Visit our new website

Canadian Herpetological Society

Société d'herpétologie du Canada

Desmognathus fuscus
Northern Dusky Salamander / Salamandre sombre du Nord

Northern Dusky Salamander

The Northern Dusky Salamander can be tan to dark brown in colour and be either plain or mottled. Juveniles have five to eight pairs of round spots on the back. A key diagnostic feature of the Northern Dusky salamander is the pale line that runs from the eye diagonally to the jaw. It has a sharply keeled triangular tail. Including the tail, the Northern Dusky Salamander can grow to over 14 cm in length.

Confusing Species
The most similar looking species is the Northern Two-lined Salamander, which is a similar background colour, but has two stripes down its back. However, in some individuals the line is broken or faint. It lacks the diagonal eye line. In Québec, there is also the Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander, which varies greatly in colour pattern but usually has a stripe down its back marked with V-shapes. It also has the line from eye to jaw, but the shape of the tail is rounded rather than triangular.

The Northern Dusky Salamander is widespread in Québec south of the St Lawrence and in southern New Brunswick. It is limited to only one site in Ontario between Lakes Erie and Ontario. In the United States, the Northern Dusky Salamander can be found as far south as Louisiana.

The preferred habitat for the Northern Dusky Salamander is spring-fed rocky creeks in forested areas. They are rarely found far from water.

The Northern Dusky Salamander breeds in spring. The female lays a cluster of up to 30 eggs that somewhat resembles a bunch of grapes. The eggs are laid near water beneath rocks, in rotting logs, or in sphagnum moss. The female remains with the eggs until they hatch in two to three months. At that time, the larvae are roughly 1.5 cm in length. The larvae transform in about a year at 4 cm in length. It takes another three to four years for the salamanders to mature.

Natural History
Northern Dusky Salamanders are frequently found under rocks next to creeks. They eat a variety of insects and other invertebrates. During the winter, they can remain active in the water.

Conservation Concerns
There is no evidence of declines in this species.