Plethodon shenandoah - Highton and Worthington, 1967
Shenandoah Salamander
Other English Common Names: Shenandoah salamander
Synonym(s): Plethodon nettingi shenandoah
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Plethodon shenandoah Highton and Worthington, 1967 (TSN 173669)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.101967
Element Code: AAAAD12170
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Amphibians - Salamanders
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Amphibia Caudata Plethodontidae Plethodon
Genus Size: D - Medium to large genus (21+ species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Frost, D. R. 1985. Amphibian species of the world. A taxonomic and geographical reference. Allen Press, Inc., and The Association of Systematics Collections, Lawrence, Kansas. v + 732 pp.
Concept Reference Code: B85FRO01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Plethodon shenandoah
Taxonomic Comments: Plethodon shenandoah formerly was regarded as a subspecies of P. richmondi, later as subspecies of P. nettingi; also formerly synonymized with P. cinereus (Highton 1988). P. shenandoah and P. hubrichti were elevated from subspecies to species status by Highton and Larson (1979). Whether P. hubrichti and P. shenandoah merit recognition as species distinct from P. nettingi is debatable (Petranka 1998), but these species generally have been accepted.

Plethodon cinereus and P. shenandoah hybridize at a low level on the east side of the Hawksbill Mountain talus slope (Wynn and Highton, in Mitchell 1999).

Mahoney (2001) used mtDNA data to examine phylogenetic relationships of western and eastern Plethodon and Aneides. She found strong support for eastern Plethodon as a clade, but monophyly of Aneides was only weakly supported in some analyses, though "the monophyly of this clade is not in doubt." Analyses indicated that Plethodon stormi and P. elongatus are clearly sister taxa, and P. dunni and P. vehiculum also are well-supported sister taxa. Plethodon larselli and P. vandykei appear to be closely related, whereas P. neomexicanus did not group with any other lineage. All analyses yielded a paraphyletic Plethodon but constraint analyses did not allow rejection of a monophyletic Plethodon. Mahoney recommended continued recognition of Aneides as a valid genus and adoption of the metataxon designation for Plethodon*, indicating this status with an asterisk. (A metataxon is a group of lineages for which neither monophyly nor paraphyly can be demonstrated.)
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G1
Global Status Last Reviewed: 15Apr2005
Global Status Last Changed: 01Nov2001
Rounded Global Status: G1 - Critically Imperiled
Reasons: Extremely limited range and habitat, restricted to Virginia; threatened by acid deposition and effects of introduced insect pests.
Nation: United States
National Status: N1 (05Nov1996)

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 Virginia (S1)

Other Statuses

U.S. Endangered Species Act (USESA): LE: Listed endangered (18Aug1989)
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Lead Region: R5 - Northeast
IUCN Red List Category: VU - Vulnerable

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: <100 square km (less than about 40 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Three isolated populations on Hawksbill Mountain, The Pinnacles, and Stony Man Mountain (including Bushytop and a subpopulation below Hemlock Springs Overlook), Shenandoah National Park, Page and Madison counties, Virginia; generally above 800 m (914-1143 m). A report of P. shenandoah-like salamanders from three localities farther south in the Blue Ridge Physiographic Province (Thurow 1999), which would represent a range extension for P. shenandoah of approximately 90 km from its nearest known locality, was not confirmed by subsequent genetic studies (Sites et al. 2004).

Number of Occurrences: 1 - 5
Number of Occurrences Comments: Three occurrences.

Population Size Comments: Abundance is unknown.

Overall Threat Impact: Unknown
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Range may be restricted by competition (interspecific territoriality) with P. cinereus; cinereus excludes shenandoah from moist deep soil adjacent to talus occupied by the latter (Griffis and Jaeger 1992). Deterioration of talus and accumulation of organic matter may allow incursion of P. cinereus into P. shenandoah habitat (53 FR 37815). Recent work indicates that human-related factors, including acid deposition (direct effects and vegetation defoliation) and tree defoliation caused by introduced insect pests such as gypsy moths and woolly adelgids, may be more important threats (draft recovery plan, 1994). Changes in climate could impact already marginal habitat and exceed salamander's tolerance.

Short-term Trend: Relatively Stable (<=10% change)
Short-term Trend Comments: Apparently has not declined compared to historical status, and probably is not declining significantly at the present time (R. Highton, pers. comm., 1995).

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

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable

Environmental Specificity: Very narrow to narrow.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Inventory Needs: Survey Blue Ridge forested talus between Rockfish Gap and James River.

Protection Needs: Review needs with National Park Service.

Distribution
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Global Range: (<100 square km (less than about 40 square miles)) Three isolated populations on Hawksbill Mountain, The Pinnacles, and Stony Man Mountain (including Bushytop and a subpopulation below Hemlock Springs Overlook), Shenandoah National Park, Page and Madison counties, Virginia; generally above 800 m (914-1143 m). A report of P. shenandoah-like salamanders from three localities farther south in the Blue Ridge Physiographic Province (Thurow 1999), which would represent a range extension for P. shenandoah of approximately 90 km from its nearest known locality, was not confirmed by subsequent genetic studies (Sites et al. 2004).

