List of Salamander Species in Alabama 2023 (ID + Pics)

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Salamander Species in Alabama (Identification, Range, & Pictures)

Cheaha Mountain, Alabama
Alabama is an extremely biodiverse state that provides a number of different habitats for wildlife, including salamanders. Skye Marthaler, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Alabama provides a temperate climate, with a great variety of landscapes, from mountains to coastal plains to prairies. The state is enormously biodiverse, with a great abundance and variety of plant life, providing the structure and resources for the fauna that live there.

The warm temperatures combined with regular rainfall make this the ideal place for amphibians to reside. With a diverse range of habitats, Alabama is home to a great variety of salamanders. This article includes descriptions of both salamanders and newts in Alabama. To learn more about the differences between these two groups of animals, check out our article Salamanders vs Newts: What’s the Difference?

1) Spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum)

Spotted salamander
It can be very hard to spot spotted salamanders, as they spend a lot of their time hiding under logs and leaves. Brian Gratwicke / CC BY 4.0
  • Native to the eastern US and eastern Canada
  • Family: Ambystomatidae
  • Order: Urodela
  • Conservation status: Least concern

Spotted salamanders are blue-black in color, with paler ventral regions and two distinctive rows of yellow spots down their backs. They reach lengths between 12 – 20 cm (4.7 –  7.9 in), although females tend to be larger than males. This species prefers mature deciduous forests, especially those that are near floodplains, and despite being abundant, is rarely seen due to it spending the vast majority of its time hidden under logs or leaf litter.

Ambystoma maculatum feeds on insects, worms, slugs, spiders, and millipedes, and in turn is predated by snakes, birds, and some mammals. Spotted salamander larvae are predated on by dragonfly larvae and diving water beetles, and suffer high mortality rates. Research has examined whether these larvae may utilize chemical cues, given off by both the predator and distressed conspecifics, to trigger avoidance behavior. Spotted salamander larvae were shown to alter their behavior in response to some, but not all, of these cues. Adult spotted salamanders deter predators by releasing a sticky toxin from glands on their backs.

Although the conservation status of the spotted salamander is of ‘least concern’, populations are declining due to changes in water acidity, habitat loss, and the exotic pet trade. In Alabama, this species is generally found northwards, and rarely seen on the coastal plains in the south.

2) Red Hills salamander (Phaeognathus hubrichti)

Red Hills salamander in burrow
Red Hills salamanders usually feed on prey that enters their burrow. John P Friel / CC BY 4.0
  • Endemic to Alabama, confined to the Red Hills region
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Order: Urodela
  • Conservation status: Endangered

The Red Hills salamander is the official state amphibian of Alabama. Reaching around 25 cm (10 in), individuals are dark brown and grey in color, with a long tail that makes up around half of their total length. This species prefers steep slopes with hardwood trees, especially those that are more established, and burrow into cracks weathered into the siltstone and claystone associated with the Red Hills area.

This species tend to feed on prey that enters its burrow, or that which can be found close by, such as camel crickets, millipedes, spiders, and snails. They are targeted by feral pigs, raccoons, and owls, and when cornered will show many antipredator behaviors in an attempt to deter their attacker. These behaviors include gaping, writhing, flipping, biting, and elevating the head.

The Red Hills salamander is endangered, likely due to much of its already limited habitat being disturbed or destroyed. It also has a low reproductive rate, and due to large parts of its remaining range being owned by paper companies, it has proven difficult to protect.

3) Northern slimy salamander (Plethodon glutinosus)

Northern slimy salamander on leaf
Northern slimy salamanders have black bodies with white spots and are usually 4.7 – 6.7 inches long. Brian Muckin / CC BY 4.0
  • Native to eastern North America
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Order: Urodela
  • Conservation status: Least concern

The northern slimy salamander is a member of the family of lungless salamanders. They respire via mucous membranes in their skin, mouth, and throat, which are moist to enable the absorption of oxygen. This species is black with white spots covering the back and sides, and may have a paler belly. It usually grows to between 12 – 17 centimeters (4.7 – 6.7 in); half of this length is comprised of the salamander’s tail.

