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Northern Spring Salamander

Gyrinophilus porphyriticus porphyriticus

Family: Plethodontidae

The Northern Spring Salamander is a sub-species of the Spring Salamander (Gyrinophilus porphyriticus).

COSEWIC status:
  • Threatened (Adirondack / Appalachian population)
  • Extirpated (Carolinian population)
SARA status:
  • Threatened (Adirondack / Appalachian population)
  • No Status (Carolinian population)
IUCN status:
  • Least Concern

Description

The Northern Spring Salamander is heavy-bodied and can attain a total length of about 21 cm. Individuals are yellowish-orange, pink or red with grey mottling and the belly is yellow to pink. There is a dark-bordered light line on each side of the face that extends from the eye to the nostril. This species has 17–19 costal groves and the tail is laterally compressed. Aquatic larvae have gills and a tail fin and are yellowish brown to light grey with mottling.

Similar Species

The Northern Spring Salamander may be confused with Dusky Salamanders and Eastern Newts. The Northern Dusky Salamander and Alleghany Mountain Dusky Salamander both have a diagonal line running from the jaw to the eye rather than from the eye to the nostril, and they are darker brown in colour. Red-spotted Newts have distinct black-bordered red dorsal spots and the belly is bright yellow with black flecking.

Distribution

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In Canada, the Northern Spring Salamander is only found in extreme southern Quebec in the Adirondack and Appalachian Mountains. In the United Sstates, the Northern Spring Salamander is associated with the Appalachian Mountains and occurs throughout the northeastern states and extends southwest to northern Georgia, northern Alabama and northeastern Mississippi.

Habitat

The Northern Spring Salamander inhabits cool, clear headwaters of small streams, springs or seeps in mature forest, as well as the stream banks and adjacent terrestrial habitat. Habitats typically do not have predatory fish. Cover objects within close proximity to the streams, such as rocks and woody debris, are important microhabitats that provide moist conditions and shelter. Eggs are attached to the underside of submerged rocks within the stream. Individuals spend the winter in wet underground cavities or within their aquatic habitat, and may remain active throughout the winter.

Biology

Plethodontid salamanders, including the Northern Spring Salamander, are also known as lungless salamanders because the adults do not have lungs or gills; instead, they absorb oxygen directly through their skin. They must remain moist at all times so that oxygen and carbon dioxide can diffuse through the skin. Northern Spring Salamanders primarily breed in the spring, and the female attaches 44 to 132 eggs to the underside of submerged rocks in the late spring or summer. The eggs hatch in late summer and the larval period lasts for three to five years. Individuals reach sexual maturity about one year after metamorphosis. The longevity of this species is unknown. Northern Spring Salamanders forage within and immediately adjacent to streams for aquatic and terrestrial insects, spiders, worms, snails and other invertebrates, as well as other salamander species.

Threats

The destruction of mature forest is the primary threat to this species in Canada. Pollution, such as herbicides, agricultural effluent and road salt can be detrimental to salamanders since toxins are easily absorbed though their skin. Changes to water quality (e.g. siltation, pH level) or flow can also be detrimental to populations of this species. Climate change and introduced pathogens pose potentially serious future threats to Canadian salamanders.

Additional Information About This Species In Canada