Webster’s Salamander (Plethodon websteri)

Photos by Amanda Hurst unless otherwise noted

Description: Plethodon websteri is a small woodland salamander, reaching 2.75-3.2 in (7.0-8.2 cm). This salamander is distinguished by a wavy dorsal stripe that varies from reddish to yellowish in color. The venter is characterized by mottled orange or reddish pigment. Males can be identified by a swollen cloaca. This species looks very similar to the Southern Redback Salamander (Plethodon serratus). In most areas, these species can be distinguished by range, however, where their ranges overlap in western Georgia, P. serratus has a more strait dorsal stripe (but will with serrated edges), while the stripe of P. websteri is more jagged.

Range and Habitat: Webster’s Salamander is only found in scattered locations of the southeastern Piedmont from western South Carolina to Louisiana. This salamander prefers hardwood-forested hillsides and is usually found under rocks and logs or in leaf litter.

Habits: Plethodon websteri breeds in early winter and lay eggs in June or July. There is no aquatic larval stage. Hatchlings emerge during August or September and reach sexual maturity within two years. Adult salamanders are only active between October and May, in order to avoid the extreme heat of summer.

Conservation Status: Plethodon websteri is not protected in our region, but its small and disjunct range make it a species vulnerable to habitat destruction.

Pertinent Reference:
Semlitsch, R.D. and C.A. West. 1983. Aspects of the life history and ecology of Webster’s salamander, Plethodon websteri. Copeia 1983:339-346.

Account Author: Emily Rogers, University of Georgia – edited by J.D. Willson