DEEP: Northern Dusky Salamander

Northern Dusky Salamander

(Desmognathus fuscus)

{Northern Dusky Salamander}

IDENTIFICATION: A robust species with brown dorsum, pink-white venter, and a series of white dots along each side near the junction of the belly and flanks. Tail is flattened, keeled, and knife-like in cross section. A light line is visible from edge of eye to lower jaw. The hind limbs are noticeably larger than the front limbs. Small to medium size, 70-130 mm total length, males considerably larger than females.

The dusky salamander is one of two species of lungless salamanders that were historically widely distributed in streams, springs, and seepage areas statewide. It has become scarce in the more developed areas, especially in Fairfield, New Haven, and Hartford Counties. Klemens (1993) first reported that dusky salamanders were declining in the urban and inner suburban areas of the New York metropolitan region, a trend that has been subsequently confirmed in other urban areas of the eastern United States (G. Zug, Smithsonian Institution, pers. comm.). These declines are attributed to changes in stream hydrology that are a result of large increases in the amount of impervious surfaces. Large areas of impervious surface (e.g., roads, roofs, patios) result in increasingly rapid runoff and increased flood frequency. The ecological result of this rapid runoff is a process known as stream scouring. Scouring rapidly alters a streambed choked with organic detritus, mud, and fallen logs, which is the favored habitat of the dusky salamander, to a rocky streambed flushed clean of organic material.

Salamanders | Amphibians and Reptiles in Connecticut