Northern Slimy Salamander Plethodon glutinosus

Adult from Brown County

Identification

Adults of this species are medium-sized black salamanders with white speckling. White dots are present throughout the dorsum, and they increase along the sides, where they often form wide white bands. The black dorsal color fades to gray on the tail. Ventral coloration is black, except under the tail and feet, where it is gray. The underside of the chin can often have light spots. Adults reach total lengths of 5-7 inches.

Adult from Jennings County
Adult from Clark County

Northern Slimy Salamander eggs are whitish with a jelly surrounding when laid. They are laid in spherical clusters of 16-33 and are often suspended from the ceilings of natural cavities. Presumably, these eggs are typically laid underground, due to the low numbers of nests observed in the wild. Hatchlings have light ventral surfaces and are uniformly dark on the top, with some pigment-free spots. Average total lengths of hatchlings in Indiana are about 0.5-1 inch long.

Northern Slimy Salamanders are superficially similar to Jefferson's Salamanders (Ambystoma jeffersonianum), a species with which they share habitat throughout southern Indiana. However, Jefferson's Salamanders are more robust, lighter in coloration, and lack the obvious white spots that many Northern Slimy Salamanders have.

Ecology and Conservation

Northern Slimy Salamanders typically inhabit rocky woodlands. They can also be found along small rocky streams. They are common along bluffs surrounding streams and rivers, though they may be found far from water. They often seek shelter under a variety of cover including bark, logs, and rocks. They are rarely discovered in the open during daylight hours. Northern Slimy Salamanders have a more abbreviated period of activity than other plethodontids in Indiana and are active from April to October. This period of activity is similar to that seen in Long-Tailed Salamanders (Eurycea longicauda). Though they can be found surface active during the summer, this species seems to be most active in the spring and fall months. Northern Slimy Salamanders feed on a variety of terrestrial invertebrates, with ants and beetles making up a large part of the diet in many populations.

Rocky stream from Fountain County
Forested stream corridor from Ripley County

Breeding of Northern Slimy Salamanders occurs on land, where the male drops a spermatophore after a series of courtship behaviors. The female picks up the spermatophore shortly thereafter. Breeding is probably most common in the fall in Indiana, though some individuals may breed in the spring. Eggs are probably laid the next spring.

This is a relatively widespread species that is quite abundant where it occurs. There are no known major threats to its conservation in Indiana.

Distribution

This species belongs to a complex of similar species that is found throughout eastern North America. Northern Slimy Salamanders are restricted to the central and northeastern states from Illinois to New York with isolates further northeast and south into Georgia and Alabama.

Northern Slimy Salamanders can be found throughout most of southern Indiana, though they are less common in the southwestern bottomlands. Their range extends further north on the western border of the state where they inhabit deep, rocky gorges. Records for the northernmost area of the state may be erroneous.

Taxonomy

The Northern Slimy Salamander (Plethodon glutinosus) has no recognized subspecies. It belongs to the larger P. glutinosus species complex, which contains many morphologically similar species across the eastern United States. It belongs to the family Plethodontidae, which is the world's most diverse family of salamanders.

Literature Cited

Brodman, R. 2003. Amphibians and Reptiles from Twenty-three Counties of Indiana. Proceedings of the Indiana Academy of Science 112:43-54.

Conant, R. and J. T . Collins. 1998. Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. Third Edition, Expanded. Houghton Mifflin, New York, NY.

Klueth, S. and J. M. 2013. Plethodon glutinosus (Northern Slimy Salamander) Geographic Distribution. Herpetological Review 44:270.

Minton, S. A. Jr. 2001. Amphibians and Reptiles of Indiana. Indiana Academy of Science, Indianapolis, IN.

Petranka, J. W. 1998. Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institute Press, Washington D.C.

Distribution Map
Distribution map of Northern Slimy Salamander (Plethodon glutinosus)
Photographs