Desmognathus ocoee - Nicholls, 1949
Ocoee Salamander
Other English Common Names: Ocoee salamander
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Desmognathus ocoee Nicholls, 1949 (TSN 550243)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.102721
Element Code: AAAAD03140
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., and M. J. Mahoney. 1996. Patterns of genetic differentiation in salamanders of the Desmognathus ochrophaeus complex (Amphibia: Plethodontidae). Herpetological Monographs 10:1-41.
Concept Reference Code: A96TIL01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Desmognathus ocoee
Taxonomic Comments: Desmognathus ocoee formerly was included in D. ochrophaeus. Based on patterns of allozyme variation, Tilley and Mahoney (1996) split D. ochrophaeus into four species: D. ochrophaeus, D. carolinensis, D. ocoee, and D. orestes. With D. apalachicolae and D. imitator, these make up the D. ochrophaeus complex.

Populations on the main mountain ranges inhabited by this species are well differentiated genetically, and some populations have developed behavioral differences (Petranka 1998). Highton (2000) reviewed available allozyme data and concluded that D. ocoee may include multiple species. Desmognathus ocoee has one fixed or nearly fixed allozyme that distinguishes it in paired comparisons with other members of the complex (Tilley and Mahoney 1996, Petranka 1998).

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. The authors determined that populations from the upper Apalachicola River drainage (presumed to be Desmognathus ocoee) and Piedmont form a strongly supported clade with D. apalachicolae. However, the authors concluded that taxonomic reassignments of the Apalachicola headwaters populations are premature until comparisons with topotypic material of D. ocoee have been completed.
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 23Aug2004
Global Status Last Changed: 16Oct2001
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Occurs in two disjunct areas: (1) northeastern Alabama and (2) eastern North Carolina, western Tennessee, western South Carolina, and northern Georgia; abundant; secure.
Nation: United States
National Status: N5 (10Nov2000)

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 Alabama (S2), Georgia (S5), North Carolina (S4), South Carolina (SNR), Tennessee (S3)

Other Statuses

IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 5000-200,000 square km (about 2000-80,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Two allopatric units: (1) Appalachian Plateau of northeastern Alabama and (2) southwestern Blue Ridge Physiographic Province south of the Pigeon River (the latter including the Balsam, Blue Ridge, Cowee, Great Smoky, Nanatahala, Snowbird, Tusquitee, and Unicoi mountains and low-elevation populations in the gorges of the Hiwassee, Ocoee, and Tugaloo rivers), Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee; at least some of the populations in the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee may represent this species (Tilley and Mahoney 1996). Elevational range at least 274-1,829 m (based on data in Tilley and Mahoney 1996).

Number of Occurrences: 21 - 80
Number of Occurrences Comments: Number of occurrences is unknown but likely falls within the indicated range.

Population Size: 100,000 to >1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: This is one of the most common salamander species in the southern Appalachian Mountains (Petranka 1998).

Viability/Integrity Comments: Probably most occurrences have good viability.

Overall Threat Impact: Low

Short-term Trend: Decline of <30% to relatively stable
Short-term Trend Comments: Likely stable for most or all criteria; decline likely slight if any. In the southern Appalachians, populations fluctuated over a 20-year period (early 1970s to early 1990s), with no apparent long-term trend (Hairston and Wiley 1993). [Need to verify that this pertains to D. OCOEE.]

Long-term Trend: Decline of <30% to increase of 25%
Long-term Trend Comments: Likely relatively stable.

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable

Environmental Specificity: Narrow to broad.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Protection Needs: Populations in the southern Appalachians are in minimal need of protection, whereas populations in northern Alabama may be vulnerable to environmental disturbance, so their conservation status may merit study (Petranka 1998).

Distribution
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Global Range: (5000-200,000 square km (about 2000-80,000 square miles)) Two allopatric units: (1) Appalachian Plateau of northeastern Alabama and (2) southwestern Blue Ridge Physiographic Province south of the Pigeon River (the latter including the Balsam, Blue Ridge, Cowee, Great Smoky, Nanatahala, Snowbird, Tusquitee, and Unicoi mountains and low-elevation populations in the gorges of the Hiwassee, Ocoee, and Tugaloo rivers), Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee; at least some of the populations in the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee may represent this species (Tilley and Mahoney 1996). Elevational range at least 274-1,829 m (based on data in Tilley and Mahoney 1996).

