Dwarf Black-bellied Salamander
This smaller member of the Black-bellied Salamander complex is endemic to the Southern Appalachians of Northern Georgia and a handful of areas in the Blue Ridge of South Carolina and Southwestern North Carolina. It inhabits seepages and first to second order rocky streams at lower elevations.
This species a robust salamander maxing out at around 9 cm in total length, with a highly keeled tail and dark toe tips. Dwarf Black-bellied Salamanders have a characteristic rows of spotting down the sides and have black or nearly black ventral coloration. Their dorsal coloration can vary wildly, but typically have some patterning and always lack any kind of bright coloration at the base of the tail.
They are a close relative of Southern Black-bellies and as a result look nearly identical. These two species are likely the most difficult to differentiate between when it comes to dusky salamanders. However, a Southern Black-bellied Salamander has yet to completely melanize its ventral area when it is the size of an adult dwarf black-bellied. Young Southern Black-bellies usually have some kind of light coloration on the dorsal side at the base of the tail while Dwarf Black-bellied Salamanders do not. Finally Dwarf Black-bellies are known to have a higher loads of trematode parasites which are visible through the ventral skin whereas Southern Black-bellies are less likely to have these. Seal and Shovelnose Salamanders may also resemble dwarf black bellies however both have different colored ventrals and shovelnose inhabit different habitat.
Contributed by Kevin Hutcheson (6/21/2023)