Tennessee Cave Salamander (Gyrinophilus palleucus)

Tennessee Cave Salamander (Gyrinophilus palleucus)

Photos by J.D. Willson unless otherwise noted

Description: A large — 3-7.25 in (7.5-18.4 cm) – salamander that is generally paedomorphic (adults are aquatic and retain larval characteristics) and rarely metamorphoses in nature. Coloration ranges from nearly white to dark brown with spots, with bright-red external gills, small lidless eyes, and a large tail fin. They have a broad snout with a turned up at tip and 17-19 costal grooves.

Range and Habitat: Tennessee Cave Salamanders are only found in a small area of the southern Appalachian Mountains in Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama. In our region, they are only found in the extreme northwest corner of Georgia. They inhabit subterranean waters in or around limestone caves. Sinkholes are an important habitat component for this species.

Habits: Because of their inaccessible habitat, little is known about the natural history of this species. They are presumably nocturnal and feed on aquatic insects and other invertebrates.

Conservation Status: Currently listed as threatened by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA). Listed by IUCN Red List as vulnerable because its area of occupancy is less than 2,000 km², its distribution is severely fragmented, and there is continuing decline in the extent and quality of its habitat, and the number of mature individuals, in Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia.

Account Author: Carmel Norman, University of Georgia – edited by J.D. Willson