Pseudotriton ruberRed Salamander

Geographic Range

Pseudotriton ruber is found in the Eastern United States from Northern Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, to western Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Southen New York. Pseudotriton ruber is usually found between sea level and 1500 ft. Although specimens are rare above 1200 ft. populations have be found near 3900 ft (Conant and Collins, 1998; Harding, 1997).


The Red Salamander can be found in terrestrial or aquatic environments, but are aquatic in winter. In the terrestrial environment they can typically be found in wooded areas under fallen bark, logs, and rocks. Their aquatic preference is in the leaf litter of clean running, cool streams and brooks (Harding, 1997; Petranka, 1998).

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • rivers and streams

Physical Description

Pseudotriton ruber is a stout-bodied, medium-sized salamander ranging between four and seven inches (10 to 18 cm) in length. There are a few major field marks that can be used to identify this salamander. The dorsum and sides of this salamander vary from a purplish brown to a bright crimson red. Younger specimens are brighter in color, while adults tend to darken with age. The dorsum is also covered with irregularly shaped dark spots or dashes. There are five toes located on the hindlimbs and four toes on the forelimbs. There is also a slight mid-dorsal grove and sixteen or seventeen costal grooves (Conant and Collins, 1998; Harding, 1997).



Pseudotriton ruber displays aquatic courtship from spring through fall; courtship involves the male rubbing his snout on the female's head and chin, and eventually moving forward as the female follows with her chin on the male's tail. The male then deposits a spermatophore to be picked up by the female with her cloaca. Females may lay eggs until several months after courting and are capable of storing sperm for a long period of time. The females lay their eggs in cryptic locations during autumn in springs, brooks, and under streambanks. The eggs are attached to the underside of rocks by a single gelatinous stalk and are often submerged in the water. On average the female will lay between 30 - 130 eggs. The eggs hatch in early winter and there is a larval stage lasting between two and three years. Metamorphosis takes place during the summer months. Red Salamanderrs can live over 20 years (Pfingsten and Downs, 1989; Harding, 1997; Petranka, 1998).

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)


  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    20.1 years


The major natural predators of the Red Salamander include woodland birds, skunks, and raccoons. When approached the salamander assumes a defensive posture in which it curls its body while elevating and extending its rear limbs. It then places its head in a protective position below its undulating and elevated tail. Secretions of the cutaneous poison glands are presumably toxic or repellent to certain predators.

(Pfingsten and Downs, 1989; Harding, 1997; Petranka, 1998).

Food Habits

This salamander is a carnivore, feeding on small insects, worms, and other invertebrates, and occasionally smaller salamanders. Larvae eat small aquatic invertebrates One interesting adaptation of this salamander is a projectile tongue, which it can extend and return in 11 milliseconds. The salamander also lunges forward during prey capture. Pseudotriton ruber can be found searching for prey during and after rain events, especially at night. (Pfingsten and Downs, 1989; Harding, 1997; Petranka, 1998).

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Woodland salamanders play a significant ecological role as predators, prey, and cyclers of nutrients in the woodland and stream habitats they live in (Petranka, 1998).

Conservation Status

Because Pseudotriton ruber requires intact deciduous forests and clean streams, this species can be severly impacted by deforestation, pollution, acid drainage from coal mines, and stream siltation and warming (Harding, 1997).


Jonathon Lents (author), Michigan State University, James Harding (editor), Michigan State University.



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.

World Map

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.


animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


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.


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.


Conant, R., J. Collins. 1998 (Third Ed., Expanded). Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.

Harding, J. 1997. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Great Lakes Region. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press.

Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, Accessed November 16, 1999 at

Petranka, J. 1998. Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Wasnington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Pfingsten, R., F. Downs. 1989. Salamanders of Ohio. Columbus: Bull. Ohio Biol. Survey.