Red back salamander
|Red- backed salamander|
Salamandra cinerea Green, 1818
The red back (or redback or red-backed) salamander (Plethodon cinereus) is a small, hardy woodland salamander. It inhabits wooded slopes in eastern North America, west to Missouri, south to North Carolina, and north from southern Quebec and the Maritime Provinces in Canada to Minnesota. It is also known as the eastern red-backed salamander  or the northern red back salamander to distinguish it from the southern red back salamander (Plethodon serratus). It is one of 55 species in the genus Plethodon.
Description and ecology
The red back salamander is a small (5.7 to 10.0 cm) terrestrial salamander which usually lives in forested areas under rocks, logs, bark, and other debris. It is one of the most numerous salamanders throughout its range. The red back salamander exhibits color polymorphism and two color variations are common: the nominate 'red back' variety has a red dorsal stripe that tapers towards the tail, and the darker variety, known as the 'lead back phase', lacks most or all of the red pigmentation. The red back phase is not always red, but may actually be various other colors (e.g., stripe colored yellow, orange, white, or a rare erythristic morph, in which the body is completely red). Both morphs have speckled black and white bellies.
The skin of red back salamanders was found to contain Lysobacter gummosus, an epibiotic bacterium which produces the chemical 2,4-diacetylphloroglucinol and inhibits the growth of certain pathogenic fungi.
Antipredator behavior was found to differ between the two color phases; the lead back phase has a tendency to run away from predators, whereas the red back phase often stays immobile and possibly exhibits aposematic coloration. Stress levels of each color phase were estimated by determining the ratio of neutrophil to lymphocyte cells in the blood, and the results suggest stress levels are higher in the lead back phase than the red back variety. This may be a consequence of a higher predation risk experienced in the wild by the lead back phase, and may also mean the lead back phase salamanders could be more vulnerable in captivity settings.
Reproduction and biomass
Males and females typically establish separate feeding and/or mating territories underneath rocks and logs. However, some red back salamanders are thought to engage in social monogamy, and may maintain co-defended territories throughout their active periods. Breeding occurs in June and July. Females produce from four to 17 eggs in a year. The eggs will hatch in six to eight weeks. Not much is known about the dispersal of neonates, although neonates and juveniles are thought to be philopatric. The species largely consumes invertebrates and other detritus dwellers. In some areas with good habitat, these salamanders are so numerous, their population densities may surpass 1,000 individuals per acre.
- IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group (2014). "Plethodon cinereus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 2015-01-16.
- Integrated Taxonomic Information System [Internet] 2012. [updated 2012 Sept; cited 2012 Nov 26] Available from: www.itis.gov
- Conant R, Collins JT. 1998. A field guide to reptiles and amphibians of eastern and central North America. Boston; Houghton Mifflin.
- Brucker, Robert M.; Baylor, Cambria M.; Walters, Robert L.; Lauer, Antje; Harris, Reid N.; Minbiole, Kevin P. C. (2008). "The Identification of 2,4-diacetylphloroglucinol as an Antifungal Metabolite Produced by Cutaneous Bacteria of the Salamander Plethodon cinereus". Journal of Chemical Ecology 34 (1): 39–43. doi:10.1007/s10886-007-9352-8. PMID 18058176.
- Venesky, Matthew D.; Anthony, Carl D. (2007). "Antipredator adaptations and predator avoidance by two color morphs of the eastern red-backed salamander, Plethodon cinereus". Herpetologica 63 (4): 450–458. doi:10.1655/0018-0831(2007)63[450:AAAPAB]2.0.CO;2.
- Davis AK, Milanovich JR. 2010. Lead-phase and red-stripe color morphs of red-backed salamanders Plethodon cinereus differ in hematological stress indices: A consequence of differential predation pressure? Current Zoology 56(2):238-243.
- APPALACHIAN NATURE: An Entree’ of Salamanders
Data related to Plethodon cinereus at Wikispecies