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32 Cool Salamanders in South Carolina

There are 32 salamanders in South Carolina with 49 species endemic to the region intersecting Georgia and South Carolina according to the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory. Salamanders are one of the many friendly creatures you might find in South Carolina.

Unfortunately, many of these salamander species are listed as endangered or threatened, which is why learning about and appreciating these animals is important to conservation. Salamanders are interesting due to their habitats, cold-blooded bodies, and regenerative abilities, but every member of the family is, as cliche as it sounds, special in their own way.

Salamanders are considered good for the environment, eating pest insects that might otherwise destroy crops or infect humans with zoonotic diseases. They are also indicators of the health of their habitats, as their skin is sensitive to droughts and toxins.

If you live in South Carolina or are just visiting, take some time to learn about these tiny but deeply fascinating friends that are only a leaf turn away.

Salamanders in South Carolina

1. Greater Siren

Greater Siren (Siren lacertina) on a wooden boardwalk in Barnwell County, South Carolina, USA
Greater Siren (Siren lacertina) on a wooden boardwalk in Barnwell County, South Carolina, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Sirenidae
  • Scientific Name: Siren lacertina
  • Other Names: None
  • Adult Size: 20 inches to 39 inches (50.8 cm – 99 cm)
  • Lifespan: 15 – 25 years
  • Average Price Range: $30 – $75
  • South Carolina Geographical Range: Most of eastern and southern South Carolina.

The Greater Siren is one of three members of the Siren genus. As expected, it is the largest of the three and also one of the largest amphibians in North America. They are popularly described as eel-like, not having back legs or eyelids, and having gills throughout life.

Their base colors are usually black, gray, brown, or olive, with dappling on the entire body. When differentiating between males and females, the males have larger jaw muscles, which makes them look like they have larger heads overall.

Greater Sirens are considered carnivores but will eat algae. In the wild, their favorite food tends to be mollusks, but they also have been observed eating other creatures such as insects, small fish, and crustaceans. Their predators include alligators and mud snakes, and possibly Two-Toed Amphiumas, but more study is needed.

While Greater Sirens are considered of least concern population-wise, there are still aspects unknown to their behaviors and life cycles. Some examples include their full wild lifespan and their mating rituals.

This information is difficult to ascertain due to their tendency to bury themselves deep in the mud both to hibernate and hunt. In captivity, they have been observed as going dormant for five years, though this period is closer to one to three months in the wild.

Interestingly, they are vocal animals. Their yelps have been compared to that of tree frogs. 

2. Webster’s Salamander

Webster's Salamander (Plethodon websteri) on moist wood in McCormick County, South Carolina, USA
Webster’s Salamander (Plethodon websteri) on moist wood in McCormick County, South Carolina, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Scientific Name: Plethodon websteri
  • Other Names: None
  • Adult Size: 2.7 inches – 3.2 inches (7 cm – 8.2 cm)
  • Lifespan: At least 2 years
  • Average Price Range: Unavailable
  • South Carolina Geographical Range: McCormick and Edgefield Counties

Webster’s Salamander is a woodland salamander that can be found in rocky streams that are located in rural temperate forests.

While they are not considered a federally protected species, habitat destruction does threaten their pockets of livelihood, and the designation of endangerment is on a state-by-state basis. They are explicitly disallowed to be owned as pets in South Carolina.

Webster’s Salamander is considered a cryptic species, or one that has many similar relatives that all get classified as the same species. Generally, this salamander is identified by their range.

Visually, they come in darker brown colors with a red, orange, or yellow dorsal stripe. The sides of the stripe are spottier or more jagged. Occasionally, the dorsal stripe is absent.

Experiments were needed to determine the movement of Webster’s Salamanders. What was discovered is that on humid nights, salamanders travel to areas with cooler and more wet underground refuges.

These areas serve as shelters and nurseries. These deep, underground hides are how the salamanders stay cool and moist during summer. Natural occurring refuges are preferred, as Webster’s Salamanders are fragile and lack robust digging abilities.

3. Two-toed Amphiuma

Two-toned Amphiuma (Amphiuma means)  in dry pine and moist dirt in Jackson, South Carolina, USA
Two-toned Amphiuma (Amphiuma means) in dry pine and moist dirt in Jackson, South Carolina, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Amphiumidae
  • Scientific Name: Amphiuma means
  • Other Names: Conger Eels, Congo Snake
  • Adult Size: 13.7 inches – 45.7 inches (34.8 cm – 116 cm)
  • Lifespan: 13 to 19 years
  • Average Price Range: $30 – $60
  • South Carolina Geographical Range: Most of eastern and southern South Carolina.

Two-toed Amphiuma is considered to be one of the largest amphibians in the world and the longest in the United States. There are three members of the Amphiuma family, with one, two, or three toes respectively.

This one has four legs with, unsurprisingly, two does on each. Their slippery skin ranges from black to dark grays and dark browns, and they sport a pointed, wedge-shaped head.

Two-toed Amphiuma are generally harmless to humans and would rather avoid them. However, if feeling threatened, they can be aggressive and are known to bite. Their bite is also used to hunt and eat small fish, crawfish, some reptiles such as snakes or turtles, and other amphibians such as frogs or other salamanders.

These Amphiumas hunt by smelling their prey and either actively hunting them or ambushing them from burrows. These burrows are generally made in the mud of streams, but they are not above taking over the burrows of other animals.

Though most salamanders do not make noise, Two-toed Amphiuma makes a series of clicks to communicate with its fellow Amphiuma, and make a whistling sound when disturbed.

4. Blackbellied Salamander

Blackbellly Salamander (Desmognathus quadramaculatus) on green short leaves in Greenville County, South Carolina, USA
Blackbellly Salamander (Desmognathus quadramaculatus) on green short leaves in Greenville County, South Carolina, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Scientific Name: Desmognathus quadramaculatus
  • Other Names: Blackbelly Salamander, Common Black-belly Salamander
  • Adult Size: 4 inches – 7 inches (10.2 cm – 17.8 cm)
  • Lifespan: Up to 15 years
  • Average Price Range: Unavailable
  • South Carolina Geographical Range: Oconee and Pickens Counties

Blackbelly Salamanders find homes in the high elevations of the Appalachians, down to Georgia, and over to Tennessee.

Here, they can be found in rocky streams. They are rarely seen when there is no water close by and only emerge from their rock hides at night to hunt. Rarely, adults may be seen on rocks during the day.

As a sturdy species, the Blackbelly Salamander is dark brown or black and can sometimes be found with a light spray of white or yellow spots. It is hypothesized that their coloration is related to their habitat, and influenced by leaf cover and the color of rocks.

