Amphibians of North Carolina
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Plethodontidae Members:
NC Records

Plethodon yonahlossee - Yonahlossee Salamander


Taxonomy
Class: Amphibia Order: Caudata Family: Plethodontidae Subfamily: Plethodontinae
Taxonomic Comments: A crevice-dwelling form of P. yonahlossee that occurs in or near the vicinity of Bat Cave and Chimney Rock in western North Carolina was described by Adler and Dennis (1962) as a separate species, P. longicrus. Compared to typical P. yonahlossee, this form has reduced red or reddish-brown pigmentation on the back, relatively longer legs, and a stronger affiliation with rock crevices. Guttman et al. (1978) conducted a morphological, ecological and molecular comparisons of P. longicrus and P. yonahlossee and concluded that P. longicrus is only a geographic variant of P. yonahlossee. Genetic differences between these forms were typical of those reported for conspecific populations, and individuals referable to P. longicrus were frequently collected away from rock crevices and on the forest floor where P. yonahlossee dwells. In addition, relative limb length overlapped substantially among the two and was not considered to be a diagnostic character. Here, we follow recent taxonomic treatments and consider these forms to represent a single, geographically variable species, P. yonahlossee. We provide records and images of populations in the vicinity of Bat Cave and Chimney Rock under a separate account, 'Plethodon yonahlossee population 1'.
Species Comments:
Identification
Description: The adults of this very large Plethodon have a blackish dorsal ground color that is covered with a more or less continuous wide brick-red to brownish-red band from the neck to the base of the tail. Young juveniles have 4-6 pairs of brick-red to brownish-red spots that eventually expand and fuse so that older juveniles resemble the adults in general coloration. The sides of the head, body, and tail are strongly marked with gray to silvery white blotches that often fuse to form a band along the sides of the body (Beane et al. 2010, Petranka 1998). The head, tail, and limbs are black above with lesser amounts of white or gray flecking. Individuals from the southern portion of the range in or near Bat Cave and Chimney Rock may have the red band either absent or reduced to scattered flecks or blotches. The tails of this and other large eastern Plethodon produce copious amounts of slimy tail secretions that deter certain predators.

The adults vary from 11-22 cm TL and have a modal number of 16 costal grooves. The average SVL of females is slightly greater than that of the males. Sexually active males have a more swollen snout around the nasolabial grooves and a conspicuous round mental gland (Petranka 1998).
Field Guide Descriptions: Beane et al. (2010)
Online Photos:    Google
Observation Methods: Individuals are active on the ground surface at night and can be found by turning stones and large logs on the forest floor.
AmphibiaWeb Account
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution Comments: This species is a southern Appalachian endemic with a rather narrow range that extends from the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwestern Virginia southwestward through northeastern Tennessee and western North Carolina. In North Carolina, populations are only found east of the French Broad River, but continue southward to as far south as Henderson and Rutherford counties.
Distribution Reference: Beane et al. (2010)
County Map: Clicking on a county returns the records for the species in that county.
Key Habitat Requirements
Habitat: Plethodon yonahlossee is typically found in mesic deciduous forests in mountainous terrain at elevations of 436-1737 m (1430-5699'). Martof et al. (1980) noted that this species is often locally abundant on hillsides where rock slides are carpeted with mosses and ferns. It can also be found in a variety of rich forest-floor habitats that are generally similar to those used by members of the P. glutinosus complex (Petranka 1998). Individuals in the general vicinity of Bat Cave and Chimney Rock are also commonly encountered in rock crevices (Guttman et al. 1978). Niemiller and Reynolds (2011) noted that specimens were found in a pasture at one site in northeastern Tennessee, which is an atypical habitat for this species.
See also Habitat Account for General Montane Mesic Forests
Life History and Autecology
Breeding and Courtship: Observations in the northern portion of the range suggest that most adults mate from late July through September. Pierson et al. (2013) observed courting pairs in August at several sites in Virginia and documented courtship in the lab from late July through August. Pope (1950) also found adults in breeding condition in August in Virginia. Pierson et al. (2013) provide a detailed description of courtship behavior based on observations that were made both in the field and in staged laboratory trials. They found only very minor differences between the two, and the following general overview is based on observations in the lab.

When a male first makes contact with a female, he moves along her length while contacting her intermittently with his head. This typically involves nudging her sides, tapping his snout on her body, or sliding his head along the top of her body. These behaviors act to introduce chemicals through the nasolabial grooves to his nares. If the female departs after being contacted, the male follows her and may undulate his tail laterally during or immediately after reestablishing contact.

