An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Eastern Red-backed Salamanders Still Active

10-23-18 eastern red-backed salamander_U1A0906The Eastern Red-backed Salamander is the most abundant terrestrial vertebrate in New England.  Unlike many salamanders, it is terrestrial year-round – living, mating, laying eggs, feeding, and hibernating.

Eastern Red-backed Salamanders can occur in two color phases, lead-back and red-back. The lead-back phase salamanders are a consistent gray to black color while the red-back phase is characterized by an orange to red stripe down the length of their body and tail. In both phases, they are distinguishable by their mottled white and black undersides and five toes on their hind feet.

Due to its lack of lungs, this slender salamander must live in damp or moist habitats in order to breath. It is active into late fall, inhabiting rotting logs or living under moist leaf litter, bark, stones, etc. When cold weather really sets in, it will hibernate down to 15 inches in the soil, or in deep leaf litter or rock crevices. (Congratulations to Helen L., the first NC reader to correctly identify the latest Mystery Photo as an Eastern Red-backed Salamander!)

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4 responses

  1. Alice Pratt

    Used to see them often, in our yard….now not in quite a while.

    October 26, 2018 at 8:16 am

  2. Kathy Schillemat

    There is a third color variation: erythristic. While I have only seen two lead-back salamanders, I have seen quite a few erythristic (all red) red-back salamanders. Like red-heads, erythristic red backs have a genetic trait for red pigmentation. As a result, I often find many in one area.

    October 26, 2018 at 8:51 pm

  3. No lungs? So oxygen is exchanged directly through its skin year-round? Therefore, handling with dry hands would be quite damaging I assume.

    October 27, 2018 at 8:47 am

  4. Jean Harrison

    Yes. Oxygen is absorbed and carbon dioxide excreted through moist membranes. Don’t let a frog or salamander dry out when handled.

    October 27, 2018 at 7:34 pm

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