The geographic range of Red Hills salamanders ( ) is restricted to the Red Hills region of south central Alabama, USA. They have been documented in only 6 counties in the state of Alabama (Covington, Crenshaw, Monroe, Butler, Barbour, Conecuh). The Alabama River demarcates the species' western-most boundary and the Conecuh River demarcates their eastern-most boundary. Although they appear to reside in adjacent areas to the north and south, their fossorial tendencies make their geographic range difficult to verify. The total area that is occupied by Red Hills salamanders is estimated to be approximately 25,500 hectares. (Brandon, 1965; Dodd, 1991; Gunzburger and Guyer, 1998; Jordan and Mount, 1975; Parham, et al., 1996; Schwaner and Mount, 1970; Smith, 1978; State of Alabama, 2010)
- Habitat Regions
- Terrestrial Biomes
- Average elevation
- 170 m
- 557.74 ft
Male Red Hills salamanders range from 180 to 220 mm in length, whereas females range in length from 190 to 230 mm. Males can weigh up to 22 g, but most weigh between 7 and 15 g. Females are considerably lighter, weighing between 6 and 12 g, with a maximum of 14 g. Red Hills salamanders belong to the Plethodontinae family, and therefore are lungless and breath through their moist skin. The skin is dark brown in colour with an occasional light spot interspersed around its body, specifically around the facial region. Some larger males have have pale spots on either side of their body, at the base of their tail. Although Red Hills salamanders are significantly longer than their relatives, they have much smaller limbs. The anterior limbs are approximately 11 mm in length and have 4 toes, and the posterior limbs are approximately 14 mm in length and have 5 toes. They have between 20 and 22 costal grooves along the mid-section, which is significantly more than most salamanders. Red Hills salamanders, like other plethodons, have fixed lower jaws, and barely visible nasolabial grooves on their snouts that assist in chemo-reception. Late term pregnant females have eggs that are clearly visible through her skin along each side of her mid-section. (Bakkegard and Guyer, 2004; Brandon, 1965; Donsky and Boyer, 2010; Highton, 1961; Mcknight, et al., 1991; Means, 2003; Schwaner and Mount, 1970; Smith, 1978)
- Sexual Dimorphism
- sexes shaped differently
- Range mass
- 5 to 20 g
- 0.18 to 0.70 oz
- Average mass
- 11 g
- 0.39 oz
- Range length
- 160 to 250 mm
- 6.30 to 9.84 in
Red Hills salamanders sexually mature by 100 mm in length, which is approximately 5 to 6 years of age for females. Males mature by 80 mm in length, which take as little as one year for males. Once eggs hatch, young are similar in appearance to adults, with the exception of their bright red gills, which are laterally positioned between the head and forelimbs. Like their adult counterparts, young also have labial folds, but no eyelids. About 10 days after hatching, young undergo metamorphosis, during which they grow eyelids, lose their labial folds, and reabsorb their gills. Most individuals metamorphose at about 37 mm in length and may have some paleness along the ventral surface after metamorphosis. (Bakkegard and Guyer, 2004; Brandon, 1965; Means, 2003; Smith, 1978; Tilley and Bernardo, 1993)
- Development - Life Cycle
- Key Reproductive Features
- seasonal breeding
- gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
- Breeding interval
- <<Phaeognathus hubrichti>> mates once per year.
- Breeding season
- lays its eggs in late June-July.
