Plethodon websteri - Highton, 1979
Webster's Salamander
Other English Common Names: Webster's salamander
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Plethodon websteri Highton, 1979 (TSN 173673)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.100311
Element Code: AAAAD12210
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 websteri
Taxonomic Comments: Plethodon websteri formerly was confused with the P. dorsalis group, specifically the species now recognized as P. ventralis; the two species are morphologically similar but genetically distinct (Highton 1986).

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 was 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: G3G4
Global Status Last Reviewed: 06May2011
Global Status Last Changed: 06May2011
Rounded Global Status: G3 - Vulnerable
Reasons: Occurs disjunctly in five states of southeastern U.S.; stable to possibly declining in different areas of the range; moderately threatened by loss and degradation of habitat due to urbanization and silvicultural practices, but persists in second growth forest in most parts of the range.
Nation: United States
National Status: N3N4 (06May2011)

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 (S3), Georgia (S2), Louisiana (S1), Mississippi (S2), South Carolina (S2)

Other Statuses

IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 20,000-200,000 square km (about 8000-80,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Discontinuous range includes east-central Alabama and adjacent Georgia, with scattered, isolated populations in western South Carolina (Greenwood, Edgefield, and McCormick counties), southwestern Alabama, southern Louisiana, and Mississippi (Conant and Collins 1991, Highton 1986, Dundee and Rossman 1989, Herp Rev. 22:62; Petranka 1998). Occupies less than 10 acres in Louisiana (S. Shively, pers. comm., 1997). Elevational range is mostly or entirely below 400 meters.

Area of Occupancy: Unknown 4-km2 grid cells
Area of Occupancy Comments:  

Number of Occurrences: 81 - 300
Number of Occurrences Comments: Number of occurrences has not been determined using standardized criteria but likely there are at least several dozen. One documented site in excellent condition in Louisiana (S. Shively, pers. comm., 1997). Four sites mapped in Georgia, based on publication "Distribution of Amphibians and Reptiles in Georgia" (R. MacBeth, pers. comm., 1997). In Alabama, an estimated 101+ extant localities; difficult to distinguish from P. dorsalis, and the two species' distributions overlap; this may result in an overestimate of population numbers; condition of populations estimated to be 30% excellent, 20% good, 20% fair, and 30% poor (M. Bailey, pers. comm., 1997). Thirty-nine localities from 1980-1995 documented in South Carolina; estimated 21-100 extant populations; extensively surveyed in the mid-1980s (S. Bennett, pers. comm., 1997).

Population Size: 100,000 to >1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but likely exceeds 100,000. In the localized areas where it occurs, this species typically is abundant (Camp, in Jensen et al. 2008).

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

Overall Threat Impact: Medium
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Deforestation and the conversion of deciduous forest to pine monocultures maintained on short harvesting cycles have adversely impacted many populations (Petranka 1998). The species is moderately threatened by development and silviculture in Alabama (M. Bailey, pers. comm., 1997). It is at least moderately adaptable to habitat degradation; it persists in second growth forest in most parts of its present range (Beamer, pers. comm., 2003). The rocky, often rugged terrain usually inhabited by this species generally is not suitable for conversion to row-crop agriculture and so escaped the widepsread deforestation associated with Georgia's former cotton-based economy (Camp, in Jensen et al. 2008).

Short-term Trend: Decline of <30% to relatively stable
Short-term Trend Comments: Stable in Louisiana and South Carolina (S. Bennett and S. Shively, pers. comm., 1997). Possibly declining due to loss of habitat in Alabama (M. Bailey, pers. comm., 1997).

Long-term Trend: Decline of <50% to Relatively Stable
Long-term Trend Comments: Likely relatively stable in extent of occurrence; likely has declined in population size, area of occurrence, and number/condition of occurrences, but the level of decline is unknown.

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable

Environmental Specificity: Moderate to broad.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Inventory Needs: Clarify distribution and population numbers in Alabama and South Carolina, review global rank; according to Conant and Collins (1991), the majority of the distribution is in Alabama and Georgia, yet South Carolina reports a high number of occurrences. Monitor known populations to determine trends.

Protection Needs: Protect best existing EOs from further destruction and/or degradation.

Distribution
Help
Global Range: (20,000-200,000 square km (about 8000-80,000 square miles)) Discontinuous range includes east-central Alabama and adjacent Georgia, with scattered, isolated populations in western South Carolina (Greenwood, Edgefield, and McCormick counties), southwestern Alabama, southern Louisiana, and Mississippi (Conant and Collins 1991, Highton 1986, Dundee and Rossman 1989, Herp Rev. 22:62; Petranka 1998). Occupies less than 10 acres in Louisiana (S. Shively, pers. comm., 1997). Elevational range is mostly or entirely below 400 meters.

