Lungs. Who needs ‘em?

Shenandoah salamander (Plethodon shenandoah)

Shenandoah salamander (Plethodon shenandoah)

Cute “Frog” of the Day: August 27, 2012

The Shenandoah salamander (Plethodon shenandoah) is a member of the Plethodontidae family, a group of lungless salamanders. Instead of lungs, these little amphibians use their skin and mouth lining to exchange air, but they need to keep moist to do it.  This means you might never notice how many salamanders are living just outside your door, since they like to stay under damp hiding places like rocks and logs during the day.  But take a look at the forest floor on a rainy night, and you might be amazed at how many of these critters are out, searching for food and mates!

While lungless salamanders are particularly common in the forested hills and mountains of the eastern US, you’d have to be in a very specific place to find the Shenandoah salamander.  This salamander has been listed as vulnerable by the IUCN since 1989, due to its small range and the threats of climate change and human development.  It can only be found on the high-elevation slopes of three mountains within Shenandoah National Park, and seems to be competing for resources with its close cousin, the red-backed salamander.

Photo by Brian Gratwicke, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.

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