- Average number of offspring
- Average time to hatching
- 20 days
- Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
- 6 years
- Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
- <1 years
- Parental Investment
- female parental care
Red Hills salamanders live for approximately 11 years in the wild, which is determined by counting growth rings on limb bones. They are exceptionally rare and there are no records indicating the average lifespan of captive individuals. However, one female specimen lived for over 6 years in captivity and was able to lay eggs prior to being released. (Bakkegard and Guyer, 2004; Parham, et al., 1996)
- Average lifespan
- 6 years
- Average lifespan
- Average lifespan
- 11 years
- Average lifespan
There is no information on the average home range size of Red Hills salamanders. They agressively defend their burrow, and use a unique head-butting technique when defending the entrance to the den. When head-butting, individuals thrust themselves from their burrows with their small limbs, driving their head into the intruder. The intruder is startled upon impact and is knocked out of the entrance and down the hill the burrow was created on. This technique is most effective on intruders that are smaller or of comparable size. (Bakkegard and Guyer, 2004; Bakkegard, 2002; Bakkegard, 2005; Dodd, 1990; Dodd, 1991; Gunzburger and Guyer, 1998; Gunzburger, 1999)
Communication and Perception
Red Hills salamanders are primarily insectivorous, and gut content analyses have revealed a preference for spiders, earthworms, millipedes, beetles, mites and fly larvae. In some instances, they have been seen foraging on snails and molted snake skins. Other foods include fungus and detritus. (Brandon, 1965; Gunzburger, 1999)
- Primary Diet
- Animal Foods
- terrestrial non-insect arthropods
- terrestrial worms
- Other Foods
Primary predators of Red Hills salamanders are thought to include various species of bird, snakes, and mammals such as coyotes and badgers. When threatened by a potential predator, Red Hills salamanders bare their teeth and may attempt to strike. They are also known to "head-butt" burrow intruders. When head-butting, individuals thrust themselves from their burrows with their small limbs, driving their head into the intruder. The intruder is startled upon impact and is knocked out of the entrance and down the hill the burrow was created on. This technique is most effective on intruders that are smaller or of comparable size. If captured, an individual may gyrate in a circular pattern similar to that of a snake, attempting to loosen the attacker's grip. Its primary form of defense, however, is to remain inside its burrow as much as possible. (Bakkegard and Guyer, 2004; Bakkegard, 2002; Bakkegard, 2005; Brandon, 1965; Gunzburger and Guyer, 1998; Valentine, 1963)
- Anti-predator Adaptations
snakes, mammals, birds, other amphibians. In addition, this species is insectivorous and my help control a variety of insect pest species. There is no information available regarding potential parasites of this species. (Brandon, 1965; Brandon, 1966; Donsky and Boyer, 2010; Gunzburger, 1999; State of Alabama, 2010)is an important prey item for a number of different vertebrate species, including various species of
- Ecosystem Impact
- soil aeration
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
- Positive Impacts
- research and education
Economic Importance for Humans: Negative
Red Hills salamanders are classified as "endangered" on the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species and has been protected by the United States Endangered Species Act as "threatened" since 1976. This species is found only in south central Alabama and is listed as a protected non-game species by the state of Alabama. Greater than 40% of potential habitat is owned or managed by pulp corporations, and although it does not occur in any officially protected habitat, a little more than 6 hectares have been set aside by private and public ownership to support the conservation and management of this species. Unfortunately, evidence suggests that Red Hills salamanders do not readily re-populate reforested areas, making their recovery significantly more difficult. In 2010, the United States Nature Conservancy purchased 723 hectares of the Red Hills Conservation Area in order to support the long-term protection of this species. The Nature Conservancy, the State of Alabama and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, continue to work together to protect areas of salamander habitat from potential degradation. (Dodd, 1991; Donsky and Boyer, 2010; Gunzburger and Guyer, 1998; Jordan and Mount, 1975)
Chance Reinhart (author), University of Alberta, Augustana Campus, Doris Audet (editor), University of Alberta, Augustana Campus, John Berini (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.
living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.
- bilateral symmetry
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
an animal that mainly eats meat
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.
particles of organic material from dead and decomposing organisms. Detritus is the result of the activity of decomposers (organisms that decompose organic material).
animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature
- female parental care
parental care is carried out by females
union of egg and spermatozoan
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
Referring to a burrowing life-style or behavior, specialized for digging or burrowing.
having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.
An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.
- internal fertilization
fertilization takes place within the female's body
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.
eats mollusks, members of Phylum Mollusca
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
- native range
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
active during the night
reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.
an animal that mainly eats dead animals
- seasonal breeding
breeding is confined to a particular season
remains in the same area
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
- soil aeration
digs and breaks up soil so air and water can get in
uses touch to communicate
that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).
defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement
The term is used in the 1994 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals to refer collectively to species categorized as Endangered (E), Vulnerable (V), Rare (R), Indeterminate (I), or Insufficiently Known (K) and in the 1996 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals to refer collectively to species categorized as Critically Endangered (CR), Endangered (EN), or Vulnerable (VU).
uses sight to communicate
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Gunzburger, M. 1999. Diet of the Red Hills Salamander Phaeognathus hubrichti. Copeia, Vol. 1999/ No. 2: pp. 523-525. Accessed October 13, 2010 at http://www.jstor.org/stable/1447504.
Gunzburger, M., C. Guyer. 1998. Longevity and Abandonment of Burrows Used by the Red Hills Salamander (Phaeognathus hubrichti). Journal of Herpetology, Vol. 32/ No. 4: pp. 620-623. Accessed October 13, 2010 at http://www.jstor.org/stable/1565226.
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