Desmognathus welteri Barbour, 1950
Black Mountain Dusky Salamander, Black Mountain Salamander
© 2015 Todd Pierson (1 of 21)
The background color of the dorsum is described as light to dark brownish overlain with variable amounts of random dark brown to black vermiculations, small spots, and streaks (Juterbock 1984). Some individuals lack almost all such markings and are a uniform sandy color. It has been suggested that geographical variation exists in color pattern in this species (Juterbock 1984). Many individuals exhibit two lines of light spots running along their sides, one at eye level extending back onto the tail and the other between the front and hind limbs. Recent metamorphs are olive-brown colored with a uniform drab dorsum with little or no spotting. Larvae of D. welteri are a similar brownish color to adults and juveniles, but their dorsum show two rows of light spots characteristic of other congeners. They are stout with a large tail fin, darkened toe tips, and 19-22 gill fimbrea per side (Juterbock 1984; McCleary 1989).
Male D. welteri are larger than females, have a small mental gland at the apex of the jaws, and papillose cloacal lips (Juterbock 1978). This species is best separated from the similar D. fuscus by its dark toe tips, large-keeled tail, and the lack of separation of dorsal and ventral coloration (Caldwell and Trauth 1979; Juterbock 1984). Desmognathus monticola can be differentiated from D. welteri by its darker colored dorsum with a roughly spotted pattern, and its venter, which is lightly pigmented with no mottling (Juterbock 1984; Petranka 1998).
Distribution and Habitat
Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: United States
U.S. state distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Black Mountain salamanders can reach high densities in optimal habitat, and are the most common species in some streams (Barbour 1971). They coexist with up to three members of their genus. In these situations a gradient is observed from the large aquatic species, D. welteri, to smaller and more terrestrial species respectively including the seal salamander (D. monticola), northern dusky salamander (D. fuscus) and the mountain dusky salamander (D. ochrophaeus) (Juterbock and Felix 2005).
Trends and Threats
Relation to Humans
Possible reasons for amphibian decline
General habitat alteration and loss
Barbour, R. W. (1971). Amphibians and Reptiles of Kentucky. University of Kentucky Press, Lexington.
Bruce, R.C. (1991). ''Evolution of ecological diversification in Desmognathine salamanders.'' Herpetological-Review, 22(2), 44-45.
Caldwell, R.S., and Trauth, S.E. (1979). ''Use of toe pad and tooth morphology in differentiating three species of Desmognathus (Amphibia, Urodela, Plethodontidae).'' Journal of Herpetology, 13, 491-497.
Felix, Z.I. (2001). ''A Natural History Study of Desmognathus welteri in West Virginia.'' Unpublished Masters Thesis, Huntington, West Virginia
Gore, J.A. (1983). ''The distribution of Desmognathine larvae (Amphibia: Plethodontidae) in coal surface impacted streams of the Cumberland Plateau, USA.'' Journal of Freshwater Ecology, 2, 13-23.
Juterbock, J. E., and Z. I. Felix. 2005. Black Mountain salamander. Desmognathus welteri. Barbour, 1950. Pp. 1794-1799. In: M.J. Lannoo (ed.), Status and Conservation of U.S. Amphibians. Vol. 2: Species Accounts. Univ. California Press, Berkeley (In Press)
Juterbock, J.E. (1975). ''The Status of Desmognathus welteri Barbour (Caudata:Plethodontidae) and a Comparison with Two Sympatric Congeners.'' Unpublished Master's Thesis, Ohio State University
Juterbock, J.E. (1978). ''Sexual dimorphism and maturity characteristics of three species of Desmognathus (Amphibia, Urodela, Plethodontidae).'' Journal of Herpetology, 12, 217-230.
Juterbock, J.E. (1984). ''Evidence for the recognition of specific status for Desmognathus welteri.'' Journal of Herpetology, 18(3), 240-255.
McCleary, E.C. (1989). ''Taxonomic Status of a Desmognathine Salamander in West Virginia.'' Unpublished Master's Thesis, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio
McCleary, E.C. and Orr, L.P. (1987). ''A new salamander for West Virginia: Desmognathus welteri.'' Ohio Journal of Science, 87(2), 49.
Mitchell, J. C., and K. K. Reay. 1999. Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles in Virginia. Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Richmond, Virginia, Special Publication 1, 121 pp.
Petranka, J. W. (1998). Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C. and London.
Redmond, W. H., and Scott, A. F. (1996). Atlas of Amphibians in Tennessee. Miscellaneous Publication 12, The Center for Field Biology, Austin Peay State University, Clarksville, Tennessee.
Redmond, W.H. (1980). ''Notes on the distribution and ecology of the Black Mountain dusky salamander Desmognathus welteri Barbour (Amphibia:Plethodontidae) in Tennessee.'' Brimleyana, 4, 123-131.
Smith, C.K., Petranka, J.W., and Barwick, R.L. (1996). ''Desmognathus welteri (Black Mountain dusky salamander) reproduction.'' Herpetological-Review, 27, 136.
Verrell, P., and Mabry, M. (2003). ''Sexual behaviour of the Black Mountain dusky salamander and the evolutionary history of courtship in the Desmognathinae.'' Journal of Zoology, 260(4), 367-376.
Originally submitted by: Zach Felix (first posted 2005-01-31)
Edited by: JG, Tate Tunstall (2008-02-03)
Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2008 Desmognathus welteri: Black Mountain Dusky Salamander <https://amphibiaweb.org/species/3928> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Mar 28, 2023.
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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2023. <https://amphibiaweb.org> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 28 Mar 2023.
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