This is a fairly large salamander that is gray or black with large, rounded, yellow or orange spots from the head through the tail. The belly is pale slate without spots or blotches. Adults reach a total length of 4.5-7.75 in (11.2-9.7 cm). The males are slightly slimmer than the females and in the breeding season they may be recognized by the protuberant vent. With first warm rains they breed in pools with egg masses up to 200. The eggs hatch in 30 to 55 days. During the summer and winter, adults live underground and in early spring they migrate at night to small woodland ponds to breed. The critical environmental factors affecting the timing of migration appear to be temperatures above freezing in conjunction with moisture provided either by snow or rain
This salamander occurs statewide in Virginia, with the exception of the far southeastern portion of the coastal plain and the barrier islands. It inhabits bottomland forests and floodplains, but may also be found in upland forests with suitable breeding sites (semi-permanent pools about 1 m deep). These salamanders are fossorial during the nonbreeding season and migrate to ponds, streams, or pools to breed.
Larvae feed on zooplankton, but will also take aquatic insects, isopods, dragonfly larvae and other small aquatic invertebrates. Adults prey on a variety of terrestrial invertebrates including earthworms, mollusks, spiders, insects and even other salamanders.