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: endemic to a single nation

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AL, GA, NC, SC, TN

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: IUCN, Conservation International, NatureServe, and collaborators, 2004


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
AL Blount (01009)*, Cullman (01043)*, DeKalb (01049)*, Etowah (01055)*, Jackson (01071), Madison (01089)*, Marshall (01095)*, Morgan (01103)*
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
03 Mulberry (03160109)+*, Locust (03160111)+*
06 Guntersville Lake (06030001)+, Wheeler Lake (06030002)+*
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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General Description: Dorsal coloration is highly variable (see Petranka 1998).
Reproduction Comments: Mating occurs in spring and late summer-fall, and individual adult females reproduce annually in most populations (Martof and Rose 1963, Forester 1977, Huheey and Brandon 1973). Egg laying occurs in July and early August or as late as early September (Martof and Rose 1963). Females attend their clutches through hatching, and this may contribute significantly to nesting success (Tilley 1972; Forester 1979, 1984; Petranka 1998). Multiple females often nest close together (Pope 1924, Martof and Rose 1963, Forester 1977). Eggs hatch after about 52-74 days in North carolina (Forester 1977, Tilley 1972). In western North Carolina, the larval period extends 9-10 months, August-September to May-June (Bruce 1989). The larval period lasts at least 9 months in rock face populations (Huheey and Brandon 1973). Sexual maturity is attained in 3-4 years in males, 3-5 years in females (Castanet et al. 1996, Bruce et al. 2002). Most individuals do not live more than 7 years (Petranka 1998).
Ecology Comments: Population density on rock faces in western North Carolina was 6-7 adults per square meter (Tilley 1980), 10-12 salamanders per square meter (Bernardo 1994) and 11-22 adults and 7-19 juveniles per square meter (Huheey and Brandon 1973). Rock-face densities generally exceed those of streamside habitats (Petranka 1998).

Individuals in a rock-face population averaged 40-45 cm between successive captures.

Annual survival rate of adults was 63-74 percent in two populations studied by Tilley (1980).

Predators include birds, small snakes, and large salamanders (Bruce 1979, Hairston 1986, Formanowicz and Brodie 1993).

Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Riverine Habitat(s): CREEK, SPRING/SPRING BROOK
Palustrine Habitat(s): Bog/fen, Riparian
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Bare rock/talus/scree, Cliff, Forest - Conifer, Forest - Hardwood, Forest - Mixed
Special Habitat Factors: Benthic, Burrowing in or using soil, Fallen log/debris
Habitat Comments: Habitat ranges from low gorges to the highest mountaintops in the Great Smoky Mountains (Petranka 1998). The species often is abundant on wet rock faces. At lower elevations and in winter, this salamander usually concentrates near seepage areas, springs, and small streams; it may range into adjacent wooded areas in wet weather. It is more terrestrial at higher elevations and is a characteristic inhabitant of the floor of spruce-fir forests. Individuals frequently climb plants on rainy nights (Petranka 1998). Adults and juveniles congregate in seepages and underground retreats in winter (Shealy 1975). Eggs are laid in wet rock crevices or under rocks, logs, or moss in seepage areas or near small streams, usually at or slightly above the water surface (Pope 1924, Martof and Rose 1963, Forester 1977, Bruce 1990, Petranka 1998).
Adult Food Habits: Carnivore, Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Carnivore, Invertivore
Food Comments: Metamorphosed individuals eat various small terrestrial invertebrates and salamander eggs and juveniles (Martof and Rose 1963, Tilley 1972, Huheey and Brandon 1973, Forester 1981, Bruce 1990).
Adult Phenology: Circadian, Hibernates/aestivates
Immature Phenology: Circadian, Hibernates/aestivates
Phenology Comments: Activity occurs at all seasons in mild weather. Annual activity season (spring-fall) is prolonged for populations in seepage areas. Most activity is nocturnal, but diurnal activity also is common, especially on cloudy days (Petranka 1998). Peak surface activity in South Carolina occurs around midnight (Shealy 1975).
Colonial Breeder: Y
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary Not yet assessed
Help
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: 23Aug2004
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Hammerson, G.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 10Nov2000
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
Help
  • Beamer, D. A., and T. Lamb. 2008. Dusky salamanders (Desmognathus, Plethodontidae) from the Coastal Plain: multiple independent lineages and their bearing on the molecular phylogeny of the genus. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 47:143-153.

  • Bernardo, J. 1994. Experimental analysis of allocation in two divergent, natural salamander populations. American Naturalist 143:14-38.

  • Blackburn, L., P. Nanjappa, and M. J. Lannoo. 2001. An Atlas of the Distribution of U.S. Amphibians. Copyright, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana, USA.

  • Bruce, R. C. 1979. Evolution of paedogenesis in salamanders of the genus GYRINOPHILUS. Evolution 33:998-1000.

  • Bruce, R. C. 1989. Life history of the salamander DESMOGNATHUS MONTICOLA, with a comparison of the larval periods of D. MONTICOLA and D. OCHROPHAEUS. Herpetologica 45:144-155.

  • Bruce, R. C. 1990. An explanation for differences in body size between two desmognathine salamanders. Copeia 1990:1-9.