This species’ common name is due to the sticky substance it secretes when disturbed, a feature that has earned it alternative names of viscid salamander, slippery salamander, and sticky salamander. Typically inhabiting forested areas, the northern slimy salamander has been found in greater abundance in hardwood forests, as opposed to pine forests. Individuals feed nocturnally, targeting earthworms, slugs, snails, spiders, and centipedes.

Breeding in the northern slimy salamander takes place terrestrially, with no larval phase, a mode of development known as direct development. Eggs are laid in burrows or under rocks, where they remain suspended from the roof until hatching, while the female provides parental care. She remains for 2 – 3 months until the juveniles reach 2 – 3 weeks of age, at which time they disperse.

4) Southeastern slimy salamander (Plethodon grobmani)

Southeastern slimy salamander
Southeastern slimy salamanders like to reside in moist woodlands, where they can hide under logs and rocks. evangrimes / CC BY 4.0
  • Endemic to the US
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Order: Urodela
  • Conservation status: Least concern

Distinguishing the southeastern slimy salamander from the northern slimy salamander is very difficult in the field, as the species are very similar and usually require chromosomal analysis to be fully identified. As with all slimy salamanders, this species’ name is owed to the sticky substance it produces when threatened.

The southeastern slimy salamander inhabits moist woodlands, where it spends much of its time hiding under rocks or logs. Individuals feed nocturnally on ants, millipedes, spiders, beetles, and snails. Mating, egg laying, and early stages all take place on land, with this species utilizing direct development, thus lacking a larval stage in their life history.

Research into the slimy salamander has found that it shows geographical variation across its range. One study even found that the composition of gut and skin microbiota of slimy salamanders varied across four states: Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee.

5) Northern red salamander (Pseudotriton ruber ruber)

Northern red salamander
The northern red salamander is a carnivorous species that likes to live near pools or streams. averagewalrus / CC BY 4.0
  • Endemic to the eastern US
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Order: Urodela
  • Conservation status: Least concern

A subspecies of Pseudotriton ruber, the northern red salamander is fairly common throughout Alabama, although is found more above the Fall Line Hills. It is also found at high elevations in the Appalachian Mountains. This species is bright red with black spots along the back and sides, although these turn purple and become less defined as the salamander ages.

This species resides in forested areas near pools or streams, where it lives in underground tunnel systems. A carnivorous species, it feeds on a variety of invertebrates such as insects and earthworms, and will also predate other, smaller salamanders. Larvae, which inhabit floodplains and springs, consume aquatic invertebrates and other salamander larvae.

When larval salamanders such as the northern red salamander undergo metamorphosis to transition to terrestrial living, there are a number of physical changes that must take place. For example, gill slits close, external gills are reabsorbed, eyelids form, and pigmentation will change.

6) Southern red salamander (Pseudotriton ruber vioscai)

Southern red salamander
Although the southern red salamander is of ‘least concern’, it is rare to find in Alabama and its populations are declining. evangrimes / CC BY 4.0
  • Endemic to the eastern US
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Order: Urodela
  • Conservation status: Least concern

Similar to the northern red salamander, the southern red salamander is also a subspecies of Pseudotriton ruber. In Alabama, it is found residing in or near the Lower Coastal Plain. Despite this species conservation status being that of least concern, the southern red salamander is rare in Alabama, and populations are believed to be declining.

This species is fossorial and generally resides near springs, which has earned it the alternative common name of ‘spring lizard’. Being so morphologically and evolutionarily similar to the northern red salamander, its diet is much the same, consisting of invertebrates and occasionally, other salamanders.

Females lay between 30 – 130 eggs in streams or caves, where they are suspended from low-hanging rocks. The female guards the nest from zoophagous conspecifics, responding aggressively to intruders by biting and thrashing her tail.

