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Checklist of Amphibian Species and Identification Guide

Northern & Spotted Dusky Salamanders,
Desmognathus fuscus & D. conanti


Note:  Dusky Salamanders (genus Desmognathus) are extremely difficult to identify due to their highly varied patterns and coloration. They can be distinguished from many other types of Lungless Salamanders by the presence of a light line stretching from the corner of the mouth to the eye. The patterns on these salamanders change with age and show a high degree of variability both among individuals in a population and among different areas of their range. If you find a specimen in the field first look at the range maps in an identification guide to narrow your search to species found in your area. Dusky Salamanders have aquatic larvae.


These two species are very similar in appearance and were considered subspecies of Desmognathus fuscus (D. f. fuscus & D. f. conanti). Recent scientific work suggests that they are in fact separate species which is how they are treated here. Both species have keeled tails, i.e. tails "compressed" from the sides and "knife-edged" above, a characteristic that helps distinguish them from the common Mountain Dusky Salamander (D. ochrophaeus). Both the Northern and Spotted Dusky Salamanders are found in forest brooks, seepage areas and near springs, seldom wandering far from running or trickling water. They are found from sea level to high mountains.
Northern Dusky Salamander
The Northern Dusky Salamander, Desmognathus fuscus. The general coloration is gray, tan or brown above. Juveniles may have pairs of light oval to rhombic dorsal patches outlined with black. These patches may be linked on each side of the body by a wavy dark line parallel to the body. This pattern disappears with age, though remnants may remain as darker bands along the sides. They are a small to medium sized salamander measuring up to 2.5 to 4.5 inches in total length.
Northern Dusky Salamander Northern Dusky Salamander

spotted dusky salamander
As mentioned, the Spotted Dusky Salamander, Desmognathus conanti, is very similar to the Northern Dusky. Juveniles have a pattern similar to the Nothern Dusky, though it is more distinct with 6-8 pairs of spots, which can be reddish or golden in color. Also, adults are more likely to retain this pattern, as you can just faintly see here. Note the faint black outlines forming partial circles. They become slightly larger than the Northern Dusky measuring up to 2.5 to 5 inches in total length.

Range of the Dusky Salamanders


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