Description: Formerly known as Leurognathus marmoratus,
the Shovelnose Salamander (now Desmognathus marmoratus)
is a fairly large Dusky Salamander whose length ranges
from 3.5-5 in (9-12.5 cm). These salamanders are found in a variety
of colors. Their dorsum is generally black, brown, gray or
yellowish in color with two bands of lightly colored disjointed
spots. Their venter is frequently light gray in color. The Desmognathine
eye stripe (a stripe from the eye to the jaw that is characteristic
of the Dusky Salamanders) is very pale and can be hard to distinguish.
The Shovelnose Salamanders received their names due to the fact
that their heads are more flattened and wedge-shaped than
those of other Desmognathines. Additionally, their internal nostril
openings are slits that are not always visible. They have a compressed
tail that is half the length of their bodies and dark, heavily
cornified toe tips. Males are slightly larger than females. Shovelnose
salamanders can be very hard to distinguish from other large Desmognathus
(i.e., seal salamander, D. monticola; blackbelly salamander,
D. quadramaculatus; northern dusky salamander, D. fuscus).
Often habitat use (shovelnose salamanders prefer fairly deep fast-flowing
water) is the best initial hint to the identity of this species.
Range and Habitat: The Shovelnose Salamander is only found
in a section of the Appalachian Mountains, with the bulk of their
range in North Carolina and Tennessee. In our region they are
only found in extreme northeastern Georgia and northwestern South
Carolina. They live in cool mountain streams and can be found
hiding under rocks in the shallow parts of streams and in riffles.
Shovelnose salamanders are the most aquatic of all of the stream
salamanders in our region (excluding Hellbenders and mudpuppies).
They prefer to be totally submerged and are often found under
rocks in the center of streams. Unlike all of the other Desmognathus,
they are seldom found at the stream edge.
Habits: Shovelnose Salamanders spend most of their time
totally submerged in streams, where they feed on larval and nymphal
states of aquatic insects. They lay 24-48 eggs a year in July
by attaching them to the underside of rocks or logs in a stream.
Generally, the aquatic larvae metamorphose within three years.
Conservation status: At the present, the Shovelnose Salamander
is not state or federally threatened, but its small range in our
region makes it a conservation concern. Stream Salamanders are
intolerant of siltation and are vulnerable to habitat degradation.
Bruce, R.C. 1985: Larval periods, population structure and the
effects of stream drift in larvae of the salamanders Desmognathus
quadramaculatus and Leurognathus marmoratus in a southern
Appalachian stream. Copeia: 1985:847-854.
Account Author: Brittany Bloom, University of Georgia
- edited by J.D. Willson