AmphibiaWeb - Gyrinophilus gulolineatus


(Translations may not be accurate.)

Gyrinophilus gulolineatus Brandon, 1965
Berry Cave Salamander
family: Plethodontidae
subfamily: Hemidactyliinae
genus: Gyrinophilus
Species Description: Brandon, R. A. (1965). "A new race of the neotenic slamander Gyrinophilus palleucus." Copeia 1965: 346–352.

© 2021 Bryce Wade (1 of 14)
Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN Red List Status Account Endangered (EN)
NatureServe Use NatureServe Explorer to see status.
National Status None
Regional Status None
Access Conservation Needs Assessment Report .



View distribution map in BerkeleyMapper.


Gyrinophilus gulolineatus is a paedomorphic salamander that is found in freshwater, inland habitats, specifically in caves of Tennessee (Hammerson 2004).

Gyrinophilus gulolineatus is similar to G. palleucus, which it was once considered a subspecies of. Data showed that they were two different species based on dorsal pigmentation and the number of trunk vertebrae; G. palleucus have a generally darker dorsal pigmentation and have fewer trunk vertebrae than G. gulolineatus. Gyrinophilus gulolineatus is also described to have a distinct dark stripe on the anterior half of the throat area, a wider head, and a broader snout, and they generally reach a larger adult size (Niemiller et al. 2009).

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: United States

U.S. state distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Tennessee


View distribution map in BerkeleyMapper.
Gyrinophilus gulolineatus is limited to a small wetland terrain, specifically, freshwater, inland habitats in caves in eastern Tennessee between the major cities of Knoxville and Athens. More specifically, they are found in the eastern cities of Ridge and Valley Province of Roane, Knox, and McMinn Counties. This area is also located in between the Cumberland Plateau and the Blue Ridge Mountains, where Cherokee Lake, Douglas Lake, the Holston River, and Watts Bar Lake all intersect (Hammerson 2004).

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Gyrinophilus gulolineatus is a paedomorphic species that are found in freshwater, inland habitats, specifically in caves (Hammerson 2004). Due to their inaccessible subterranean habitat and ability to blend into the environment, little of G. gulolineatus life-history have been documented (Gladstone et al. 2018). However, Niemiller et al. (2016) contend that G. gulolineatus likely show similar adaptations as other cave-adapted organisms, which exhibit life history traits of decreased growth rates, delayed sexual maturity, and increased lifespan compared to species on the surface.

Members of Gyrinophilus become sexually mature without metamorphosing into an adult form; although data is not conclusive, female, and male individuals are recognized as sexually mature at about 70 mm snout to vent length (Niemiller et al. 2021).

During an ongoing study of the life history and demography of G. gulolineatus, a very large individual was discovered. Being the largest G. gulolineatus, this individual allowed for the comparison of body size to life history and habitat. K-selected characteristics are correlated with an increase in longevity and increased body size. However high-resource environments may permit an increase in growth rate and overall body size. Sampling may also impact the results of the study as the species is difficult to capture (Gladstone et al. 2018).

Trends and Threats
The U.S Fish and Wildlife service petitioned for G. gulolineatus to be listed as an “Endangered” species under the U.S Endangered Species Act in January 2003. The decline in population of G. gulolineatus is primarily attributed to environmental factors such as limited extent of occurrences and decline in habitat quality. Gyrinophilus gulolineatus is especially susceptible to habitat degradation since their range is limited to caves and subterranean dwellings (Niemiller et al. 2021).

Niemiller et al. (2021) surveyed several different cave locations inhabited by G. gulolineatus such as the Mudflats Cave, the Mead Quarry Cave system, and the Berry Cave. The population size of G. gulolineatus varies depending on the site in which they were observed. The population found in the Berry Cave site has remained stable over the years. However, populations in other locations have begun to decline. The Mudflats Cave has experienced a steady decline over 35 years and the Mead Quarry Cave has experienced a sharper decline in only 10 years (Niemiller et al. 2021).

