevrons down the back and a narrowly rounded snout. The tail is round in cross section. Belly is flesh colored.

Did You Know?

The Northern Pygmy Salamander is the smallest salamander in Virginia.

Role in the Web of Life

Mating occurs in the fall and spring with the female laying clusters of eggs attached to rocks in seeps and streams where water will flow over the eggs, and sites where flowing water is not available, in underground retreats at depths up to 12 inches. Females remain with eggs until they hatch. Shortly before hatching, embryos absorb their gills and there is no aquatic larval stage. They forage late at night (often in trees) on a variety of invertebrates.

Conservation

Tier III Species of Greatest Conservation Need in Virginia’s Wildlife Action Plan.

Last updated: February 22, 2021