In reference to their dwellings, the Blackbelly Salamander establishes more than one refuge within rocks or burrows. They use these hides to ambush their prey and will fiercely defend them from other members of their species.

Blackbelly Salamanders are territorial and actively avoid Seal Salamanders. The feeling is mutual, and it’s suspected these two species avoid each other by emitting chemical cues.

5. Dwarf Salamander

Dwarf Salamander (Eurycea quadridigitata) on a wooden log walking out of green leaves in Florence County, South Carolina, USA
Dwarf Salamander (Eurycea quadridigitata) on a wooden log walking out of green leaves in Florence County, South Carolina, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Scientific Name: Eurycea quadridigitata
  • Other Names: Four-fingered Manculus, Dwarf Four-toed Salamander, Florida Dwarf Salamander, Southeastern Dwarf Salamander, Coastal Plain Dwarf Salamander
  • Adult Size: 2 inches – 3.5 inches (5.1 cm – 8.9 cm)
  • Lifespan: 5 to 10 years
  • Average Price Range: Unavailable
  • South Carolina Geographical Range: Most of eastern and southern South Carolina.

The Dwarf Salamander is one of the smallest of all vertebrates in North America, commonly coming in at less than one gram in weight.

When distinguishing it from other tiny members of the Eurycea genus, the Dwarf Salamander has four toes on their back feet, instead of the usual five. In general, Dwarf Salamanders can otherwise be identified by their yellowish-brown skin and darker side stripes. They are slender with long tails.

The Dwarf Salamander is a nocturnal creature but can be found hiding under fallen leaves and other natural debris in swampy pine ecosystems. They reproduce in the fall, with anywhere between 12 to 48 eggs being laid.

These can be singular or in groupings that are then attached to submerged structures such as sticks or leaves in shallow, slow-moving water. The larvae stage lasts five to six months, and males reach sexual maturity in one year. Females take twice as long, reaching maturity in two years.

6. Three-lined Salamander

Three-lined Salamander (Eurycea guttolineata) walking on a bark surface at Congaree National Park, South Carolina, USA
Three-lined Salamander (Eurycea guttolineata) walking on a bark surface at Congaree National Park, South Carolina, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Scientific Name: Eurycea guttolineata
  • Other Names: None
  • Adult Size: 4 inches – 8 inches (10.2 cm – 20.3 cm)
  • Lifespan: 5 to 10 years
  • Average Price Range: $13 – $75
  • South Carolina Geographical Range: All of South Carolina.

Three-Lined Salamanders are usually brown with tan or light brown mottling on the belly with three stripes down their back to their tail. The tail can be half or even two-thirds of the salamander’s total body length. They are a rather slender species.

Three-Lined Salamanders can be found throughout the southeast, under rocks or logs near the banks of forest streams, in floodplains, or in swamps. Interestingly, this is a rare species of salamander that is not overtly territorial.

While the eggs are rarely observed, it is suspected that Three-Lined salamanders breed in the fall and winter times, with hatching occurring in the spring, and maturity being reached in late summer or early fall. Due to the elusiveness of this process, it’s theorized that eggs are laid in the sub-terrain of streams.

7. Tiger Salamander

Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) on a wooden log in Aiken County, South Carolina, USA
Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) on a wooden log in Aiken County, South Carolina, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Ambystomatidae
  • Scientific Name: Ambystoma tigrinum
  • Other Names: Eastern Tiger Salamander
  • Adult Size: 7 inches – 13 inches (17.8 cm – 33 cm)
  • Lifespan: 10 to 25 years
  • Average Price Range: $30 – $80
  • South Carolina Geographical Range: All of South Carolina except northwestern counties.

The formidably named Tiger Salamander is the largest terrestrial salamander in the southeast, being seen most often in their egg and larval stages. Interestingly, the southeastern members of this species are incapable (or at least it is extremely rarely documented) of paedomorphosis, or the retention of larval traits into adulthood, which in this case are their external gills.

As adults, Tiger Salamanders are black with yellow, orange, or brown splotchy markings, which also occasionally manifest as stripes or banding. Their build is long but sturdy.

These exotic-looking amphibians can be found near open, grassy ponds or conifer woodlands. As mentioned, they are hardly seen as adults, burrowing themselves underground in loose soil. They generally only return to water to breed but have a strong connection to their birthplace.

Tiger Salamanders carry but are immune to, the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis which causes deadly chytridiomycosis in frogs. They are also carriers of ranaviruses which can spread to other amphibians, reptiles, and fish.

The spread of these diseases is largely caused by the use of tiger salamander larvae as fishing bait.

8. Shovel-nosed Salamander

Shovel-nosed Salamander (Desmognathus marmoratus) on a wet rock with greenery in Oconee County, South Carolina, USA
Shovel-nosed Salamander (Desmognathus marmoratus) on a wet rock with greenery in Oconee County, South Carolina, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Scientific Name: Desmognathus marmoratus
  • Other Names: Shovel-nosed Salamander, Spring Lizards
  • Adult Size: 3 inches – 5 inches (7.6 cm – 12.7 cm)
  • Lifespan: 10 to 15 years
  • Average Price Range: Unavailable
  • South Carolina Geographical Range: Oconee and Pickens Counties

The Shovelnose Salamander is a comparatively large creature in the “dusky salamander” Desmognathus genus that comes in many colors. The base color is usually black, brown, gray, or yellow, with lighter-colored randomized spots.

A common theme in the Desmognathus genus is a contrasting eye stripe, which is rather hard to differentiate on the Shovelnose. True to its name, their heads are flat and come to a rounded wedge at the nose while their tails taper into a thin point. The tips of their toes are bulbous, and males are typically slightly larger than females.

Shovelnose Salamanders are only found in a specific area of the Appalachian Mountains, which can be a helpful identifier. They prefer fast-moving, cold mountain streams and can be discovered under rocks in shallow depths. They prefer to be totally submerged. It is unlike the rest of its Desmognathus genus that they are rarely seen on the edge of streams.

Shovelnose Salamanders feed on larvae of aquatic insects as well as crayfish, mollusks, worms, and arachnids but are not above eating other small salamanders. They are known to both forage for and ambush their passing prey.

9. Holbrook’s Southern Dusky Salamander

Holbrook’s Southern Dusky Salamander (Desmognathus auriculatus) on wet grass in Florida, USA
Holbrook’s Southern Dusky Salamander (Desmognathus auriculatus) on wet grass in Florida, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Scientific Name: Desmognathus auriculatus
  • Other Names: Southern Dusky Salamander, Eared Triton
  • Adult Size: 3 inches – 5 inches (7.6 cm – 12.7 cm)
  • Lifespan: 4 to 7 years
  • Average Price Range: $15 – $30
  • South Carolina Geographical Range: Most of eastern and southern South Carolina.

