Santeetlah Dusky Salamander

Desmognathus santeetlah

The Santeetlah Dusky Salamander occurs in the higher elevations of the Great Smoky and Unicoi Mountains of east Tennessee.

Description: A medium-sized salamander (2.5 to 4.0 inches in length) with greenish-brown dorsum. Some specimens have a subdued pattern while others have small red spots enclosed by dark borders. A light yellow wash on the belly and under limbs and tail. Also, has a yellow line from the eye to the angle of the jaw. Tails are moderately keeled.

Similar Species:

Habitat: Found along small streams flowing through high elevation forests and on wet rock faces.

Diet: Small, aquatic invertebrates.

Breeding information: Females lay and brood an average of 17-20 eggs under moss, on top of rotting logs, or in the soil very close to streams.

Status in Tennessee: This appears to be common in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which contains a significant portion of their population. They may be vulnerable to effects from acid precipitation. Also, maybe vulnerable to mining and timber harvesting outside of the park.

Fun Facts:

  • ‘Santeetlah' is thought to mean "blue water" in the Cherokee language.
  • Santeetlah Dusky Salamanders have an elaborate courtship display, as do most other lungless salamanders, described as a "tail-straddle walk."

Best places to see in Tennessee: Higher elevation small streams in the Great Smoky Mountains. 

Black-bellied Salamander