Rich Mountain Salamander
© 2014 Todd Pierson (1 of 13)
Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: United States
Plethodon ouachitae Dunn and Heinze, 1933
Carl D. Anthony1
1. Historical versus Current Distribution. Rich Mountain salamanders (Plethodon ouachitae) are locally distributed in the Ouachita Mountains of eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas (Pope and Pope, 1951; Blair and Lindsay, 1965; Duncan and Highton, 1979; Black and Sievert, 1989). Knowledge of their geographic range has been greatly expanded since the species was first collected on Rich Mountain east of Page, Oklahoma (Dunn and Heinze, 1933). Their current distribution in Oklahoma includes parts of Buffalo, Winding Stair, Coon, Spring, Honess, Rich, Blackfork, Kiamichi, Phillips, and Round mountains (A.P. Blair, 1957b; Blair and Lindsay, 1965; Duncan and Highton, 1979; Sievert, 1986; Anthony and Wicknick, 1993a; Anthony, 1995). Their current distribution in Arkansas includes parts of Rich, Fourche, and Blackfork mountains, with hybridization occurring between them and Fourche Mountain salamanders (P. fourchensis) in a narrow zone on Fourche Mountain (Blair and Lindsay, 1965; Duncan and Highton, 1979). Three variants are recognized (Winding Stair, Rich, and Kiamichi), each representing a distinct genetic group (Duncan and Highton, 1979). Historical distribution is unknown.
2. Historical versus Current Abundance. Locally abundant. Pope and Pope (1951) reported collecting 131 individuals in 4 hr at a disturbed site. Daytime collecting rates typically range from 3–17 salamanders/hr (Pope and Pope, 1951; Sievert, 1986), but may reach 30–40/hr under ideal conditions. No changes in abundance have been noted.
3. Life History Features.
i. Breeding migrations. Migratory behavior is unknown, but adults are active on roadways on foggy nights in late spring and early fall.
ii. Breeding habitat. Breeding may occur in late fall, winter, or early spring (Taylor et al., 1990).
i. Egg deposition sites. Breeding and nest sites are undescribed but likely occur deep in talus and in caves. Black (1974) reported a 7 mm SVL juvenile from a cave on Winding Stair Mountain. Surface active juveniles are considerably larger. Ratios of reproductive to nonreproductive females suggest that they breed biennially (Taylor et al., 1990).
ii. Clutch sizes. Pope and Pope (1951) reported a mean of 16.7 enlarged ovarian follicles from 22 mature females; Taylor et al. (1990) reported a mean of 15.4 from 17 mature females.
C. Direct Development. Juveniles averaging 21 mm SVL are active at the surface in May (Anthony and Wicknick, 1993b) and tend to remain at the surface through late May, after adults have moved underground.
D. Juvenile Habitat. Same as adult habitat.
E. Adult Habitat. Most commonly found at higher elevations of mixed deciduous wooded north-, northeast- (Blair, 1967) and northwest- (Black, 1974) facing slopes, often adjacent to seeps. Sandstone rocks, logs, and other forest debris are common cover objects (Black, 1974). Moisture conditions at the surface appear to influence activity greatly (Pope and Pope, 1951). Lower levels of talus are used to escape hot and dry conditions (Spotila, 1972). Cave entrances also are utilized (Black, 1974; Black and Puckette, 1974).
F. Home Range Size. Little is known concerning home range size. Anthony (1995) reported that 23% of adults displaced 5 m returned to their original cover object. Adults are commonly found on roadways up to 20 m from suitable habitat.
G. Territories. Individuals can be found under the same cover objects from year to year, and they home to those cover objects if displaced (Anthony, 1995). Adults can recognize and respond to odors of conspecifics (Anthony, 1993), and they actively defend areas in laboratory chambers (Thurow, 1976; Anthony and Wicknick, 1993b; Anthony et al., 1997). Territory size is unknown.