7) Alabama waterdog (Necturus alabamensis)

Alabama waterdog in hands
Alabama waterdog populations are in decline, possibly because of decreased water quality and increased sedimentation. Dylan Shaw, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Native to Alabama
  • Family: Proteidae
  • Order: Urodela
  • Conservation status: Endangered

The Alabama waterdog, also known as the black warrior waterdog, reaches around 25 cm (10 in) in length and varies in color, from mottled brown to purple in some cases. It is confined to just a few locations throughout Alabama. Its range predominantly extends through streams in the Black Warrior River Basin that have a clay or bedrock substrate, with plenty of crevices. These habitat features are essential for the life history of this species, as they provide hiding places and areas to lay eggs. Increased sedimentation and decreased water quality are likely contributing factors to this species’ decline.

As a purely aquatic species, the Alabama waterdog retains its external gills into adulthood. There is very little research on this salamander, and as a result, its diet is unknown but is postulated to be like that of similar species (for example, the Gulf Coast waterdog): consisting of crayfish, freshwater clams, and aquatic insects.

Some interesting behaviors have been reported in Necturus alabamensis. They tend to breed between December and January and are very rarely uncovered during summer. They are also known to swim in cold, stormy weather, and will utilize flooding to travel to other areas. These behaviors are reported to contrast with the fish species that share their habitat, thus making them rather unusual.

8) Marbled salamander (Ambystoma opacum)

Marbled salamander in hand
Male marbled salamanders have white bands on their bodies whereas females have grey stripes. Dean Stavrides / CC BY 4.0
  • Native to the eastern US, from New Hampshire to northern Florida and as far west as Missouri
  • Family: Ambystomatidae
  • Order: Urodela
  • Conservation status: Least concern

The marbled salamander, also known as the banded salamander, reaches lengths of 7 – 12 cm (2.8 – 4.7 in), and has a stocky body with a relatively short tail that comprises just 40% of the overall body length. This is a distinctive-looking salamander, with black skin crossed with bands of white in males, and grey in females.

Ambystoma opacum is relatively adaptable in terms of the habitats it occupies, although it is never found far from moist soils. Woodlands near floodplains are typically preferred, where individuals feed on earthworms, insects, slugs, snails, and centipedes.

In Alabama, the marbled salamander breeds in October and November and is one of only two members of Ambystomatidae that does not breed underwater. Nesting sites are in low-lying areas near temporary pools and once the eggs are laid, the female remains laying over them, a strategy proposed to increase her reproductive success by reducing predation.

9) Eastern newt (Notophthalmus viridescens)

Eastern newt in hand
Adult eastern newts have a flattened tail that is suited to their aquatic lifestyle. Daniel J. Layton / CC BY 4.0
  • Native to eastern North America
  • Family: Salamandridae
  • Order: Urodela
  • Conservation status: Least concern

The eastern newt is also known as the red-spotted newt due to its coloration: adults are green, with a multitude of red spots covering their backs. They have a yellow belly and grow to lengths of 7 – 12 cm (2.8 – 4.7 in).

Notophthalmus viridescens’ life cycle is fascinating. The larval phase is aquatic, at which point the larvae are equipped with gills. Following this phase, the larvae undergo metamorphosis to become efts, which are terrestrial, have lungs, and are bright red in color with paler spots along their backs. The adult phase sees the efts return to the water and develop adult coloration, as well as a flattened tail suited to the aquatic lifestyle. The adults do, however, retain their lungs, and remain air-breathers for the remainder of their lives.

This species has a polyphenic life cycle, meaning that certain aspects show plasticity in response to different environments: in dryer conditions, efts develop from larvae, however, if constantly exposed to water, the larvae transition directly to the adult morphology.

The eastern newt produces toxins, which are strongest during the eft phase. The bright red coloration of the eft serves to warn predators of this, although some predators, such as the ribbon snake, are immune.

10) Southeastern dwarf salamander (Eurycea quadridigitata)

Southeastern dwarf salamander
Southeastern dwarf salamanders are small, with a maximum length of around 2 inches. Court Harding / CC BY 4.0
  • Native to the southern US
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Order: Urodela
  • Conservation status: Least concern

The southeastern dwarf salamander has a maximum length of just 5 cm (2 in) and is one of four subspecies of dwarf salamander that show subtle morphological differences. Interestingly, the dwarf salamander differs from other members of Eurycea in that it has just four toes on its hind feet, whereas other species of that genus possess five.

