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Range Map

Black-bellied Salamander

Black-bellied Salamander
Desmognathus quadramaculatus

Found in cool, permanent streams in the Blue Ridge Mountains and Appalachian Ridge and Valley. Color pattern differences have been noted between southern and northern populations, but no sub-species are recognized.

Description: A large, robust salamander (3.5 to 8.0 inches in length) having mottled dark brown to black dorsum with lighter rusty brown blotches. Two rows of small, whitish dots occur along length of each side of the body. A light line occurs from eye to corner of jaw. Bellies are jet black in adults. Tails are triangular in cross-section and are strongly keeled.

Similar Species:

  • Shovel-nosed Salamanders are less robust and have dark gray bellies with lighter middle.

Habitat: Typically found in cool mountain streams. Also found in seepages, crevices, burrows on banks, on rock faces, and occasionally in leaf litter.

Diet: Small invertebrates, crayfish, and other salamanders.

Breeding information: Mating occurs in late summer and fall resulting in eggs being laid in spring and summer. An average of 45 eggs are deposited under rocks in flowing water and the clutch is then guarded by the female. Hatching occurs in July through September.

Status in Tennessee: Black-bellied Salamanders are abundant across their range in TN; however they are threatened by stream pollution from mining and clearcut timber practices and over collection for fish bait. In 1994, TWRA listed the Black-bellied Salamander as "In Need of Management."

Fun Facts:

  • Largest lungless salamander in Tennessee.
  • Leeches are a common parasite on Black-bellied Salamanders.

Best places to see in Tennessee: Small to large permanent streams in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

For more information:
The Salamanders of Tennessee web site


Conant, R. and Collins, J. 1998. Peterson Field Guides: Reptiles and Amphibians (Eastern/Central North America). Houghton Mifflin Company, New York. 616pp.

Dodd, Jr., C.K. 2004. The Amphibians of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville TN.

Jensen, J. B., Camp C. D., Gibbons, W., and Elliot, M. J. 2008. Amphibians and Reptiles of Georgia, University of Georgia Press, Athens, GA. 575pp.

Johnson, T.R. 2006. The Amphibians and Reptiles of Missouri. The Missouri Department of Conservation, Jefferson City, MO.