Southern Black-bellied Salamander
(Desmognathus amphileucus)

This salamander belongs to a complex of large-bodied salamanders that includes five species found throughout the Southeast. Two are found in South Carolina – the Southern Black-bellied Salamander and the Dwarf Black-bellied Salamander. These stout bodied species live in high gradient rocky, first to third order streams, seepages and waterfalls. It is found from mid to low elevations and can be the most abundant dusky salamanders where they are found.

The Black-bellied Salamanders are some of the largest lungless salamanders in the US and some individuals can reach 20 cm in total length. Their dorsal coloration can be variable with some kind of brown wash or blotching, to black with scattered iridophores. Their most diagnostic trait are two rows of parallel dots down each flank between their legs. Their ventral coloration is typically black in adults, but can be gray or plain in young individuals. They have an extremely keeled tail and keratinized black toe tips for inhabiting fast currents.

Distinguishing Southern Black-bellied Salamanders from Dwarf Black-bellied Salamanders can be challenging. As the name implies, Dwarf Black-bellies are smaller than Southern Black-bellies. At the age class where these two species would be the same size the latter species will not have developed a fully black ventral whereas the Dwarf Black-bellied Salamander would. Shovelnose Salamanders are also similar in patterning and habitat to Black-bellied Salamanders. However, the ventral coloration is a mix of pale and gray mottling instead of a solid black. Shovelnose face structure is different as well, with their eyes being more sunken in their head giving them a squinty appearance.

Contributed by Kevin Hutcheson (6/21/2023)