In Alabama, populations of dwarf salamanders are concentrated on the Coastal Plain, with the exception of the northwest portion, where fewer are found. This species prefers pine forests on the periphery of floodplains or swamps, where it feeds on a variety of invertebrates.

Although comparatively little is known about the life history of dwarf salamanders, one study examining the development of larvae uncovered some interesting findings. At hatching, larval dwarf salamanders are approximately 6 – 7 mm (0.2 – 0.3 in) in length and remain around this size for a couple of months. Once water temperatures start to rise and food sources become more abundant, they undergo rapid growth, reaching lengths of 20 – 25 mm (0.8 – 1 in) by the age of six months.

11) Two-toed amphiuma (Amphiuma means)

Two-toed amphiuma
Two-toed amphiumas are the longest salamanders in the US and live an entirely aquatic lifestyle. evangrimes / CC BY 4.0
  • Native to the Coastal Plain of the southeastern US
  • Family: Amphiumidae
  • Order: Urodela
  • Conservation status: Least concern

The two-toed amphiuma is the longest salamander species in the United States, capable of reaching lengths of over 110 cm (43 in). Individuals display many features of the Amphiumidae family; a solely aquatic lifestyle, tiny limbs with two toes on each, a single gill slit, and a lack of eyelids. They are sometimes referred to as ‘Congo eels’ due to their appearance, although their evolutionary history diverged from fish a long time ago, and they occupy altogether different aquatic habitats to eels.

Two-toed amphiumas are found on the Coastal Plains in Alabama, although rather infrequently – a fact that has been attributed to their seclusive aquatic lifestyle and their tendency to lurk in burrows ready to ambush prey. Their diet consists of crayfish, worms, amphibians, snails, and small reptiles.

A study has found that two-toed amphiumas are susceptible to parasitism by leeches of the Macrobdella genus, which also inhabit coastal plains and attach to amphibians and fish, sucking their blood. The study revealed that many of the parasitized individuals were in poor health, which may have made them more likely to be targeted.

12) Three-lined salamander (Eurycea guttolineata)

Three-lined salamander
Adult three-lined salamanders live mostly terrestrial lives and feed during the night. evangrimes / CC BY 4.0
  • Endemic to the southeastern US
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Order: Urodela
  • Conservation status: Least concern

Adult three-lined salamanders reach between 10 – 16 cm (4 – 6 in) in length, and range from pale brown to yellow with three prominent black lines running down the back. Much of the body length (around two-thirds) is comprised of the tail. The belly is marbled black and white.

In Alabama, this species is most common in the southwestern Appalachian Mountains (at low elevations) and the Coastal Plain, with a preference for wooded floodplains, where they feed on invertebrates. Loss of suitable habitat may have caused declines in some areas.

Three-lined salamanders begin life as aquatic larvae and remain in this state for around six months after hatching. They then undergo metamorphosis, a process which is characterized by them developing eyelids, resorbing the tail fin and external gills, and sealing the gill slits. As adults, they are mostly terrestrial and feed nocturnally.

13) Webster’s salamander (Plethodon websteri)

Webster's salamander on rock
Webster’s salamanders are 7 – 8 inches long on average and have an orange or yellow stripe running down their body. evangrimes / CC BY 4.0
  • Endemic to the southeastern US
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Order: Urodela
  • Conservation status: Least concern

The Webster’s salamander is common in Alabama, usually found in regions above Fall Line Hills in hardwood forests where there are plenty of rocks and logs under which to seek refuge. A fairly small salamander with a length of 7 – 8 cm (2.8 – 3.1 in), it is brown in color with a wavy stripe of orange or yellow running down its back.

Small Webster’s salamanders feed on springtails and mites, whereas larger individuals consume ants and termites. During the summer, they take shelter from the heat and high humidity in burrows or rocky crevasses. Naturally occurring hiding places are essential for the survival of individuals, are they are too small to burrow effectively.

Although this species’ overall conservation status is of ‘least concern’, in Alabama it is listed as vulnerable, and this may be attributed to a number of factors. Habitat loss may occur due to deforestation or agriculture, and these processes may result in the soil becoming warmer and dryer, rendering it unsuitable for salamanders.