Holbrook’s Southern Dusky Salamander is a nocturnal, stocky amphibian that was recently renamed from just Southern Dusky Salamander in 2017 to distinguish it from a close cousin, Desmognathus valentinei. They spend most of their time in the swampier area of ponds and floodplains, feeding on aquatic invertebrates.

Holbrook’s Southern Dusky Salamander is a small and sturdy animal. They have noticeably longer back legs than front legs. Coloration is a range but generally leans towards darker tones like brown or black with tiny white spots on their sides and white spotted bellies.

The Holbrook’s Southern Dusky Salamander used to be an abundant species before an unexplained, extreme drop-off in the 1960s. It seemed they disappeared even in areas that were optimally suitable, while other members of the genus continued to thrive.

Their populations became so segmented that there are now multiple subspecies of D. auriculatus.

10. Green Salamander

Green Salamander (Aneides aeneus) on a green and red leafin Greenville County, South Carolina, USA
Green Salamander (Aneides aeneus) on a green and red leafin Greenville County, South Carolina, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Scientific Name: Aneides aeneus
  • Other Names: None
  • Adult Size: 3 inches – 5 inches (7.6 cm – 12.7 cm)
  • Lifespan: 3 to 6 years
  • Average Price Range: $80 – $100
  • South Carolina Geographical Range: Oconee, Pickens, and Greenville Counties

The Green Salamander is a lungless salamander that is habitat specific, and hardly (if ever) seen outside of its preferred range of dark and damp rocky cliff faces. They can occasionally be found on adjacent trees at night or during light rain, preferring hardwood trees to conifers.

In South Carolina, they are only known to inhabit the Blue Ridge Escarpment. The species being so habitat selective makes them incredibly at risk for further endangerment and conservation is quite the task.

Green Salamanders have dark base colors with characteristic green “lichen-like” markings. They are rather small and flat with square toes.

The differences between males and females become more apparent during their late May, or early June breeding season when males develop disklike mental glands on their chin and face protrusions known as cirri.

Despite being so small, Green Salamanders are a notably aggressive species. Males are incredibly territorial towards other salamanders and heavily disliked being disturbed by perceived threats.

Females are similarly aggressive during brooding. Green Salamanders will attack by head-butting, snapping, and biting.

11. Lesser Siren

Lesser Siren (Siren intermedia) slithering through leafy water in Madison County, Mississippi, USA
Lesser Siren (Siren intermedia) slithering through leafy water in Madison County, Mississippi, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Sirenidae
  • Scientific Name: Siren intermedia
  • Other Names: Two-Legged Eel, Mud Eel
  • Adult Size: 7 inches – 20 inches (17.8 cm – 50.8 cm)
  • Lifespan: 6 to 25 years
  • Average Price Range: $30 – $80
  • South Carolina Geographical Range: Most of eastern and southern South Carolina.

Lesser Sirens are primitive salamanders mostly known for their lack of back legs and the presence of external gills throughout their lives. Their tiny, four-toed front limbs make terrestrial travel nearly impossible, so they are entirely aquatic.

If their water home starts to dry up, they bury themselves in the mud and secrete a cocoon in which they go dormant and wait until their environment is wet again. They have the ability to stay in this state for months.

They are fully grown in two to three years, with olive, black, or brown skin and occasional dappled effects. Their “Lesser” designation differentiates them from their closest relatives, the “Greater” sirens, as Lesser Sirens reach less than two feet in most cases.

To definitively tell the difference, the best way is to count the coastal grooves. Costal grooves are external divots along a salamander’s side between the front limbs and the vent that correspond to the number of ribs. Lesser Sirens will have less than 35 grooves.

Lesser Sirens are nocturnal and feed on aquatic invertebrates, such as worms, larvae, snails, and crustaceans as well as the eggs and young of other amphibians, such as tadpoles. Lesser Sirens, unlike most other salamanders, are vocal.

They make a series of clicks to communicate with other Sirens but will screech if it is disturbed.

12. Eastern Newt

Eastern Newt (Notophthalmus viridescens) on mossy log at Caesars Head State Park, South Carolina, USA
Eastern Newt (Notophthalmus viridescens) on mossy log at Caesars Head State Park, South Carolina, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Salamandridae
  • Scientific Name: Notophthalmus viridescens
  • Other Names: Red-spotted Newt, Eastern Red-spotted Newt, Broken-striped Newt, Central Newt, Peninsula Newt, Red Eft
  • Adult Size:  2.5 inches – 4 inches (6.4 cm – 10.2 cm)
  • Lifespan: 12 to 15 years
  • Average Price Range: $10 – $50
  • South Carolina Geographical Range: All of South Carolina.

Eastern Newts are found throughout the east of the Mississippi River and are made up of four subspecies: Red-spotted Newt (N. viridescens viridescens), Broken-striped Newt (N. viridescens dorsalis), and Central Newt (N. viridescens louisianensis), with the fourth, Peninsula Newt (N. viridescens piaropicola) only to be found in Florida. They are common aquarium pets and can be found in bodies of still or slow-moving water such as ponds, small lakes, streams, and in wet forests. Despite the designation of Eastern Newt, there is no “Western Newt.”

The Eastern Newt has three distinct phases of their lives post-hatch: aquatic larval stage, terrestrial juvenile eft stage, and finally aquatic adult stage. The juvenile stage, where they are referred to as efts, is how they received their “red-spotted” alternative name, as their skin is bright red, orange, or a soft brown.

They will have darker dots with a halo of a tertiary color along their sides. As adults, they fade into tones of yellow or green, maintaining their spots.

Their bright coloration warns potential predators of their tetrodotoxin secretions, a neurotoxin that makes the species unpalatable to fish and crayfish. Tetrodotoxin is known to cause muscle paralysis, skin irritation, and even death in predators, so it must not be handled with bare hands.

Other interesting facts about the Eastern Newt include its ability to regenerate lost limbs and its biological magnetic homing system.

13. Slimy Salamander

Slimy Salamander (Plethodon glutinosus) on dry leaves and pine needles in Laurens County, South Carolina, USA
Slimy Salamander (Plethodon glutinosus) on dry leaves and pine needles in Laurens County, South Carolina, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Scientific Name: Plethodon glutinosusS
  • Other Names: Northern Slimy Salamander, Viscid Salamander, Grey-spotted Salamander, Slippery Salamander, Sticky Salamander
  • Adult Size: 4.7 inches – 6.7 inches (12 cm – 17 cm)
  • Lifespan: 5 to 20 years
  • Average Price Range: $20 – $35
  • South Carolina Geographical Range: All of South Carolina except Pickens and Greenville Counties.