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 state or province

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States VA

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)
VA Madison (51113), Page (51139), Rappahannock (51157)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
02 South Fork Shenandoah (02070005)+, Rapidan-Upper Rappahannock (02080103)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: A 2-4-inch lungless salamander; striped or unstriped.
Reproduction Comments: No aquatic larval stage.
Ecology Comments: Solitary, but occasionally in fairly dense populations.
Habitat Type: Terrestrial
Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Bare rock/talus/scree
Special Habitat Factors: Burrowing in or using soil, Fallen log/debris
Habitat Comments: Highest mountains of Shenadoah National Park; steep, northerly facing talus slopes in forested situations. Tolerant of relatively dry conditions. Mostly confined to pockets of soil and/or vegetative debris. Apparently, talus is suboptimal habitat for P. shenandoah, but it is excluded from forest habitat through competition with P. cinereus. Terrestrial breeder.
Adult Food Habits: Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Invertivore
Food Comments: Undoubtedly eats various small terrestrial invertebrates.
Adult Phenology: Nocturnal
Immature Phenology: Nocturnal
Phenology Comments: Activity and movements are restricted during dry periods.
Length: 10 centimeters
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Management Requirements: The National Park Service has prepared a management plan for the species.
Monitoring Requirements: Abundance and distribution of P. SHENANDOAH and P. CINEREUS should be carefully monitored.
Management Research Needs: Draft recovery plan became available in 1994 (Jacobs 1994); called for further study of habitat and distribution, population monitoring, and determination and amelioration of threats.
Biological Research Needs: Determine possible hybridization levels with Plethodon cinerus.
Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Terrestrial 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 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; major river or lake; other totally inappropriate habitat that the salamanders cannot traverse.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 1 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 3 km
Separation Justification: These salamanders rarely successfully cross roadways that have heavy traffic volume at night, when most movements occur. Rivers and lakes pose formidable impediments to movement and generally function as barriers, with the effect increasing with river and lake size. Treatment of these as barriers or unsuitable habitat is a subjective determination.

Compared to larger ambystomatid salamanders, the movements of plethodontids are poorly documented, but it is clear that home ranges tend to be very small (e.g., Marvin 2001), on the order of a few meters to a few dozen meters in diameter. For example, Welsh and Lind (1992) found that over six months, 66% of Plethodon elongatus males and 80% of females recaptured were in the same 7.5 x 7.5 m grid, and the maximum distance moved was 36.2 m. D. Clayton (pers. comm 1998) estimated that average home ranges may be as small as one square meter. Yet, on occasion, dispersing plethodontids likely travel at least several hundred meters. The separation distance for unsuitable habitat reflects the nominal minimum value of 1 km. The separation distance for suitable habitat reflects the limited movements of these salamanders, tempered by their tendency to occur throughout patches of suitable habitat and the likely low probability that two locations separated by a gap of less than a few kilometers of suitable habitat would represent independent occurrences over the long term.

Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): .1 km
Date: 10Sep2004
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: 04Apr2011
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Pague, C. A., J. C. Mitchell, and G. Hammerson
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 31Mar1995
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
  • Behler, J. L., and F. W. King. 1979. The Audubon Society field guide to North American reptiles and amphibians. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 719 pp.

  • 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.

  • Bury, R. B., C. K. Dodd, Jr., and G. M. Fellers. 1980. Conservation of the Amphibia of the United States: a review. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D.C., Resource Publication 134. 34 pp.

  • Frost, D. R. 1985. Amphibian species of the world. A taxonomic and geographical reference. Allen Press, Inc., and The Association of Systematics Collections, Lawrence, Kansas. v + 732 pp.

  • Griffis, M. R., and R. G. Jaeger. 1992. Competitive exclusion of the endangered Shenandoah salamander: field test of the hypothesis. Abstract, 6th Annual Meeting of the Society for Conservation Biology, p. 66.

  • Highton, R. 1988. Plethodon shenandoah. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles. 413:1-2.

  • Jacobs, J. 1994. Shenandoah salamander (Plethodon shenandoah Highton and Worthington). In Recovery Plan, Technical/Agency Draft, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region Five.

  • Mahoney, M. J. 2001. Molecular systematics of Plethodon and Aneides (Caudata: Plethodontini): phylogenetic analysis of an old and rapid radiation. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 18:174-188.

  • Mitchell, J. 2003. Review of draft Red List assessment for Plethodon shenandoah. Unpublished report submitted to NatureServe. 3 pp.

  • Mitchell, J. C. 1991. Amphibians and reptiles. Pages 411-76 in K. Terwilliger (coordinator). Virginia's Endangered Species: Proceedings of a Symposium. McDonald and Woodward Publishing Company, Blacksburg, Virginia.

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

  • Sites, J. W., Jr., M. Morando, R. Highton, F. Huber, and R. E. Jung. 2004. Phylogenetic relationships of the endangered Shenandoah salamander (Plethodon shenandoah) and other salamanders of the Plethodon cinereus group (Caudata: Plethodontidae). Journal of Herpetology 38:96-105.

  • Sites, Jr, J.W., Morando, M., Highton, R., Huber, F. and Jung, R.E. 2004. Phylogenetic relationships of the endangered Shenandoah Salamander (Plethodon shenandoah) and other salamanders of the Plethodon cinereus Group (Caudata: Plethodontidae). Journal of Herpetology. 38:96-105.

  • Thurow, G. R. 1999. New Plethodon shenandoah localities and their significance. Bulletin of the Chicago Herpetological Society 34:269-273.

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 1989d. Endangered and threatened wildlife and plants; determination of threatened status for the Cheat Mountain salamander and endangered status for the Shenandoah salamander. Federal Register 54(159):34464.

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 1990. Endangered and threatened species recovery program: report to Congress. 406 pp.

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