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Shovel-Nosed Salamander

Fact File

Scientific Name: Desmognathus marmoratus

Classification: Amphibian

Conservation Status:

Size: Up to 5.75 inches

Identifying Characteristics

The body is dark brown, gray, or nearly black with two rows of dark brown, gray, olive, or yellowish faintly outlined spots. The belly is gray and is either uniform or has dark mottling. The head is flattened and wedge-shaped like a shovel. The tail is flattened side-side with a sharp upper keel. Larvae have two rows of light spots on a gray back.


Shovel-nosed Salamanders occur in Virginia only on Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountain. They prefer highly oxygenated streams that have loose gravel, rocks, and moderate flow rates.

Did You Know?

On rainy nights is not uncommon for them to emerge from their home stream and move into the surrounding forest remaining hidden during the day under leaf litter.

Role in the Web of Life

Shovel-nosed Salamanders are active in streams year-round, even below the ice in running water. Females lay 20–65 eggs in clusters of 2–4 on the underside of rocks. Larvae may remain in that stage for up to three years before reaching metamorphosis.


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

Last updated: July 18, 2024

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