Slimy Salamanders have 14 subspecies that are differentiated by their size, shape, and range. Typically, they are black, or black-blue with either silver or golden spots on their backs.

Males tend to be slightly smaller than females. Slimy Salamanders have between 15 and 17 costal grooves. During the breeding season, males will have enlarged mental glands on their chin to attract females.

Slimy Salamanders live in moist, undisturbed woodlands and wooded ravines. They are a territorial but elusive species, preferring to stay under logs, stones, leaf litter, and in burrows.

These amphibians are nocturnal and find food at night. While the full range of their diet is still unknown, they are believed to be opportunistic hunters. Analysis of their digestive systems has revealed ants, bees, wasps, beetles, and snails to be the most frequently consumed.

Slimy Salamanders have multiple nicknames that allude to them being slimy, sticky, and viscous. This is due to their defensive secretions that are meant to be an irritant to predators.

The glue-like substance is hard to get off and can even impede chewing and movement in some predators.

14. Jordan’s Salamander

Jordan’s Salamander (Plethodon jordani) walking on an overgrown rock in Tennessee, USA
Jordan’s Salamander (Plethodon jordani) walking on an overgrown rock in Tennessee, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Scientific Name: Plethodon jordani
  • Other Names: Red Cheeked Salamander, Jordan’s Redcheek salamander, Appalachian Woodland Salamander
  • Adult Size: 3.5 inches – 5 inches (8.9 cm – 12.7 cm)
  • Lifespan: 10 to 20 years
  • Average Price Range: Unavailable
  • South Carolina Geographical Range: Oconee, Pickens, and Greenville Counties

Jordan’s Salamanders can be quickly identified by their gray or black bodies with red legs and/or red spots on their cheeks. Generally, the ones found in the southern Appalachians, like in South Carolina, will have red legs.

Ones from the Smokey Mountains and central Blue Ridge will have both red legs and red cheeks. They will have on average 16 costal grooves.

Jordan’s Salamanders can be found in wooded mountain ranges, generally between 700 ft to 6400 ft (210 m to 1950 m) elevation. They prefer the humidity of dense forests and can be found under rocks, logs, leaf litter, and in mosses. It seems they are most common in red spruce and Fraser fir woodlands.

These salamanders are nocturnal and emerge at night to hunt insects and invertebrates, preferring worms, snails, spiders, and larvae. They are commonly predated on by birds, garter snakes, and a few other larger salamanders.

Jordan’s Salamanders have a few defense mechanisms, including noxious mucus secretion, biting, and the self-amputating of their tails.

15. Four-toed Salamander

Four-toed Salamander (Hemidactylium scutatum) laying on greenery in Ontario, Canada
Four-toed Salamander (Hemidactylium scutatum) laying on greenery in Ontario, Canada. – Source
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Scientific Name: Hemidactylium scutatum
  • Other Names: None
  • Adult Size: 2 inches – 4 inches (5.1 cm – 10.2 cm)
  • Lifespan: 5 to 9 years
  • Average Price Range: $35 – $40
  • South Carolina Geographical Range: Most of eastern and central South Carolina.

The Four-toed Salamander is a lungless salamander and the sole member of the genus Hemidactylium. Their coloration is a red-brown or brown dorsal side with small white flecks on the side.

Their belly is white with small but pronounced black spots. They are unique for terrestrial salamanders being the only ones with four toes on all four feet.

Four-toed Salamanders have 3 sets of notable indentations and grooves: 13 to 14 costal grooves, a chevron that starts between the eyes and runs down the back, and a partition at the base of the tail for self-amputation in danger.

Four-toed Salamanders, the majority of the time, will be found with sphagnum moss and this is where they normally lay their eggs. Suitable environments for adults include bogs, streams, hardwood forests, and floodplains. They can be found under stones and leaf detritus.

Female Four-toed Salamanders nest in one of three categories. The first is solitary nesting, where they lay and brood only their own eggs.

Second, communal nesting is where one female brood the eggs of two to fourteen other females. One-third of nests of the Four-toed Salamander are communal nests.

Lastly, some females engage in oophagy, or eat other females’ eggs before laying their eggs in a communal nest.

16. Mud Salamander

Mud Salamander (Pseudotriton montanus) on fallen wet leaves in Richland County, South Carolina, USA
Mud Salamander (Pseudotriton montanus) on fallen wet leaves in Richland County, South Carolina, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Scientific Name: Pseudotriton montanus
  • Other Names: None
  • Adult Size: 3 inches – 7.7 inches (7.5 cm – 19.5 cm) 
  • Lifespan: 15 to 20 years
  • Average Price Range: $40 – $45
  • South Carolina Geographical Range: All of South Carolina.

The Mud Salamander is a rare find in South Carolina but has been spotted throughout the state. Their colors range from reds to browns, and they darken as they age.

Black dorsal spots are clearly defined, whereas spots on the stomach don’t start to appear until the salamander reaches adulthood. Interestingly, they have brown eyes.

Mud Salamanders choose low-elevation swamps, bogs, and streams that have muddy bottoms but clean water. They are a burrowing species that create tunnels on creek banks but also create shelters under fallen leaves and bark, stones, and logs. Mud Salamanders spend their lives close to the water but can be found in the soil of the immediate areas.

While the only natural predator of Mud Salamanders that have been recorded are garter snakes, they do exhibit a range of defensive behaviors. These include a toxic secretion and maneuvers where they appear larger, such as stretching out their back legs and curling themselves into a ‘U’ shape.

17. Spring Salamander

Spring Salamander (Gyrinophilus porphyriticus) on a moist mossy rock in Oconee County, South Carolina, USA
Spring Salamander (Gyrinophilus porphyriticus) on a moist mossy rock in Oconee County, South Carolina, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Scientific Name: Gyrinophilus porphyriticus
  • Other Names: Northern Spring Salamander
  • Adult Size: 4.8 inches – 7.5 inches (12.1 cm – 19.1 cm)
  • Lifespan: 5 to 18 years
  • Average Price Range: $50 – $100
  • South Carolina Geographical Range: Northwestern South Carolina

Spring Salamanders are comparatively large stream salamanders with slender build.

Their colors range from soft pinks to tan to yellow-brown, with a lighter stripe from the eye to the snout. Sometimes they will have mottling.

The Spring Salamanders can be found in mountainous creeks or wet forests. They prefer clean and clear water, which makes them susceptible to lose in population if their streams are altered by sedimentation.

During the day, these salamanders can be found in the usual hides of the underside of rocks or logs, however, they are nocturnal. At night is when they hunt for tiny prey.

