The Shovelnose Salamanders are yet another aquatic species found exclusively in the Southern Appalachians. They were once considered their own monotypic genus, Leurognathus. We now know it to be nested within Desmognathus and contain three taxa – each restricted to their own drainage. The Northern Shovelnose Salamander is found in the Southern Appalachians north of the French Broad River up to the White Top Mountains with an isolated population along one stream in the New River Gorge. Central Shovelnose Salamanders are found Exclusively within river drainages that lead to the Tennessee River. Southern Shovelnose Salamanders are found mainly in North Georgia and extreme Northwest South Carolina in river drainages that lead to either the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic Ocean. They are closely related to Black-bellied Salamanders and have sometimes been considered an ecotype of the species before modern genomics. Their habitat is similar as well, inhabiting second to third order rocky streams at mid to low elevation. However, they are an entirely aquatic species that lives in the riffles in the middle of the stream.
All three of these species are very similar and are best distinguished by range. Being entirely aquatic, they have an extremely keeled tail and dark toe tips. Their snout begins to angle downward behind the eyes and the eyes are more sunken in, giving them a squinty appearance. The ventral coloration is pale with a mottled gray wash and dorsal patterning is opposite or alternating spotting or blotches.
This species closely resembles the Black-bellied Salamanders, but the adults have a
much darker ventral coloration. Young Black-bellied Salamander ventrals may have a similar appearance, but the head and eye shape are distinct enough for a keen observer to differentiate. Habitat preference is also useful in keying out Shovelnoses from any other species. As mentioned, they are typically found in the middle of the stream while other species of dusky are found on the bank or large
Contributed by Kevin Hutcheson (6/21/2023)