Description: Length ranges from 2-4 inches (5.1-10.2 cm).
Coloration is reddish brown or brown above with silver
flecking on the sides. The belly is porcelain white with small,
but bold, black spots scattered randomly about the venter.
There are four toes on the front and hind feet, and it is the
only terrestrial salamander with four toes on each foot.
There is an obvious constriction at the base of the tail where
it can detach if grabbed by a predator, and it can be regenerated.
There are indented lines on top of the head two of these forming
a wide Y. These grooves continue down the back. When viewed from
above, these grooves look like chevrons. Costal grooves, 13-14.
Range and Habitat: Although found throughout the eastern
United States, four-toed salamanders are patchily distributed
and are absent from many areas of apparently suitable habitat.
Within our region this species is almost completely restricted
to the Piedmont and lower elevations of the mountains. Found under
logs and rocks in bogs, boggy streams, and floodplains; almost
always in association with sphagnum moss.
Habits: Adults live under stones and leaf litter in hardwood
forests surrounding boggy areas; the need for this special habitat
accounts for its spotty distribution. Breeding occurs during evening
rains in late winter or early spring. Eggs are attached to sphagnum
moss or other vegetation at the water's edge. Females, often in
groups, guard the eggs until they hatch six to eight weeks later.
The larvae remain aquatic for about nine weeks and mature in two
to three years.
Conservation Status: Although uncommon, the Four-Toed
Salamander is not protected by Georgia state law or federal law,
although the species is considered of "special concern"
in North Carolina because of its patchy distribution.
Buhlmann, K. A., and C. A. Pague. 1989. Field notes: Hemidactylium
scutatum (Four-toed Salamander). Catesbeiana 9(2): 33.
Hess, Zachary J. and Reid N. Harris. Eggs of Hemidactylium
scutatum are unpalatable to insect predators. Copeia 2000
Account Author: Amelia Gleaton, University of Georgia
- edited by J.D. Willson