Spring Salamanders have one of the longest larval stages of any salamander, ringing in at three to four years, meaning they are nearly adult-sized at metamorphosis. Their larvae are hard to distinguish from both the Mud Salamander and the Red Salamander.

18. Southern Appalachian Salamander

Southern Appalachian Salamander (Plethodon teyahalee) walking up a rock in Greenville County, South Carolina, USA
Southern Appalachian Salamander (Plethodon teyahalee) walking up a rock in Greenville County, South Carolina, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Scientific Name: Plethodon teyahalee
  • Other Names: Southern Appalachian Slimy Salamander
  • Adult Size: 4.8 inches – 6.8 inches (7 cm – 17 cm)
  • Lifespan: Unknown, estimated 5 to 20 years
  • Average Price Range: $20 – $30
  • South Carolina Geographical Range: Pickens and Greenville Counties

The Southern Appalachian Salamander is a comparatively large black salamander, with the occasional white or silver flecks on their dorsal side. They have roughly 16 costal grooves. Males are slightly smaller than females.

When distinguishing the Southern Appalachian Salamander from other “Slimy Salamanders”, the best differentiation is range. States this amphibian is found in include North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Here, they will be found in wet forests.

In their wet forests, Southern Appalachian Salamanders will be found under rocks, decaying logs, and leaves, as well as near stream beds. Most of their activity occurs at night when they hunt for small prey. When threatened, they will secrete a sticky substance from their backs.

When it comes to reproduction, they have no aquatic larval stage, emerging from eggs as young salamanders. Females will abandon their clutch if she suspects that it has been tampered with.

Males perform an elaborate courtship ritual dance when interested in a female.

19. Ocoee Dusky Salamander

Ocoee Dusky Salamander (Desmognathus ocoee) resting on a leaf on a rocky surface in Macon County, North Carolina, USA
Ocoee Dusky Salamander (Desmognathus ocoee) resting on a leaf on a rocky surface in Macon County, North Carolina, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Plethodontidae 
  • Scientific Name: Desmognathus ocoee
  • Other Names: Ocoee Salamanders
  • Adult Size: 2.5 inches – 4.5 inches (6.4 cm – 11.4 cm)
  • Lifespan: Up to 15 years
  • Average Price Range: Unavailable
  • South Carolina Geographical Range: Oconee, Pickens, Greenville, and Anderson Counties

Ocoee Dusky Salamanders are a common Appalachian amphibian as most of their dwellings are in protected areas and state parks. They have two distinct populations: in the Blue Ridge Mountain and the surrounding rivers, and in the Appalachian Plateau in Alabama.

Most members of Desmognathus do not dwell in such varied altitudes, but the D. ocoee is the exception. At lower altitudes, they are aquatic, but terrestrial at higher altitudes.

In their habitats, they can be found in damp forests, rivers, fast-flowing streams, and under wet rocks. It prefers hardwood forests where the trees are more than eighty-five years old.

In summer, when Ocoee Dusky Salamanders have mated, the female will lay her clutch of about 15 eggs in moist crevices such as under rocks or logs, or between mosses and leaves. She’ll stay with the eggs for about two months before the larvae move toward streams and seepages. In the winter, the salamanders hide underground.

Ocoee Dusky Salamanders are territorial towards members of their own species while predating on insects and smaller invertebrates. Their most common predators include birds and snakes.

When defending themselves, they employ a range of tactics such as biting, automizing their tails, fleeing, remaining immobile, or biting.

20. Southern Two-lined Salamander

Southern Two-lined Salamander (Eurycea cirrigera) walking up a mossy rock in Morgan County, Tennessee, USA
Southern Two-lined Salamander (Eurycea cirrigera) walking up a mossy rock in Morgan County, Tennessee, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Scientific Name: Eurycea cirrigera
  • Other Names: None
  • Adult Size: 2.5 inches – 3.75 inches (6.4 cm – 9.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: Unknown
  • Average Price Range: Unavailable
  • South Carolina Geographical Range: All of South Carolina.

Southern Two-lined Salamanders come in a tan to the yellow range, with their nominal two stripes that run from the eyes to the tail. These stripes can be brown or black, and they can also have similarly colored spots.

They will have around 14 costal grooves and overall have a narrow build. Males will have cirri in their nostrils and a swollen cloaca.

The Southern Two-lined Salamander is more aquatic than not and occupies shallow, running streams, generally under stones or fallen logs. These natural facets are where females lay their eggs which hatch and mature within one to three years.

Because of these delicate conditions, they are rather sensitive to human disturbance.

21. Flatwoods Salamander

Frosted Flatwoods Salamander (Ambystoma cingulatum) walking through leaves in Florida, USA
Frosted Flatwoods Salamander (Ambystoma cingulatum) walking through leaves in Florida, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Ambystomatidae
  • Scientific Name: Ambystoma cingulatum
  • Other Names: Frosted Flatwoods Salamander
  • Adult Size:  3.5 inches – 5.3 inches (8.9 cm – 13.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: 4 to 5 years
  • Average Price Range: Unavailable
  • South Carolina Geographical Range: Southeastern counties

Flatwoods Salamanders, as a member of the Ambystomatidae family, are burrowing salamanders that make their home in wiregrass savannahs and pine flatwoods. Despite these habitats being fire-prone, the adults spend the majority of their lives underground.

They migrate to their wetlands breeding grounds in the fall and winter where their eggs are laid under logs, leaf litter, or bushes. The eggs hatch when the rains come and fill in temporary ponds. These impermanent biomes are critical to the survival of larval-stage Flatwoods Salamanders.

As a burrowing salamander, Flatwoods Salamanders are elusive, but spectacular specimens when able to be observed. Their base color is dark browns, grays, purples, or black with silver-gray lichen-like outlines casting a net over their body. They are long for their family but have short limbs and a head that makes little change in girth between the neck and torso.

Flatwoods Salamanders are listed as federally threatened species due to the historic weather and fire patterns being interrupted by human development of the area. This has caused their populations to become small and fragmented over their found regions.

Like the Webster’s Salamander, they are explicitly disallowed to be owned as pets in South Carolina.

22. Chamberlain’s Dwarf Salamander

Chamberlain's Dwarf Salamander (Eurycea chamberlaini) on a wet leafy surface near Cherokee Springs, South Carolina, USA
Chamberlain’s Dwarf Salamander (Eurycea chamberlaini) on a wet leafy surface near Cherokee Springs, South Carolina, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Scientific Name: Eurycea chamberlaini
  • Other Names: None
  • Adult Size: 0.9 inches – 1.0 inch (2.2 cm – 2.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: Up to 8 years
  • Average Price Range: Unavailable
  • South Carolina Geographical Range: Barnwell, Allendale, and Pickens Counties

Chamberlain’s Dwarf Salamander is considered rather “new” as it was only separated from its close relative the Dwarf Salamander (E. quadridigitata) in 2003. This was reconfirmed in 2017.

