Eurycea lucifugaCave Salamander

Geographic Range

Found throughout most of Kentucky, reaching up into the southwest tip of Ohio and into much of southern Indiana. From there, the range extends from the southern tip of Illinois, southern Missouri, northern Arkansas, the northeast tip of Oklahoma and the southeast tip of Kansas. The range also covers central and eastern Tennessee, the northern portions of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, and extends up the border between the Virginias.


Most frequently found in the twilight zone of caves, but also occasionally under logs and rocks in the surrounding moist forests more than a kilometer away from the nearest cave (Conant and Collins, et. al, 1995, Petranka 1998). The twilight area of a cave is the area just inside the entrance where there is some light, but not enough for plants to grow (Taylor 1999).

Physical Description

Eurycea lucifuga is a slender, dull yellow, orange or bright reddish-orange salamander with a white or yellow belly. Its back, sides of the head, trunk and tail are covered with many small, irregular or rounded spots that rarely form dorsolateral rows. It has a very blunt snout with the largest part of their head right behind the eyes. E. lucifuga has a relatively long tail and long limbs with 5-4 toes, the hind ones being webbed at the base (Bishop, 1994). There are between 14 and 15 costal grooves (Conant and Collins, 1998).

Adults in this species are from 10-20 cm long (Petranka 1998). The sexes are, on average, the same size but distinguishable by details of the head. The males are noticeably swollen in the snout area by the nasolabial grooves and the cirri (small tabs of flesh that carry are more developed than in the females (Bishop, 1994). The juveniles will usually be a lighter ground color (yellow) and have a shorter tail (Conant and Collins, 1998). As the individual grows, the color will deepen and the tail will lengthen.



Breeding occurs from September to February (possibly later in some areas), and can occur twice in the same year. Females have been found with 5-120 eggs. Eggs have only rarely been found, they are laid singly, apparently in deep recesses in cave streams and springs (Collins, et. al, 1995, Petranka 1998). Small larvae, approximately 17.5 mm, emerge that are uniform in color with three longitudinal rows of spots and a broad tail fin (Bishop, 1994).

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


  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    9.1 years


E. lucifuga uses its relatively long legs, flat toes, and prehensile tail to climb rocks.l (Conant and Collins, 1998 ).

Food Habits

E. lucifuga eat many kinds of invertebrates, including many kinds of insects, mites, ticks, isopods, earthworms, and other soft-bodied creatures. At least one study has found juvenile slimy salamanders (Plethodon glutinosus) in the stomachs of specimens of this species (Petranka, 1998). It has a baletoid tongue which it uses in combination with a short lunge to capture its prey, being able to fully extend the tongue in approximately 5.5 milliseconds (Deban 1996). They have long, angled vomerine teeth accompanied by parasphenoid teeth which form club-shaped patches (Bishop, 1994).

Conservation Status

This species is endangered in Kansas, but currently has no federal status. Activities by humans in and around the caves in addition to groundwater pollution have been thought tobe the potential sources of the decline in populations (Collins, et. al, 1995).


Jessica Fawley (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.


This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


Bishop, S. 1994. Handbook of Salamanders: The Salamanders of the United States, of Canada, and of Lower California.. London: Comstock Publishing Associates.

Collins, J., S. Collins, J. Horak, D. Mulhern, W. Busby. 1995. Endangered or Threatened Species in Kansas. Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas.

Conant, R., J. Collins. 1998. Peterson Field Guides: Reptiles and Amphibians (Eastern/Central North America). New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Deban, S. 1996. "Feeding in Eurycea lucifuga" (On-line). Accessed 10-14-99 at

Petranka, J. 1998. Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Washington, District of Columbia, USA: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Taylor, S. 1999. "Cave Zones" (On-line). Accessed October 4, 1999 at