14) Southern zigzag salamander (Plethodon ventralis)

Southern zigzag salamander
Southern zigzag salamanders are entirely terrestrial, meaning that they lay their eggs on land, too. José Garrido / CC BY 4.0
  • Native to northern Mississippi, southeast Virginia, northern Alabama, northern Georgia, and western North Carolina
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Order: Urodela
  • Conservation status: Least concern

The southern zigzag salamander is reddish brown in color, with blue and white flecks, and red zigzag markings on the body and tail. Very little is known about this species, but certain details can be extrapolated from other, closely-related organisms. Southern zigzag salamanders are likely to feed nocturnally on invertebrates found on the forest floor and are predated on by owls and snakes.

Plethodon ventralis is common in Alabama, being found in abundance in the Interior Plateau and southwestern Appalachians. Being an entirely terrestrial species, eggs are laid on land and juveniles undergo direct development. Although this species is abundant in Alabama, populations may still be threatened by habitat fragmentation, or loss of habitat altogether due to deforestation and agriculture.

15) Seepage salamander (Desmognathus aeneus)

Seepage salamander with eggs
The seepage salamander is protected in Alabama and primarily occurs in the west-central area of the state. Leila Dasher / CC BY 4.0
  • Native to Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Order: Urodela
  • Conservation status: Near threatened

The seepage salamander is very small, measuring just 3 – 5 cm (1.2 – 2 in) in length, with females generally being slightly smaller than males. This species occurs in west-central Alabama, with individuals being found in the Fall Line Hills. Some populations are also found in east Alabama above the Fall Line Hills.

Seepage salamanders are terrestrial and thrive in temperate forests interspersed with rivers and streams. They experience very little competition with other salamanders, as most other species either live in closer proximity to water or have an entirely aquatic lifestyle. They forage nocturnally, feeding on a varied diet including springtails, insect larvae, mites, and nematodes. When they encounter one of their natural predators, such as the ringneck snake, they become motionless.

Desmognathus aeneus is a protected species in Alabama, and much of the area occupied by this species is in the Talladega National Forest, so these salamanders can avoid habitat loss to some extent. Conservation efforts should focus on the maintenance and protection of the riparian zone, and the minimization of damage caused by tree felling.

16) Tennessee cave salamander (Gyrinophilus palleucus)

Tennessee cave salamander in water
Tennessee cave salamanders do not have a wide range at all; they are confined to pools in limestone caves in Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. Dean Stavrides / CC BY 4.0
  • Native to the southern Appalachian Mountains in Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Order: Urodela
  • Conservation status: Threatened

The Tennessee cave salamander has a very restricted range, being confined to pools within limestone caves in Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia. In Alabama, it is found in just twenty locations, all of which are part of the Tennessee River drainage system. This species reaches lengths of around 15 cm (6 in), and is neotenic, meaning that it retains juvenile features into adulthood. For example, adult Tennessee cave salamanders possess external gills and live a solely aquatic lifestyle, which is characteristic of the juvenile phase in many other salamander species.

Metamorphosis is possible in this species, but in the wild individuals who undergo this change do not live for long afterward, and this is a very rare occurrence. Stimulating the salamanders to metamorphose in the laboratory produced the same anatomical changes as in other species: resorption of external gills and tail fin, formation of eyelids, and a change in skin coloration, to a mottled appearance.

A study into the diet of Tennessee cave salamanders found that their stomachs contained isopods, oligochaetes, and mayfly larvae. This species has a lower metabolic rate than its relatives on the surface, reducing the pressure for it to locate food in the cave systems. Very little is known about the ecology of this species, and thus it is difficult to protect or provide conservation strategies for it.

17) Mississippi slimy salamander (Plethodon mississippi)

Juvenile Mississippi slimy salamander on leaf
Mississippi slimy salamanders are known for being flexible when it comes to their habitat. evangrimes / CC BY 4.0
  • Native to southwest Kentucky, western Tennessee, western Alabama, and Mississippi
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Order: Urodela
  • Conservation status: Least concern

The Mississippi slimy salamander’s range within Alabama comprises the Coastal Plain, to the north of the Alabama River, and the western section of the southwest Appalachians. Individuals may reach lengths of 10 – 17 cm (4 – 7 in), and are blue-black, with many white or yellow spots adorning the back and tail.

