Plethodon – Woodland salamanders

These salamanders are living indicators of environmental health, also called slimy salamanders

Commonly known as slimy salamanders, they can be found in forest ecosystems across North America. These salamanders have a relatively narrow range of acceptable temperature fluctuations and moisture levels within their woodland habitats. This sensitivity to environmental factors highlights their role as indicator species, as any significant changes in these conditions can affect their populations and overall ecosystem health.

Plethodon salamanders are generally small, ranging from 5 to 25 centimeters (2 to 10 inches) in length. They have smooth, moist skin and lack the visible lungs and gills of other salamanders. Their coloration varies among species, but they often have dark brown or black bodies with various patterns of red, orange, or yellow markings. They are lungless and rely on their skin and mouth lining for gas exchange.

Woodlands throughout North America are home to abundant populations of slimy salamanders. Their presence in these ecosystems contributes to the regulation of arthropod populations, as they are skilled predators of various invertebrates. This predation has a notable impact on nutrient cycling and carbon dynamics within forest ecosystems, influencing the composition and interactions of species within these habitats.

One of the critical ecological roles played by slimy salamanders is their contribution to forest floor food webs. Their position as arthropod predators influences the abundance and distribution of prey species, which in turn affects the entire food web structure within their habitats. The loss or decline of slimy salamander populations could lead to significant alterations in these forest floor food webs, disrupting the delicate balance of species interactions.