Pygmy Salamander (Desmognathus wrighti)???

calinewt

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Hi all, while out hiking in SE Tennessee, I stumbled across a few tiny Salamanders---they were under small rocks in a bit of a seepage track. They were at mod an inch in length, and had no external gills. Upon looking at field guides, salamander books, etc, I'm pretty sure they are Pygmy Salamanders. I wanted to see if you all agree. I admit my pics aren't the greatest, but I didn't want to disturb them any more than I did...
So what do you think?
 

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John

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Too fuzzy to tell. What county and what approx elevation?
 

Jefferson

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I'm with John that we need to know county and elevation, but my gut says this isn't a Pygmy. There are a few reasons that I'd lean toward this being either a seepage salamander (Desmognathus aneus) or some other newly-transformed dusky salamander.

First, all the Pygmy salamanders I've found in NC, TN, and VA have been at very high elevation (over 4500-5000 feet) in spruce-fir forests, not in water. They are overwhelmingly a woodland species. Secondly, although the pictures are blurry, the salamander looks like it's a dark brown or black, and I don't see a Chevron pattern down its back. Pygmy Sallies are most easily identified by that chevron pattern and are almost always tan, reddish-brown, or light brown above.

Lastly, despite the blurry pictures, we can make out its form, and it looks a little chunkier than the Pygmy Salamanders I've seen. The body form looks more to me like a newly-transformed Spotted Dusky, Shovelnose, Ocoee, or Blackbelly. This is also a reason to doubt Seepage salamander, but I offered that because Pygmy and Seepage are both very small and look somewhat alike (beside the chevrons) but Seepage are found in water, and more widespread in SE TN. Hope this helps!
 

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They are neither Pygmy, nor Seepage salamanders as both of these lack aquatic larval stages.

Very hard to tell from those photos, but possibly two-lined salamander larvae. The snout looks too long to be a Desmognathus.

Gills can be deceiving without magnification on tiny larvae, as in cold seepages they are so well oxygenated that the gills look nothing like the bushy obvious things you see in captive larvae.
 
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