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, LA, MS, SC

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), Clarke (01025), Clay (01027)*, Cleburne (01029), Elmore (01051)*, Etowah (01055), Jefferson (01073), Lee (01081)*, Talladega (01121)*, Tallapoosa (01123)*
GA Bibb (13021), Chattooga (13055)*, Cobb (13067)*, Harris (13145), Meriwether (13199), Monroe (13207), Pike (13231)*, Talbot (13263), Upson (13293)
LA West Feliciana (22125)
MS Choctaw (28019), Claiborne (28021), Copiah (28029), Hinds (28049), Jefferson (28063), Madison (28089), Wilkinson (28157), Winston (28159), Yazoo (28163)
SC Edgefield (45037), Greenwood (45047), McCormick (45065), Saluda (45081)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
03 Upper Savannah (03060103)+*, Stevens (03060107)+, Upper Ocmulgee (03070103)+, Middle Chattahoochee-Lake Harding (03130002)+, Middle Chattahoochee-Walter F. George Reservoir (03130003)+*, Upper Flint (03130005)+, Oostanaula (03150103)+*, Etowah (03150104)+*, Upper Coosa (03150105)+*, Middle Coosa (03150106)+, Upper Tallapoosa (03150108)+, Middle Tallapoosa (03150109)+*, Lower Tallapoosa (03150110)+*, Noxubee (03160108)+, Locust (03160111)+, Lower Tambigbee (03160203)+, Upper Pearl (03180001)+
08 Upper Yazoo (08030206)+, Lower Yazoo (08030208)+, Lower Mississippi-Natchez (08060100)+, Lower Big Black (08060202)+, Bayou Pierre (08060203)+, Coles Creek (08060204)+, Bayou Sara-Thompson (08070201)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
Help
Basic Description: A small salamander.
General Description: A small salamander with variable coloration. Color morphs may include a striped form (wavy yellowish brown to orangish red dorsal stripe extends from the head to the end of the tail), an unstriped form that may have scattered red pigmentation on the dorsum, and individuals with intermediate coloration; all color morphs have tiny silvery white spots and brassy flecks that give the salamander a "frosted" appearance (Petranka 1998).
Diagnostic Characteristics: The southern zigzag salamander is basically identical to Plethodon dorsalis in external appearance, although in P. websteri the dorsal stripe tends to be wavy only on the front half of the body (P. dorsalis may also show this trait) (Petranka 1998). The two species are best distinguished by geographic distribution and electrophoretic characteristics (Petranka 1998).
Reproduction Comments: Courtship and insemination probably occur between January and March; gravid females have average of 5.8 (3-8) enlarged ovarian follicles; eggs laid June or July, hatch August or September; first reproduction at age 21-26 months; females reproduce annually (South Carolina, Semlitsch and West 1983).
Habitat Type: Freshwater
Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Palustrine Habitat(s): Riparian
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Bare rock/talus/scree, Forest - Hardwood
Special Habitat Factors: Burrowing in or using soil, Fallen log/debris
Habitat Comments: This salamander inhabits mesophytic forest (maple, hickory, oak, poplar, and elm) bordering rocky feeder streams; usually found under logs, bark, and leaf litter on the forest floor and along rocky stream beds. It also occurs in moist forest on steep north-facing slopes with rock outcrops. Terrestrial breeder.
Adult Food Habits: Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Invertivore
Food Comments: See Camp and Bozeman (1981, Brimleyana (6):163-166).
Phenology Comments: Active in forest litter October-May. Apparently inactive underground in other months, even after heavy rains (Semlitsch and West 1983).
Length: 8 centimeters
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
Help
Management Summary
Help
Stewardship Overview: The most effective management strategy includes maintenance of natural stands of deciduous forest and avoidance of intensive forest management practices.
Biological Research Needs: Better information on current status and trends is needed.
Population/Occurrence Delineation
Help
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
Help
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
Help
Authors/Contributors
Help
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 06May2011
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Clausen, M. K., and G. Hammerson
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 23Dec2004
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
  • 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.

  • CAMP, C. D., AND L. L. BOZEMAN. 1981. FOODS OF TWO SPECIES OF PLETHODON (CAUDATA:PLETHODONTIDAE) FROM GEORGIA AND ALABAMA. BRIMLEYANA 6:163-166

  • Conant, R. and J. T. Collins. 1991. A field guide to reptiles and amphibians: eastern and central North America. Third edition. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, Massachusetts. 450 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.

  • Dundee, H. A., and D. A. Rossman. 1989. The amphibians and reptiles of Louisiana. Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge.

  • 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.

  • HIGHTON, R. 1986. PLETHODON SERRATUS. CAT. AMER. AMPHIB. REPT., 394.1-394.2

  • Highton, R. 1986. Plethodon websteri. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles. 384:1-2.

  • Jensen, J. B., C. D. Camp, W. Gibbons, and M. J. Elliot, editors. 2008. Amphibians and reptiles of Georgia. University of Georgia Press, Athens. xvii + 575 pp.

  • Lohoefener, R. and R. Altig. 1983. Mississippi herpetology. Mississippi State University Research Center, NSTL Station, Mississippi. 66 pp.

  • 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.

  • Martof, B. S., W. M. Palmer, J. R. Bailey, and J. R. Harrison, III. 1980. Amphibians and reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 264 pp.

  • 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 pp.

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

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

  • Semlitsch, R. D., and C. A. West. 1983. Aspects of the life history and ecology of Webster's salamander, Plethodon websteri. Copeia 1983:339-346.

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Citation for Bird Range Maps of North America:
Ridgely, R.S., T.F. Allnutt, T. Brooks, D.K. McNicol, D.W. Mehlman, B.E. Young, and J.R. Zook. 2003. Digital Distribution Maps of the Birds of the Western Hemisphere, version 1.0. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia, USA.

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