  • Bruce, R. C., J. Castanet, and H. Francillon-Viellot. 2002. Skeletochronological analysis of variation in age structure, body size, and life history in three species of desmognathine salamanders. Herpetologica 58:181-193.

  • Castanet, J., H. Francillon-Vieillot, and R. C. Bruce. 1996. Age estimation in desmognathine salamanders assessed by skeletochronology. Herpetologica 52:160-171.

  • Conant, R., and J. T. Collins. 1998. A field guide to reptiles and amphibians: eastern and central North America. Third edition, expanded. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, Massachusetts. 616 pp.

  • Crother, B. I. (editor). 2008. Scientific and standard English names of amphibians and reptiles of North America north of Mexico, with comments regarding confidence in our understanding. Sixth edition. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles Herpetological Circular 37:1-84.

  • Forester, D. C. 1977. Comments on the female reproductive cycle and philopatry by DESMOGNATHUS OCHROPHAEUS (Amphibia, Urodela, Plethodontidae). Journal of Herpetology 11:311-316.

  • Forester, D. C. 1979. The adaptiveness of parental care in DESMOGNATHUS OCHROPHAEUS (Urodela: Plethodontidae). Copeia 1979:332-341.

  • Forester, D. C. 1981. Parental care in the salamander DESMOGNATHUS OCHROPHAEUS: female activity pattern and trophic behavior. Journal of Herpetology 15:29-34.

  • Forester, D. C. 1984. Brooding behavior by the mountain dusky salamander: can the female's presence reduce clutch desiccation? Herpetologica 40:105-109.

  • Formanowicz, D. R., Jr., and E. D. Brodie, Jr. 1993. Size-mediated predation pressure in a salamander community. Herpetologica 49:265-270.

  • Hairston, N. G. 1986. Species packing in DESMOGNATHUS salamanders: experimental demonstration of predation and competition. American Naturalist 127:266-291.

  • Hairston, N. G., Sr., and R. H. Wiley. 1993. No decline in salamander (Amphibia: Caudata) populations: a twenty-year study in the southern Appalachians. Brimleyana 18:59-64.

  • Highton, R. 2000. Detecting cryptic species using allozyme data. Pages 215-241 in R. C. Bruce, R. G. Jaeger, and L. D. Houck, editors. The biology of plethodontid salamanders. Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, New York. xiii + 485 pp.

  • Huheey, J. E., and R. A. Brandon. 1973. Rock-face populations of the mountain salamander, Desmognathus ochrophaeus, in North Carolina. Ecological Monographs 43:59-77.

  • Martof, B.S. and F.L. Rose. 1963. Geographic variation in southern populations of Desmognathus ochrophaeus. The American Midland Naturalist 69:376-425.

  • Mirarchi, R. E., M. A. Bailey, T. M. Haggerty, and T. L. Best, editors. 2004. Alabama wildlife. Volume 3. Imperiled amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. The University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, Alabama. 225 pages.

  • Mirarchi, R.E., editor. 2004. Alabama Wildlife. Volume 1. A checklist of vertebrates and selected invertebrates: aquatic mollusks, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. The University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, Alabama. 209 pages.

  • Mount, R. H. 1975. The reptiles and amphibians of Alabama. Auburn University Agricultural Experiment Station, Auburn, Alabama. vii + 347 pages.

  • Mount, R. H., editor. 1986. Vertebrate animals of Alabama in need of special attention. Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station, Auburn University, Alabama. 124 pages.

  • NatureServe. Central Databases. Arlington, Virginia. U.S.A. Online. Available: http://www.natureserve.org/explorer/

  • Petranka, J. W. 1998. Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.

  • Petranka, J. W., M. E. Eldridge, and K. E. Haley. 1993. Effects of timber harvesting on southern Appalachian salamanders. Conservation Biology 7(2):363-370.

  • Pope, C. H. 1924. Notes on North Carolina salamanders, with especial reference to the egg-laying habits of LEUROGNATHUS and DESMOGNATHUS. American Museum Novitates 153:1-15.

  • SEYLE, W., AND G. K. WILLIAMSON. 1988 (IN PREP). REPTILES AND AMPHIBIANS OF GEORGIA: RANGE MAPS

  • Shealy, R. M. 1975. Factors influencing activity in the salamanders DESMOGNATHUS OCHROPHAEUS and D. MONTICOLA (Plethodontidae). Herpetologica 31:94-102.

  • Tilley, S. G. 1972. Aspects of parental care and embryonic development in DESMOGNATHUS OCHROPHAEUS. Copeia 1972:532-540.

  • Tilley, S. G. 1980. Life histories and comparative demography of two salamander populations. Copeia 1980:806-821.

  • Tilley, S. G., and M. J. Mahoney. 1996. Patterns of genetic differentiation in salamanders of the Desmognathus ochrophaeus complex (Amphibia: Plethodontidae). Herpetological Monographs 10:1-41.

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