This species shows great adaptability in terms of the habitat it occupies, with reports of it being found in hardwood forests, pine forests, caves, and even rubbish piles. They typically feed on insects, although they will consume other invertebrates as well. Territoriality is a well-established behavior in the Mississippi slimy salamander; individuals may monopolize tunnels, which provide them with spaces from which to forage and in which to hide from predators.

As in the other species of slimy salamander, Mississippi slimy salamanders produce a sticky substance to deter predators. However, this isn’t always effective, and this salamander falls prey to a number of different animals, including cave salamanders, shrews, and garter snakes.

18) Apalachicola dusky salamander (Desmognathus apalachicola)

Apalachicola dusky salamander
Apalachicola dusky salamanders are semi-aquatic with brown or grey bodies. Leila Dasher / CC BY 4.0
  • Endemic to Alabama, Florida, and Georgia
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Order: Urodela
  • Conservation status: Least concern

The Apalachicola dusky salamander is semi-aquatic, residing at the edges of streams in hardwood forests. It reaches about 10 cm (4 in) in length and is brown or grey in color. In Alabama, its range is restricted to the southeast of the Coastal Plain, in the Choctawhatchee and Chattahoochee River drainages.

Although the overall conservation status of this species is of least concern, in Alabama it is considered a moderate concern. Populations are susceptible to decline, potentially due to factors such as acid rain, disease, or damage by feral pigs, which eat plants, change soil composition, and may also eat salamanders.

Suggested solutions for the conservation and management of the Apalachicola dusky salamander include the maintenance of stream and forest habitats to reduce siltation and reducing fragmentation of habitats.

19) Valentine’s southern dusky salamander (Desmognathus valentinei)

Valentine's southern dusky salamander
Valentine’s southern dusky salamander was only recently declared a subspecies of the southern dusky salamander. evangrimes / CC BY 4.0
  • Native to the eastern Gulf Coastal Plain
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Order: Urodela
  • Conservation status: Least concerned

Valentine’s southern dusky salamanders are grey or brown, with a red dorsal region extending down the tail. Usually 8 – 12 cm (3 – 5 in) in length, it inhabits alluvial streams and lowland swamps, where it feeds on various invertebrates.

This species is very closely related to the southern dusky salamander (Desmognathus auriculatus), and has only recently been named as a subspecies. The speciation between these two groups may be due to habitat fragmentation by rivers or busy roads, which these salamanders are unable to cross safely.

Research has found that Desmognathus valentinei often sheds before, during, or after mating. This is theorized to be due to potential damage to the skin, or transfer of foreign microbes, although this remains largely untested. Courtship is fairly elaborate in this species, involving a ‘dance’ that may last up to seven minutes.

20) Brownback salamander (Eurycea aquatica)

Brownback salamander in net
Male and female brownback salamanders can be identified by their head shape – males have broader skulls. Alina Martin / CC BY 4.0
  • Native to Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Order: Urodela
  • Conservation status: Vulnerable

Brownback salamanders are around 3 – 4 cm (1.2 – 1.6 in) in length, and as the name suggests, are typically dark brown in color. Males and females may be distinguished by the shape of the head, with males having broader skulls. These salamanders typically reside in woodland springs, with a particular preference for those plentiful in watercress. The distribution of this species in Alabama is concentrated around the north-central Alabama Ridge and Valley, and the Cumberland Plateau.

This species reproduces between January and March, constructing nests underneath rocks or logs. Both males and females have been recorded as attending nests, with both parents in attendance in some cases – although more research is needed in this area, as this bi-parental attendance could be a signal that mating is yet to take place.

Potential threats to brownback salamanders include excessive collection by herpetologists, and limited habitat availability due to the intensification of agriculture, development, and pollution of springs. Habitat protection and continued surveying of the species have been proposed as conservation strategies.

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