Desmognathus fuscus - (Green, 1818)
Northern Dusky Salamander
Other English Common Names: Dusky Salamander, northern dusky salamander
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Desmognathus fuscus (Rafinesque, 1820) (TSN 173633)
French Common Names: salamandre sombre du Nord
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.859647
Element Code: AAAAD03040
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Amphibians - Salamanders
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Amphibia Caudata Plethodontidae Desmognathus
Genus Size: C - Small genus (6-20 species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Tilley, S. G., R. L. Eriksen, and L. A. Katz. 2008. Systematics of dusky salamanders, Desmognathus (Caudata: Plethodontidae), in the mountain and Piedmont regions of Virginia and North Carolina, USA. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 152:115-130.
Concept Reference Code: A08TIL01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Desmognathus fuscus
Taxonomic Comments: Populations in the Gulf Coastal Plain of Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, formerly included in D. fuscus, were described as a new species, D. apalachicolae, based on patterns of allozyme variation (Karlin and Guttman 1986, Means and Karlin 1989).

Desmognathus fuscus hybridizes extensively with D. santeetlah along the northwestern escarpment of Great Smoky Mountains; recognition of santeetlah as distinct species is questionable (Tilley 1988, Petranka 1998).

Desmognathus fuscus hybridizes with D. ochrophaeus in some areas, with various levels of genetic introgression (e.g., see Sharbel et al., Copeia 1995:466-469).

Titus and Larson (1997) examined mtDNA variation in desmognathine salamanders and, considering also allozyme and morphological data and a sister-group relationship between D. santeetlah and Desmognathus fuscus conanti, concluded that D. f. conanti warranted recognition as a distinct species. However, Titus and Larson did not examine the genetic relationships among populations in the broad zone of intergradation or contact between fuscus and conanti (Rossman 1958, Barbour 1971, Conant and Collins 1991, Redmond and Scott 1996), and the two sampled populations of D. fuscus fuscus from Vermont and North Carolina did not cluster together, so the status of conanti as a distinct species remained uncertain. Folkerts (1968) and Mount (1975) concluded that in Alabama, where only conanti is supposed to occur (Rossman 1958, Conant and Collins 1991), conanti represents one of several color patterns and that conanti should be regarded as just one of several variants within the subspecies fuscus. However, more recently, Bonett (2002) examined the contact zone between fuscus and conanti using allozyme and color pattern data and concluded that D. fuscus and D. conanti should be regarded as distinct species, based on parapatry in western Kentucky with only a minor amount of hybridization. Bonett (2002) suggested that additional species may be present in the D. fuscus complex (in both fuscus and conanti). In particular, Bonett noted that D. conanti might be a composite of two species, one in northeastern Alabama to South Carolina and the other in western Kentucky to northern Alabama and southwest-central Mississippi. Bonett mentioned ongoing studies that may be useful in resolving the taxonomy of this group.

Beamer and Lamb (2008) examined mtDNA variation among Desmognathus populations in the Gulf and Atlantic coastal plains (and some nearby localities outside the Coastal Plain). Based on these genetic results, in conjunction with morphological observations, they concluded that the taxonomic and geographic scopes of several Desmognathus species should be modified from their traditional concepts, as follows:

Desmognathus conanti should be recognized as a distinct species (but not with the same range as the traditionally recognized subspecies D. fuscus conanti). However, the Desmognathus conanti clade includes Desmognathus santeetlah, which renders D. conanti paraphyletic, so further taxonomic revision is warranted.

Desmognathus auriculatus populations in the Coastal Plain of Georgia and northern Florida are not closely related to Desmognathus populations on the lower Coastal Plain of North Carolina and South Carolina. Additional Atlantic Coastal Plain populations previously regarded as D. auriculatus fall into clades containing D. fuscus or D. fuscus and D. carolinensis. Hence, further taxonomic changes are warranted.

