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eastern red-backed salamander

(Plethodon cinereus)


This is a small Plethodon species with short legs. Adults measure 6.5-12.5 cm in total length. There are two color morphs: the striped or red-backed, which has a broad orange-red to red dorsal band from the head through the tail; and the unstriped or lead-backed morph which lacks the dorsal stripe. The sides are dark, and the belly is mottled with black and white. The mating period extends from October to April. A group of 5-12 eggs is laid in rotting logs and stumps, or in cavities under rocks, from May through July. The female remains with the eggs through hatching, defending them against intruders. Hatching occurs from August through September. Females begin laying eggs in year 4 and the males mature a year earlier.


This salamander is found under rocks, leaf litter, and rotten logs in deciduous, conifer, and mixed forests throughout Virginia. It nests in rotting logs or stumps or in cavities beneath rocks. It occurs at a variety of elevations, from the crest of Whitetop Mountain to areas as low as 3000 feet.


This salamander will prey on any food available, with small invertebrates the primary prey.