The proximity to a metropolitan of Knoxville, Tennessee may be one of the main contributing factors to the decline in habitat quality. For example, the salamander population in the Mudflats Cave was observed to have suffered from excess sedimentation associated with urban development. Urban development has also been observed to have a negative impact on the aquatic environments of G. gulolineatus. For example, construction in the Melton Hill Lake may have disrupted the stream dynamics and the connections between groundwater and the surface. These disruptions have also allowed the introduction of new predators such as catfish and sunfish via flooded cave passages. Furthermore, urban development projects are a possible contributor to water contamination. Human influences such as past quarry operations and lime deposits contribute heavily to water contamination through elevated ion concentrations such as nitrate and chloride. The effect of water contamination on salamander populations was observed in the Mead Quarry Cave during a survey conducted in 2018. Several larvae and metamorphosed adults of G. gulolineatus as well as individuals from other salamander species were found dying with burn-like lesions on their bodies. These lesions were likely attributed to the lime deposit contamination as they were found downstream from a surface leakage (Niemiller et al. 2021).

Gyrinophilus gulolineatus are also threatened by genetic factors through hybridization with other salamander species. For example, molecular evidence has shown interbreeding between G. gulolineatus and G. porphyriticus at the Meads Quarry Cave and the Cruze Cave. Continued breeding between salamander species could lead to the lost of genetic distinction of G. gulolineatus. However, the genetic factors present a relatively low threat compared to environmental factors in regards to the decline of G. gulolineatus populations (Niemiller et al. 2021).

Possible reasons for amphibian decline

General habitat alteration and loss
Habitat fragmentation
Long-distance pesticides, toxins, and pollutants
Loss of distinctiveness through hybridization


Niemiller et al. (2009) showed that the four nominal forms of Gyrinophilus, including G. gulolineatus, arose recently, possibly during the late Pliocene and Pleistocene. In 1965, G. gulolineatus was originally thought to be a subspecies of G. palleucus. There was a lot of controversy on the taxonomic status of G. gulolineatus. In 1986, Brandon et al. advocated for G. gulolineatus to be viewed as a separate species based on osteological evidence of transformed adults, morphological differentiation of larviform adults, and allopatry (Niemiller et al. 2009).


Gladstone, N.S., Carter, E.T., Niemiller K.D.K., Hayter L.E., Niemiller, M.L. (2018) “A new maximum body size record for the Berry Cave Salamander (Gyrinophilus gulolineatus) and genus Gyrinophilus (Caudata, Plethodontidae) with a comment on body size in plethodontid salamanders.” Subterranean Biology 28: 29-38. [link]

Hammerson, G. (2004). “Gyrinophilus gulolineatus.” The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2004: e.T59280A11896479. Accessed on 28 February 2022.

Niemiller, Matthew L, et. al. (2016). “Growth, survival, longevity, and population size of the big mouth cave salamander (Gyrinophilus palleucus necturoides) from the type locality in Grundy County, Tennessee, USA.” Copeia, 104(1), 35-41 [link]

Niemiller, Matthew L., Carter, Evin T., Gladstone, Nicolas S., Niemiller, Denise K., Hayter, Lindsey E., Engel, Annete E., Miller, Brian T., Fitzpatrick, Benjamin M., (2021) "Distribution, ecology, life history, and conservation status of the Berry Cave salamander (Gyrinophilus gulolineatus)." Herpetological Conservation and Biology 16(3), 686–703. [link]

Niemiller, Matthew L., Miller, Brian T., Fitzpatrick, Benjamin M. (2009). “Systematics and evolutionary history of subterranean Gyrinophilus salamanders” Proceedings of the 15th International Congress of Speleology, 242-248. [link]

Originally submitted by: Lauryn Tsang, Maya Espinoza, Julie Garza, Casey Cuento (2022-04-06)
Description by: Lauryn Tsang, Maya Espinoza, Julie Garza, Casey Cuento (updated 2022-04-06)
Distribution by: Lauryn Tsang, Maya Espinoza, Julie Garza, Casey Cuento (updated 2022-04-06)
Life history by: Lauryn Tsang, Maya Espinoza, Julie Garza, Casey Cuento (updated 2022-04-06)
Trends and threats by: Lauryn Tsang, Maya Espinoza, Julie Garza, Casey Cuento (updated 2022-04-06)

Edited by: JG (fixing maps 7/25/01), Ann T. Chang (2022-04-06)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2022 Gyrinophilus gulolineatus: Berry Cave Salamander <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Apr 17, 2024.

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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2024. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 17 Apr 2024.

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