Four-toed Salamander, Hemidactylium scutatum
Considered one of the easiest salamanders to identify in TN, the Four-toed Salamander is found sporadically from the Western Highland Rim eastward to the state border.
Description: A small salamander (2.0 to 4.0 inches in length) with a noticeable constriction at base of tail and four toes on each foot. Dorsum is rusty brown to grayish with small dark flecks. Belly is white with conspicuous black spots.
Similar Species: None.
Habitat: Found in sphagnum or moss bogs, shallow wetlands, forested wetlands, vernal pools, and headwater streams.
Diet: Small invertebrates, such as worms, spiders, and mites.
Breeding information: Mating begins in fall. Females migrate to ponds, bogs, or streams in winter where they lay between 20 and 80 eggs in moss clumps or rotting logs. Females often share nests; solitary nests are brooded by the female. After hatching, larvae find their way to water where they will metamorphose in 20-40 days.
Status in Tennessee: In 1994, listed as “In Need of Management” by TWRA. Appears to be uncommon and spotty across its range, but doing well in protected areas like Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
- Four-toed Salamanders are considered glacial relicts. These are species which have survived from the ice age in isolated habitats due to favorable microclimatic and soil conditions in their habitats.
- Best places to see in Tennessee: Sphagnum or moss bogs in Great Smoky Mountains.