Seepage Salamander

Photo: Gary Nafis

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Scientific Name: Desmognathus aeneus

Classification: Nongame species

Abundance: Rare (blue area)

Species Profile (PDF)


Seepage salamander photo (Photo by Gary Nafis)


Additional Information

The seepage salamander is a small terrestrial salamander endemic to the southeastern United States. Its name describes its preferred habitat — seepages or small headwater streams. In North Carolina, seepage salamanders are restricted to the southwestern corner of the state. Like all salamanders in the family Plethodontidae, seepage salamanders lack lungs and instead conduct respiration through their skin and the tissues lining their mouth. Although the current range of seepage salamanders is small, they may be locally abundant. Seepage salamanders are an extremely secretive species and are active primarily at night. Biologists have noticed that seepage salamanders are unaffected by predatory interactions with other locally abundant salamanders, such as species in the mountain dusky salamander complex.

The seepage salamander is small and slender with a relatively round, short tail. Adults have dark bellies and a yellowish to reddish-brown back adorned with a wavy or sometimes straight dorsal stripe. The dorsal stripe is usually a line or series of spots, with darker sides. Seepage salamanders often have a dark “Y” on their heads, posterior to the eyes. Most individuals have a light circular mark on the top of each thigh. Adults have 13–14 costal grooves with a maximum snout vent length of 29 mm (1.14 inches) in males and 26 mm (1 inch) in females. Total lengths (snout to tail tip) range from 38–57 mm (1.5 -2.4 inches). Like all members of the Plethodontidae family, seepage salamanders do not have lungs.

Learn more by reading the Seepage Salamander wildlife profile.

The seepage salamander is classified as a nongame species with no open season.  It is unlawful for any person to take, or have in possession, any nongame mammal or bird unless that person has a collection license or is collecting fewer than 5 reptiles or fewer than 25 amphibians that are not endangered, threatened, or special concerned species.

There are no reported problems with this species. 

The N.C. Wildlife Action Plan designates the seepage salamander as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need and the N.C. Natural Heritage Program considers it “Significantly Rare” in the state. Because the primary threats to seepage salamander habitat come as a result of intensive timber cutting activities, leaving streamside buffer zones intact around headwater springs and seepages can help diminish the effects of logging on these salamander habitats. The goals of the Wildlife Commission for this species include establishing baseline population-size and distributional data, and implementing monitoring studies to track and understand long-term trends.

The major threat to seepage salamanders is habitat loss due to development and intensive forest management practices including clear-cutting. These salamanders are seldom active on the surface and can’t adapt well to these habitat changes. Aside from habitat degradation, human interactions with seepage salamanders are minimal due to this salamander’s preference for isolated, semi-aquatic habitats. This non-migratory species of salamanders is active at night and remains under the foliage of the forest for the majority of the time.