What separates E. chamberlaini and E. quadridigitata is behavior and morphology. Some of their physical differences lie in enzyme structure, bone structure, and larval differences.

Chamberlain’s Dwarf Salamander is very small with comparatively long limbs and around sixteen costal grooves. They have a pointier face than their close relatives.

Their coloration ranges from bronze to brown with darker stripes flanking each size. Between the stripes will be a line or a row of dots.

Their tails lighten up to yellows, oranges, or brighter bronzes. Generally, males have larger heads, but females have longer limbs but these should not be the sole criteria when sexing a specimen.

Chamberlain’s Dwarf Salamander is found exclusively in North and South Carolina and makes homes in forests, rivers, and freshwater marshes. These salamanders are listed as threatened due to habitat loss from deforestation.

23. Many-lined Salamander

Many-lined Salamander (Stereochilus marginatus) on a leafy moist surface in Georgia, USA
Many-lined Salamander (Stereochilus marginatus) on a leafy moist surface in Georgia, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Scientific Name: Stereochilus marginatus
  • Other Names: None
  • Adult Size: 2.5 inches – 4.5 inches (6.4 cm – 11.4 cm)
  • Lifespan: Unknown
  • Average Price Range: $15 – $20
  • South Carolina Geographical Range: Most of central and eastern South Carolina.

Many-lined Salamanders are small species of amphibian, named by their light-colored longitudinal stripes that run down their sides. Their dorsal side is dark brown or dark yellow.

Confusingly, sometimes their stripes can appear as spots instead. Their heads are slight and their tail is short in comparison to other similarly sized salamanders. It is the sole member of the Stereochilus genus.

Many-lined Salamanders are found in the eastern Coastal Plains, specifically in the creeks of swamps and in slow-moving rivers. They are associated with stretches of sphagnum moss but don’t shy from leaf litter, decaying logs, shallow water, or edges of creeks.

Many-lined Salamanders generally share their environment with Mud Salamanders (P. montanus), Holbrook’s Southern Dusky Salamanders (D. auriculatus), and Dwarf Salamanders (E. quadridigitata).

Female Many-lined Salamanders can lay up to as many as sixty aquatic eggs in one clutch, attached to the underside of logs, leaves, and other natural debris. They are one of the few Plethodontidae that hatch with the ability to swim.

The larval stage can last up to two years, with breeding beginning at three to four years. Besides these milestones, not much is known about their lifespan and longevity.

24. Northern Dwarf Siren

Dwarf Siren (Pseudobranchus striatus) on a clear sand bottom in Tate's Hell, Florida, USA
Dwarf Siren (Pseudobranchus striatus) on a clear sand bottom in Tate’s Hell, Florida, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Sirenidae
  • Scientific Name: Pseudobranchus striatus
  • Other Names: Dwarf Siren
  • Adult Size: 4 inches – 9.9 inches (10.2 cm – 25.1 cm)
  • Lifespan: Unknown
  • Average Price Range: $25 – $50
  • South Carolina Geographical Range: Southern corner of South Carolina.

Northern Dwarf Sirens are, as might be obvious from the name, the smallest of the sirens. As a siren, they have a set of three-toed front legs but lack hind limbs, as well as external gills.

Their heads are triangular, and they have slender bodies with vertically pressed tails. They will have stripes along their sides, which break up the coloration of the brown or gray dorsum.

Northern Dwarf Sirens are considered a shy and sluggish species, spending much of their time in the debris at the bottom of ponds or in the rooty, weedy, shallows of cypress swamps. They have a particular affinity for water hyacinth roots.

As a totally aquatic, nocturnal species, they feed on tiny invertebrates. During droughts, Northern Dwarf Sirens bury themselves deep in the mud and create a cocoon of shed skin and mucus, but other ecological habits are unknown due to their elusive nature.

P. striatus is one of two recognized Dwarf Sirens, the other being the Southern Dwarf Siren or P. axanthus. Both have multiple subspecies. Subspecies of the Northern Dwarf Sirens vary by their distribution and color patterns.

In South Carolina, Northern Dwarf Sirens are listed as “Of Special Concern” for conservation, but they are listed as non-threatened federally. Like Webster’s Salamander, and the Flatwoods Salamander, they are explicitly disallowed to be owned as pets in South Carolina.

25. Marbled Salamander

Marbled Salamander (Ambystoma opacum) on a log in Berkeley County, South Carolina, USA
Marbled Salamander (Ambystoma opacum) on a log in Berkeley County, South Carolina, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Ambystomatidae
  • Scientific Name: Ambystoma opacum
  • Other Names: None
  • Adult Size: 3.5 inches – 5 inches (8.9 cm – 12.7 cm)
  • Lifespan: 8 to 10 years
  • Average Price Range: $15 – $50
  • South Carolina Geographical Range: All of South Carolina.

Marbled Salamanders are stout and chubby creatures, with darkly-colored bodies and white or silver irregular bands on their backs. As a sexually dimorphic species, males will have white while females will have silver. As juveniles, the banding will appear as flecks and fill in as they mature.

A versatile salamander, Marbled Salamanders are found in low-elevation floodplains and in forested hillsides. A member of the mole salamander family, they spend most of their time burrowed underground. With some luck, they can be observed under rocks, logs, and even man-made garbage at night, as they are nocturnal.

Another time to observe the Marbled Salamander is on rainy September and October nights, as they migrate to temporary, fishless wetlands to breed. Here, males will compete with one another by head-butting or blocking other males with their tails. Once a male emerges victorious, the male and female will circle each other repeatedly, nudging the other’s reproductive organs.

Female Marbled Salamanders will lay between thirty to two-hundred eggs and will stay with them until the wetlands flood. Largely unique to this species, the mother will wrap her body around the eggs to create a bowl that catches rainwater, which is essential to the hatching process.

Despite this behavior, females will abandon nests, both when threatened and (seemingly) unprovoked. Eggs do have the ability to overwinter in case rain is sparse during this period.

26. Mabee’s Salamander

Mabee's Salamander (Ambystoma mabeei) on wet grass in Berkeley County, South Carolina, USA
Mabee’s Salamander (Ambystoma mabeei) on wet grass in Berkeley County, South Carolina, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Ambystomatidae
  • Scientific Name: Ambystoma mabeei
  • Other Names: None
  • Adult Size: 2.8 inches – 4.8 inches (7.1 cm – 12.2 cm)
  • Lifespan: 5 to 8 years
  • Average Price Range: Unavailable 
  • South Carolina Geographical Range: Most of eastern and southern South Carolina.

