Caudata Plethodon cinereus -- Eastern Red-backed Salamander
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Purple shade indicates vouchered specimens. Light blue (cyan)
shade indicates photographic records. Yellow shade indicates verified
sighting. Slanted hatch indicates pre-1980 records only
NOTE: Not all specimens upon which these maps are based have been verified.
Key Characters: 18-20 costal grooves; "salt and pepper" belly without orange marks.
Similar Species: Four-toed salamander, juvenile dusky salamander, zigzag salamander.
Description: A dark, slender salamander (up to 11 cm TL) with straight-edged reddish stripe on back. Belly mottled or dotted black and white but never has orange marks around bases of front legs. Costal grooves 18-20. Legs small and short, toes of adpressed limbs separated by 4-9 costal folds. Some proportion of individuals (up to 97% in Crawford County, but averaging less than 35% elsewhere) lack the back stripe and are uniformly dark gray to black (lead phase).
Habitat: Terrestrial. Found in forests under logs, bark, sticks, and stones.
Natural History: Completely terrestrial with no larval stage. Feeds on worms, small insects, and other arthropods. Eight to ten yellowish eggs are laid in a cluster under rocks, in rotten logs and tree stumps, or under moss or tree bark. Female guards eggs until they hatch into tiny juveniles in late summer. Hatchling may have a yolk sac and tiny gills for a day or two.
Status: Reaches western edge of range along the eastern forest/prairie border of Illinois. Very rare in northeastern counties because of habitat loss. Remains relatively common elsewhere.