Desmognathus planiceps of the Blue Ridge and Piedmont of Virginia (Tilley et al. 2008) formerly was included in D. fuscus.
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 10May2016
Global Status Last Changed: 16Oct2001
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Large range in eastern North America; often abundant; numerous stable populations; no pervasive major threats.
Nation: United States
National Status: N5 (05Nov1996)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N4 (08Aug2017)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Connecticut (S4), Delaware (S5), District of Columbia (S5), Georgia (S5), Indiana (S4), Kentucky (S5), Maine (S5), Maryland (S5), Massachusetts (S4S5), New Hampshire (S5), New Jersey (SNR), New York (S5), North Carolina (S5), Ohio (SNR), Pennsylvania (S5), Rhode Island (S4), South Carolina (SNR), Tennessee (S5), Vermont (S5), Virginia (S5), West Virginia (S5)
Canada New Brunswick (S3), Ontario (S1), Quebec (S3)

Other Statuses

Implied Status under the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC):E,NAR
Comments on COSEWIC: The species was considered a single unit and designated Not at Risk in April 1999. Split into two populations in May 2012. The Carolinian population was designated Endangered and the Quebec - New Brunswick population was designated Not at Risk in May 2012.
IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Range extends from southern New Brunswick, southeastern Quebec, and southern Ontario (Kamstra 1991) south to southeastern Indiana, western Kentucky, eastern Tennessee, and northeastern Georgia (Conant and Collins 1991, Titus and Larson 1996, Bonett 2002, Beamer and Lamb 2008). Populations south of this range, particularly on the Coastal Plain, are now regarded as a distinct species (D. conanti) (Titus and Larson 1996, Crother et al. 2000, Bonett 2002) and may include additional unnamed species (Beamer and Lamb 2008).

Number of Occurrences: > 300
Number of Occurrences Comments: Represented by many and/or large occurrences throughout the range.

Population Size: 100,000 to >1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but surely exceeds 100,000.

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Many to very many (41 to >125)

Overall Threat Impact: Low
Overall Threat Impact Comments: No major widespread threats.

Abundance reflects levels of habitat disturbance, including areas outside riparian buffer zones. For example, in North Carolina, abundance was strongly inversely proportional to the percentage of disturbed habitat in the entire headwater watershed but less affected by the percentage of disturbed habitat present within buffer zones (Willson and Dorcas 2003).

Short-term Trend: Relatively Stable (<=10% change)

Long-term Trend: Decline of <30% to increase of 25%

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable

Environmental Specificity: Moderate. Generalist or community with some key requirements scarce.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: (200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)) Range extends from southern New Brunswick, southeastern Quebec, and southern Ontario (Kamstra 1991) south to southeastern Indiana, western Kentucky, eastern Tennessee, and northeastern Georgia (Conant and Collins 1991, Titus and Larson 1996, Bonett 2002, Beamer and Lamb 2008). Populations south of this range, particularly on the Coastal Plain, are now regarded as a distinct species (D. conanti) (Titus and Larson 1996, Crother et al. 2000, Bonett 2002) and may include additional unnamed species (Beamer and Lamb 2008).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States CT, DC, DE, GA, IN, KY, MA, MD, ME, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, SC, TN, VA, VT, WV
Canada NB, ON, QC

Range Map
No map available.

