Green salamander (Aneides aeneus)

Green salamander
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Green salamander fact file

Green salamander description

GenusAneides (1)

A beautifully-marked amphibian of the Appalachian region in the U.S., the green salamander (Aneides aeneus) is easily recognised by the distinctive yellow-green, lichen-like mottling across its upperparts. This patterning sharply contrasts with a black to grey-brown background on the head, back, limbs and tail, and with the bluish-grey to creamy-yellow underparts. There may also be some yellow flecks on the belly (2) (3) (4)

The green salamander has a notably flattened body, with long legs and expanded, squarish toe tips, which are all adaptations for tree climbing and fitting into narrow crevices (2) (5). There are 14 or 15 grooves along the side of the body, known as ‘costal grooves’. The female green salamander tends to be slightly larger than the male (2)

The juvenile green salamander has yellow limbs and less extensive patterning on the upperparts (2).

Total length: 8 - 14 cm (2)
Snout-vent length: 4 - 7 cm (2)

Green salamander biology

The green salamander usually breeds in late spring, in crevices or ledges on rocks or cliffs (7). Females breed every second year, but male green salamanders may breed every year (2). A string of 10 to 30 eggs, held together by mucus, are laid in a crevice, where the female guards them for 10 weeks to 3 months. The hatchlings remain with the female for an additional one to two months, when they then disperse into nearby cracks and crevices (2). The green salamander is thought to reach sexual maturity in the spring to summer of its third year (7)

During warmer months of the year, the green salamander is most active at night, relying on its lichen-like patterning to avoid predators during the day. It is rather opportunistic in its feeding habits, eating a variety of snails, slugs, spiders and small insects. The green salamander hibernates in deep crevices from December to March (7).


Green salamander range

Restricted to the Appalachian region of the U.S., the green salamander has a discontinuous distribution that stretches from south-western Pennsylvania, western Maryland and southern Ohio, to northern Alabama and north-eastern Mississippi. There is a large population in northern Georgia, western North Carolina and western South Carolina that is separate from the main part of the species’ distribution, and there is a smaller population in Crawford County, Indiana (1) (6).


Green salamander habitat

The green salamander is most commonly found in damp crevices in shaded limestone or sandstone rocky outcrops. It may also be found in caves, under loose bark or logs in forests, or in the cracks of dead or standing trees. The green salamander occurs at elevations between 140 and 1,350 metres (1) (3) (6) (7).


Green salamander status

The green salamander is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Near Threatened


Green salamander threats

Although the green salamander population appears to be stable within the main parts of its range, there have been significant declines within smaller, isolated populations. For example, the populations at Blue Ridge in North Carolina experienced declines in the late 1970s, and three out of the six populations there crashed again in 1996 to 1997, just after they appeared to be making a recovery (1) (6) (8). Smaller populations of the green salamander are at particular risk of extinction, in part because this species rarely crosses barriers such as roads or rivers and lakes, which limits the amount of migration between populations and can lead to inbreeding (6)

There are thought to be several reasons for these population crashes, including habitat loss from human developments such as roads. The removal of emergent rocks can cause environmental changes to the green salamander’s habitat, by increasing airflow, which increases temperature and decreases humidity. The removal of trees also dries nesting and foraging crevices (7) (8)

Other threats to the green salamander include over-collecting, disease and drought, which may increase in frequency and severity as a result of global climate change (1).


Green salamander conservation

The green salamander is listed as Endangered in Indiana, Ohio, Maryland, and Mississippi, as Threatened in Pennsylvania, and as Protected in Georgia (7). A conservation priority for this species is the protection of mature forest among rocky outcrops. It is recommended that a forest area of at least 100 metres should always be left around outcrops where this species occurs. The green salamander would also benefit from further research into its status and the threats it faces (1)


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Hibernation is a winter survival strategy in which the animal passes the winter in a resting state. This period of inactivity is characterised by specific biological and biochemical changes including lowered blood pressure and respiration rate.
The breeding of closely related individuals. An inbred population usually has less genetic variability and this is generally disadvantageous for its long-term survival and success.


  1. IUCN Red List (June, 2011)
  2. Jensen, J.B., Camp, C.D., Whit Gibbons, C.D. and Elliott, M.J. (2008) Amphibians and Reptiles of Georgia. University of Georgia Press, Georgia.
  3. Ohio - green salamander (June, 2011)
  4. Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries - green salamander (June, 2011)
  5. Dodd, Jr, C.K. (2004) The Amphibians of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.
  6. NatureServe Explorer - green salamander (June, 2011)
  7. AmphibiaWeb - green salamander (June, 2011)
  8. Corser, J.D. (2001) Decline of disjunct green salamander (Aneides aeneus) populations in the southern Appalachians. Biological Conservation, 97: 119-126.

Image credit

Green salamander  
Green salamander

© Andrew Hoffman

Andrew Hoffman


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