Mabee’s Salamander is short and stout, with a small, narrow head topped with a round, blunt snout. Their tail makes up, on average, 40% of their body length with around nine indents on the dorsal side.

They will have long toes, with four on their forelegs and five on their hind legs. Their back will be dark brown or dark gray, with lichen-like light brown or light gray spots which continue to their off-white or gray ventral side.

Mabee’s Salamander finds its home in multiple environments including swamps, cypress and tupelo pinewoods, open fields, and low-elevation, wet deciduous forests. Here, they eat a variety of small insects and earthworms. Juvenile and adult Mabee’s Salamanders are terrestrial and can be found in shallow waters hidden by fallen leaves.

As a member of the mole salamander family, they tend to burrow near the ponds they breed in. Breeding happens during late winter and early spring.

Eggs are laid one by one in a string and attached underneath underwater plant debris in acidic, fishless ponds. As larvae, they eat zooplankton, other aquatic invertebrates, snails, seeds, and algae.

They are prone to becoming hosts to parasitic nematodes due to their diet.

27. Dwarf Waterdog

Dwarf Waterdog (Necturus punctatus) in a cloth in Aiken County, South Carolina, USA
Dwarf Waterdog (Necturus punctatus) in a cloth in Aiken County, South Carolina, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Proteidae
  • Scientific Name: Necturus punctatus
  • Other Names: None
  • Adult Size: 4.5 inches – 7.5 inches (11.5 cm – 19.1 cm)
  • Lifespan: 5 to 10 years
  • Average Price Range: Unavailable
  • South Carolina Geographical Range: Most of eastern, southern, and central South Carolina.

The Dwarf Waterdog is the smallest species of both the Necturus genus and the Proteidae family. Their small bodies are found as a uniform brown, gray, olive, or black with an off-white throat.

All four of their feet have four toes, with red-brown, bushy external gills. Their tails compress vertically into a sharp point.

Dwarf Waterdogs are completely aquatic and prefer to live in slow streams or the blackwater of cypress swamps, but can also be found in mill ponds, rice fields, and irrigation ditches. Bodies of water with abundant leaf litter and other debris covering sandy or muddy bases are preferential as this is where they burrow.

Dwarf Waterdogs feed on aquatic insects, crustaceans, bivalves, worms, and other salamanders and likely breed in the winter. However, due to their burrowing activities, much of their other habits are unknown but thought to be the same or similar to closely related species of Necturus.

28. Seal Salamander

Seal Salamander (Desmognathus monticola) on a wet leaf on sand in Mariette, South Carolina, USA
Seal Salamander (Desmognathus monticola) on a wet leaf on sand in Mariette, South Carolina, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Scientific Name: Desmognathus monticola
  • Other Names: Appalachian Seal Salamander
  • Adult Size: 3.3 inches – 5 inches (8.3 cm – 12.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: 9 to 18 years
  • Average Price Range: Unavailable
  • South Carolina Geographical Range: Northwestern South Carolina

Seal Salamanders are members of the lungless salamander family that can be found in the Appalachian Mountains, particularly in rocky and muddy streams, or in the brooks of deciduous forest ravines.

The Seal Salamander is a stocky specimen, with a brown or gray coloration marked with randomized black or darker brown spots. Their ventral side is paler than the dorsal. Males are typically larger than females.

When searching for these Seal Salamanders, they can be found in hardwood forests, and on nearby wet cliffs. Here they will be located in crevices or under leaf litter and prefer cool, well-aerated water.

Seal Salamander reproduction occurs either twice a year (in spring and fall) or all throughout spring to fall. An average of twenty-seven eggs are laid in nests that are in or close to moving water, and either buried shallowly or under rocks or mosses. Larvae overwinter and mature into juveniles in late spring or early summer.

Juvenile and adult Seal Salamanders are nocturnal, with juveniles actively hunting and adults choosing to be more opportunistic. There is particular territorial behavior observed from adults to juveniles, but also between adults as well. Their territories will move with them as they hunt for good feeding grounds, and is solidified by both aggression and pheromones.

Historically, Seal Salamanders have been used as fish bait, causing a disjointed and invasive population in Arkansas. Otherwise, in nature, Seal Salamanders don’t have any specific predators, but other, bigger salamanders, snakes, and some fish that do eat salamanders are present in their documented ranges.

29. Northern Dusky Salamander

Northern Dusky Salamander (Desmognathus fuscus) on someone's hand in Raymond, New Hampshire, USA
Northern Dusky Salamander (Desmognathus fuscus) on someone’s hand in Raymond, New Hampshire, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Scientific Name: Desmognathus fuscus
  • Other Names: Dusky Salamander
  • Adult Size: 2.5 inches – 5.6 inches (6.4 cm – 14.2 cm)
  • Lifespan: 10 to 15 years
  • Average Price Range: $25 – $30
  • South Carolina Geographical Range: Northwestern and Central South Carolina

Northern Dusky Salamanders are a highly distributed, highly variable species. While their markings are inconsistent, generally these amphibians are stocky with a vertically compressed tail.

Usually, there is a series of paired spots on the back which can sometimes be fused into a longitudinal set of wavy-bordered stripes. The belly will be lighter in color than the dorsum.

In South Carolina, Northern Dusky Salamanders are found in cool streams of the Piedmont Mountains at lower elevations. Here, they hide away under the usual logs, rocks, and fallen leaves during the day.

At night, they move to steam beds to hunt. Considered carnivore generalist hunters, they eat whatever is available seasonally.

Northern Dusky Salamanders have an intricate mating ritual, which occurs terrestrially in spring or fall. Males stimulate the female by rubbing his chin on her head or body, spreading pheromones.

Once paired and reproduction occurs, females lay ten to thirty eggs in soil-saturated water. Average clutch size varies geographically. The female will protect her eggs for six to ten weeks, where larvae then metamorphose into juveniles between seven to sixteen months.

They achieve sexual maturity at three to four years old.

30. Red Salamander

Red Salamander (Pseudotriton ruber) on an orange leaf in Richland County, South Carolina, USA
Red Salamander (Pseudotriton ruber) on an orange leaf in Richland County, South Carolina, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Scientific Name: Pseudotriton ruber
  • Other Names: Northern Red Salamander
  • Adult Size: 3.7 inches – 7.1 inches (9.5 cm – 18.0 cm)
  • Lifespan: Up to 20 years.
  • Average Price Range: $75 – $100
  • South Carolina Geographical Range: Northwestern and Central South Carolina

Red Salamanders are comparatively large stream salamanders, with stout bodies and short tails. Their nominal characteristic is red to red-orange skin with varied, round black spots.

