This is a stout salamander that ranges from 3 to 5 inches in length. It is similar in appearance to the seal salamander. The coloration is brown, usually with scattered dark spots but occasionally uniformly tan above. The dark color on the back fades gradually into a lighter color on the belly. There is a line of light dots on the sides. The tail is thick at the base and compressed and knifelike toward the end. About 26 eggs per clutch are laid in the spring and summer. The female usually coils around the eggs to attend to them.
This salamander is found only in southwest Virginia adjacent to Kentucky. It inhabits mountain springs, brooks, and pools. Adults prefer large turbulent brooks, living under stones and in crevices in the splash zone. Larvae and juveniles inhabit spring seep tributaries.
Nothing is recorded about the diet. This salamander probably eats tiny arthropods and other invertebrates.