Ecology & Life History
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Reproduction Comments: Courtship may occur both in fall and spring. Oviposition peaks in July in many areas. Clutch size often 10-30. Eggs attended by female. Larvae hatch in 5-9 weeks (Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio) or 10-13 weeks (Ohio), metamorphose 6-13 months later (in June or July in Ohio). Sexually mature in 2-3 years.
Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Riverine Habitat(s): CREEK, High gradient, Moderate gradient, Pool, Riffle, SPRING/SPRING BROOK
Palustrine Habitat(s): FORESTED WETLAND, Riparian
Special Habitat Factors: Benthic, Burrowing in or using soil, Fallen log/debris
Habitat Comments: Rock-strewn woodland streams, seepages, and springs in north; floodplains, sloughs, and mucky sites along upland streams in south. Usually near running or trickling water. Hides under leaves, rocks, or other objects in or near water, or in burrows. Eggs are laid near water under moss or rocks, in logs, and in stream-bank cavities. Larval stage usually aquatic.
Adult Food Habits: Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Invertivore
Food Comments: Feeds opportunistically on available small invertebrates, mostly terrestrial insects but also aquatic species.
Adult Phenology: Hibernates/aestivates, Nocturnal
Immature Phenology: Hibernates/aestivates, Nocturnal
Phenology Comments: May be active diurnally in dark wet weather. Active throughout year in some areas.
Length: 14 centimeters
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Aquatic/Wetland Plethodontid Salamanders

Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Occurrences are based on evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a given location. Such evidence minimally includes collection or reliable observation and documentation of one or more individuals (including larvae or eggs) in or near appropriate habitat where the species is presumed to be established and breeding.
Separation Barriers: Busy highway, especially with high traffic volume at night; other totally inappropriate habitat that the salamanders cannot traverse.
Alternate Separation Procedure: Separation distance for stream-dwelling species along riverine corridors: 10 stream km. Separation distance for other freshwater aquatic and wetland habitats: 3 km. Separation distance for upland habitat: 1 km.
Separation Justification: These salamanders rarely successfully cross roadways that have heavy traffic volume at night, when most movements occur. Salamanders in this Specs Group, except strictly subterranean species, tend to be able to traverse upland habitat when conditions are wet, and generally they can pass through atypical wetland and aquatic habitats to reach another patch of suitable habitat. However, Grover and Wilbur (2002) created replicated seeps at distances of 3, 15, and more than 30 m from streams or natural seeps and found that Desmognathus fuscus and Gyrinophilus porphyriticus colonized the new seeps at 3 m and 15 m but were rare or absent at new seeps more than 30 m from the nearest stream or natural seep.

Although these specifications do not include rivers as barriers, Adams and Beachy (2001) documented morphological variation among populations of Gyrinophilus porphyriticus in the southern Appalachian Mountains and found patterns "consistent with the hypothesis that large rivers restrict sizable gene flow." Large rivers probably function at least as unsuitable habitat for many species in this Specs Group.

Compared to larger ambystomatid salamanders, the movements of plethodontids are poorly documented, but home ranges likely tend to be very small, on the order of a few meters to a few dozen meters in length or diameter. Yet, on occasion, dispersing individuals likely travel at least several hundred meters, and stream-dwelling species likely disperse much farther along riverine corridors. Over a number of years, it is likely that these salamanders can spread multiple kilometers through suitable habitat.

Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): .1 km
Date: 28Oct2004
Author: Hammerson, G.
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 30Dec2010
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Hammerson, G.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 19Aug2002
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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"Data provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Bruce Patterson, Wes Sechrest, Marcelo Tognelli, Gerardo Ceballos, The Nature Conservancy-Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International-CABS, World Wildlife Fund-US, and Environment Canada-WILDSPACE."

Citation for Amphibian Range Maps of the Western Hemisphere:
IUCN, Conservation International, and NatureServe. 2004. Global Amphibian Assessment. IUCN, Conservation International, and NatureServe, Washington, DC and Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Acknowledgement Statement for Amphibian Range Maps of the Western Hemisphere:
"Data developed as part of the Global Amphibian Assessment and provided by IUCN-World Conservation Union, Conservation International and NatureServe."

NOTE: Full metadata for the Bird Range Maps of North America is available at:
http://www.natureserve.org/library/birdDistributionmapsmetadatav1.pdf.

Full metadata for the Mammal Range Maps of North America is available at:
http://www.natureserve.org/library/mammalsDistributionmetadatav1.pdf.

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