They have rounded snouts and yellow-gold irises. The specimens in the Coastal Plains are darker, and they lose the vibrancy of their pigments as they age.

In South Carolina, they are found in mountainous regions and in the Upper Coastal Plain. More specifically, they can be found in or near streams, springs, and creeks, under the usual cover objects of rocks and logs. Adults do sometimes wander at night far from water and can be found in forests searching for invertebrate and smaller vertebrate prey, including other salamanders.

Breeding for Red Salamanders can occur over much of the year, only being limited by colder temperatures. Individuals generally only reproduce once a year and engage in a mating ritual. After the male rubs his snout on a female’s face, he begins a series of undulations.

After which the female hitches onto the male’s tail. They will do a straddled “walk” until the male deposits sperm in the below substrate, which the female will then walk over and they separate.

Females can store the sperm for months if she does not lay eggs immediately. Eggs are typically laid in the fall or early winter in well-hidden nests.

31. Spotted Salamander

Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) on wet dirt by water in Greenville County, South Carolina, USA
Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) on wet dirt by water in Greenville County, South Carolina, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Ambystomatidae
  • Scientific Name: Ambystoma maculatum
  • Other Names: Yellow-Spotted Salamander
  • Adult Size: 5.9 inches – 9.8 inches (15 cm – 25 cm)
  • Lifespan: 18 to 32 years
  • Average Price Range: $25 – $40
  • South Carolina Geographical Range: All of South Carolina.

Spotted Salamanders are comparatively large mole salamanders, with a wide snout. Their dorsal color will range from black, blue-black, dark gray, dark green, or dark brown.

They will then have two rows of yellow to yellow-orange spots running from near the eyes to the top of the tail, with up to fifty sets of spots. Spots closer to the head will be more orange.

Their undersides range from gray to gray-pink. Females will be larger and have brighter spots.

Spotted Salamanders are common in mountainous regions, found near the water in hardwood forests and swamps. As a nocturnal burrowing salamander, they are hardly seen outside of winter and spring breeding seasons, and even less so during the day. When it’s time, adults migrate to flood lands where clutches of up to 200 eggs are shallowly deposited in temporary pools of water.

Interestingly, Spotted Salamander embryos are the only example of a mutualistic relationship in a vertebrate cell, where they are found to have symbiotic algae living in and around the cells.

32. Mole Salamander

Mole Salamander (Ambystoma talpoideum) on a moist piece of wood with greenery in Jasper County, South Carolina, USA
Mole Salamander (Ambystoma talpoideum) on a moist piece of wood with greenery in Jasper County, South Carolina, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Ambystomatidae
  • Scientific Name: Ambystoma talpoideum
  • Other Names: Tadpole Salamander
  • Adult Size: 3.0 inches – 3.9 inches  (7.5 cm – 10 cm)
  • Lifespan: 7 to 9 years
  • Average Price Range: $30 – $80
  • South Carolina Geographical Range: Southern corner of South Carolina, as well as Pickens and Greenville counties.

Mole Salamanders, taking the common name of their family name, are mid-sized and characteristically stout nocturnal burrowing salamanders. Their colors range from black to brown to gray, with light, pale blue, or silver mottling.

Their older name, Tadpole Salamander, is sometimes used as they have a notable population of paedomorphic adults, retaining their larval, external feather gills. These adults will have two stripes on their bellies.

Larvae and paedomorphic adults can be found in fishless wetlands, while the terrestrial adults prefer sandy forests of pines, gum, and cypress trees of the Coastal Plains and the Piedmont range.

They live under logs, in leaf litter, and in burrows. Like many other members of Ambystomatidae, they can best be observed when migrating to wetlands to breed.

It’s unsure what causes Mole Salamanders to be paedomorphic, but it’s thought to be influenced by the environment such as water level, light exposure, abundance of food, competition, and predator density. It’s also possible this happens simply because the neotenic adults have a higher survival rate and earlier breeding window, keeping the traits in the gene pool.

FAQ

Can you own salamanders in South Carolina?

For the most part, salamanders are legal to own in South Carolina. Releasing non-native species into the wild is illegal.

It is also important to note that the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources states “No native reptile or amphibian, including parts, products, eggs, and derivatives may be sold, purchased, traded, exchanged, bartered, exported or shipped, transferred and/or re-homed.”

This extends to certain threatened and endangered species, which includes the Northern Dwarf Siren (Pseudobranchus striatus), the Flatwoods Salamander (Ambystoma cingulatum), and Webster’s Salamander (Plethodon websteri).

What do salamanders eat?

Salamanders are carnivorous and as such, will eat an array of insects and arachnids such as spiders, slugs, larvae, flies, worms, and other bugs. They also eat other small creatures such as fish or even other salamanders.

How many salamanders are there in South Carolina?

There are 32 species of salamanders that can be found in South Carolina. With an estimated 655 species of salamanders in the world, that means 4.9% of the types of salamanders in the world can be found in this state. According to the Smithsonian, about one-third of all salamander species reside in the US, and half of those are found in Appalachia. 

What is the difference between salamanders and newts?

Newts are a type of salamander that belong to the Salamandridae family. Simply, all newts are salamanders, but not all salamanders are newts. The only newt found in South Carolina is the Eastern Newt.

Are salamanders poisonous in South Carolina?

No, there are no poisonous salamanders in South Carolina. However, people can be poisonous to salamanders due to their sensitive skin! 

When is the best time to find salamanders in the wild? 

The best time to find salamanders in the wild is between fall and spring. Depending on your location and the species, salamanders start to breed between fall and winter, with some mating in spring. In summer, when environments aren’t as wet, they might be deeply burrowed to remain moist for their next breeding season. 

Wrapping Up

South Carolina is home to 32 special species of salamanders. They are a beneficial member of their ecosystems, acting as a barometer of health. When their environment is imperiled, salamanders are more likely to disappear before mammals or avians.

Salamanders have special needs when it comes to having them as a pet, such as high humidity and impeccable water quality. While they are docile, minimal handling is best for their health.

They are deeply fascinating creatures with long life spans, meaning years of companionship when properly cared for. Thorough research is required before taking on a new member of the household, and it’s best to obtain them from reputable sources to maintain wild populations.

South Carolina is a great state for nature lovers and their hearty communities of amphibians make it all the more special. Next time you’re planning a rainy-day activity in South Carolina, consider checking out your state backyard to catch a glimpse of some amazing salamanders.

Other nearby states

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