The male eventually reaches the head of the stationary female, then turns his head towards the female and places it under her chin. He then lifts his head and contacts the chin of the female with his snout, eyelid, or the top of his head. If she remains stationary, the male then crawls forward under her chin. If the chin of the female contacts the male's tail, the male arches his tail upward and undulates his tail laterally in contact with the chin of the female. After additional courting, the female places her head on the anterior half of the male's tail and straddles the tail with her forelimbs. The male moves forward while arching and undulating his tail in contact with the chin of the female. Both animals may then move forward intermittently in a tail-straddle walk. In addition to this pathway, the tail-stradde walk is sometimes initiated after the female actively approaches the male as he crawls beside her. She then places her chin on the dorsum of the body or tail of the male, which triggers the male to crawl forward and arch and undulate his tail. The female then straddles the tail to begin the tail-straddle walk.

During the tail-stradde walk, the male may alternate between moving forward and turning back towards the female and slapping the anterior portion of her head with his mental gland before stopping and depositing a spermatophore. Following spermatophore deposition, the male withdraws his tail from underneath the female by flexing it to one side. He then leads the female forward until the spermatophore contacts her vent. She then lowers her vent and inserts the spermatophore into her cloaca. Courtship is a prolonged process that may last two or more hours, with the tail-stradde walk often lasting around an hour.
Reproductive Mode: Most aspects of the reproductive biology of this species are undocumented. Based on studies of other large Plethodon species in the southern Appalachians, the females probably deposit their eggs underground during late spring or early summer and the embryos hatch in 2-3 months. Three females that were dissected by Pope (1950) contained 19, 24, and 27 mature ova.
Aquatic Life History: This is a terrestrial breeding species and there is no aquatic larval stage.
Terrestrial Life History: The juveniles and adults reside in burrows or beneath cover objects such as large logs and stones during the day. They emerge at night when conditions are favorable and feed on forest-floor invertebrates. Gordon et al. (1962) observed individuals either posed at burrow entrances or crawling about on tree bases or along fallen logs and stumps in search of prey. Young animals were most abundant on the surface for about 1 hr after sunset, while adult activity peaked 2-3 hours after sunset. Individuals seem to prefer large logs with a thick layer of litter near the ground.

Prey items from individuals that were collected at two sites in North Carolina included spiders, mites, pseudoscorpions, millipedes, centipedes, earthworms, gastropods, nematodes, and a wide variety of insects (Rubin 1969, Petranka 1998). Dietary items in Virginia specimens included collembolans, orthopterans, termites, homopterans, hemipterans, lepidopterans, dipterans, coleopterans, hymenopterans, pseudoscorpions, spiders, mites, millipedes, centipedes, isopods, and snails (Pope 1950). One animal in a terrarium ate a smaller P. jordani (Thurow 1976), but it is uncertain if predation on other salamanders occurs in nature.

The few data that are available suggest that juveniles become sexually mature when about 3-years old, and that males mature when 56 mm SVL (Pope 1950). Juveniles and adults will aggressively defend territories that they establish in terraria (Thurow 1976) and presumably maintain territories in natural communities. Petranka and Murray (2003) estimated that the density of individuals in an old growth forest in Buncombe Co. to be around 0.04 salamanders/m2 of forest floor habitat.
General Ecology
Community Ecology: Plethodon yonahlossee often coexists locally with one or more members of either the P. glutinosus or P. jordani complex, as well as with other salamander species that feed on the forest floor (Hicks and Pearson 2003, Petranka and Murray 2001). The large Plethodon species appear to have similar lifestyles and diets, but none seem capable of competitively excluding P. yonahlossee from local communities. Experimental studies of interactions between these species are needed to better understand factors that organize these diverse southern Appalachian salamander communities.
Adverse Environmental Impacts
Status in North Carolina
NHP State Rank: S4
Global Rank: G4
Environmental Threats: Deforestation and urbanization are the greatest threats to local populations. However, many populations are found in national forests or other public lands and are reasonably well-protected from intensive timber-harvesting practices and habitat fragmentation.
Status Comments: The Yonahlossee Salamander can be locally abundant in optimal habitats, but is generally less abundant than other large Plethodon species (Hicks and Pearson 2003, Petranka and Murray 2001). It is a southern Appalachian endemic that has a rather narrow range and future monitoring of populations is warranted.
Stewardship: Local populations are best maintained by having large tracts of mature deciduous forest.

Photo Gallery for Plethodon yonahlossee - Yonahlossee Salamander

11 photos are shown.

Recorded by: tom ward
Buncombe Co.
Recorded by: tom ward
Buncombe Co.
Recorded by: tom ward
Buncombe Co.
Recorded by: tom ward
Buncombe Co.
Recorded by: tom ward
Buncombe Co.
Recorded by: tom ward
Buncombe Co.
Recorded by: tom ward
Buncombe Co.
Recorded by: tom ward
Buncombe Co.
Recorded by: Jim Petranka
Buncombe Co.
Recorded by: Jim Petranka
Buncombe Co.
Recorded by: Jim Petranka
Buncombe Co.