H. Aestivation/Avoiding Dessication. Populations move underground in late May but may return to the surface during periods of rainfall and/or cool weather. By mid September, adults can again be found under cover objects at the surface.
I. Seasonal Migrations. Adults are common on wet roads in spring and fall at temperatures to 23.8 ˚C. It is not known whether these salamanders are migrating, dispersing, or simply foraging.
J. Torpor (Hibernation). Probably hibernate from mid November to late March.
K. Interspecific Associations/Exclusions. Occur syntopically with western slimy salamanders (P. albagula) and southern red-backed salamanders (P. serratus). Within their range, Rich Mountain salamanders are almost always more common than are western slimy salamanders (Pope and Pope, 1951; Spotila, 1972; Duncan and Highton, 1979). Western slimy salamanders are rare or absent at many localities and may be excluded by Rich Mountain salamanders (Anthony, 1995). Interspecific territoriality is apparently important. In laboratory encounters, adult males aggressively defended areas against conspecifics and against intruding western slimy salamanders. Despite the smaller size of Rich Mountain salamanders, defense was successful largely due to its extremely aggressive nature (Anthony et al., 1997). Kuss (1986) found that habitat differed between the two species, with Rich Mountain salamanders occurring more often at higher elevations, farther from ravines, and under denser vegetation than western slimy salamanders. Dowling (1956) observed that Rich Mountain salamanders become active on the forest floor earlier in the evening than do western slimy salamanders, which may have to wait for cooler and more humid conditions. Spotila (1972) noted that western slimy salamanders occur in wetter habitats than do Rich Mountain salamanders.
L. Age/Size at Reproductive Maturity. Maturity is reached at an age of almost 3 yr (Pope and Pope, 1951). Females mature at 50–51 mm SVL; males mature at 47–49 mm SVL (Pope and Pope, 1951).
M. Longevity. Individuals that were sexually mature when collected have been kept in the laboratory for at least 3 yr. Longevity is probably greater than 6 yr.
N. Feeding Behavior. Prey consists of terrestrial invertebrates including annelids, chilopods, acarinids, coleopterans (adults and larvae), hemipterans, orthopterans, and hymenopterans (Black and Puckette, 1974). Feeding probably occurs in the leaf litter, but one adult was observed consuming an opilionid while beneath a cover object in the field.
O. Predators. Unknown.
P. Anti-Predator Mechanisms. Largely nocturnal, though individuals have been observed moving about on rainy days. All Plethodon produce noxious skin secretions (Brodie, 1977). When handled, Red Mountain salamanders release a secretion that is initially lubricative then adhesive. The secretion is difficult to remove from the fingers and hands. Adults are agile and rapidly flee to below ground retreats when disturbed (Pope and Pope, 1951; Black, 1974).
Q. Diseases. Unknown.
R. Parasites. Winter et al. (1986) found cestodes, nematodes, protozoans, and mites in 29 adults. Intradermal mites of the genus Hannemania were first noted in the original species description (Dunn and Heinze, 1933) and appear as raised red pustules often on the feet and toes (Winter et al., 1986; Anthony et al., 1994). Up to 100% of a population can be infected (range 62–100%, Duncan and Highton, 1979). Males incur higher infection intensities than do females (Anthony et al., 1994). Toe loss is common and has been attributed to these mites (Winter et al., 1986; Conant and Collins, 1991). Anthony et al. (1994) reported structural damage to the nasolabial groove from mite attachment. Sympatric western slimy salamanders are seldom infected by mites (Pope and Pope, 1951; Duncan and Highton, 1979; Anthony et al., 1994) and have been shown to be more resistant to infection (Anthony, 1995).
4. Conservation. Rich Mountain salamanders are locally distributed in the Ouachita Mountains. No changes in abundance have been noted. Three variants are recognized, each representing a distinct genetic group (Duncan and Highton, 1979). They are listed as a Protected species by Oklahoma.
1Carl D. Anthony
Literature references for Amphibian Declines: The Conservation Status of United States Species, edited by Michael Lannoo, are here.
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