Red-backed Salamander

Plethodon cinereus

Red-backed Salamanders are our most common salamander. They are easy to recognize, with their black bodies and bright red stripe down the middle of their backs. They can also be black without the red stripe, but usually they have the stripe. Their bellies are black and white.

This salamander grows to about five inches long.

Copyrigh, Al Sheldon

Red-backed Salamanders can be found under rocks, logs, moss, dead leaves, or inside rotting stumps. When disturbed, they will crawl into tunnels or under leaves.

Unlike most salamanders, Red-backs do not spend any part of their lives in the water. Most salamanders have to lay their eggs in water. These lay their eggs in a cluster, like grapes, hanging underneath a rock or inside an old log. They are born looking like mini-salamanders, about an inch long.

Red-backed Salamanders do not have lungs, even though they live on land. They breathe through their skin, which must be moist at all times. They come out from their hiding places at night after a rain. This is when they do most of their hunting.

Red-backed Salamanders eat small arthropods, including insects and spiders.

Female salamanders mate every other year. When she lays eggs, she will guard them for two months until they hatch, coiling her body around them.

Mark Moran

Red-backed Salamanders help make soil better for plants and animals when they tunnel through it. Nutrients in the soil get mixed and plants can pull them into their roots more easily. Small animals such as mites and beetles find it easier to move around in the soil.

Relationships in Nature:

PREY
PREDATORS
SHELTER
OTHER

Rabid Wolf Spider

Raccoon

Virginia Creeper

Soil Mite SP

Black Carpenter Ant

Barred Owl

Poison Ivy

American Dog Tick

Least Shrew

White Cushion Moss

Pennsylvania Firefly

Wild Turkey

Bracken Fern

Goldenrod Spider

Red-tailed Hawk

Red Clover

Field Cricket

Common Crow

Cinnamon Fern

Daring Jumping Spider

Eastern Chipmunk

Skunk Cabbage

Fungus Gnat

Northern Ringneck Snake

Running Cedar

Giant Willow Aphid

Copperhead

Wild Strawberry

Harvestman

Striped Skunk

British Soldiers

Soil Mite

Common Grackle

Virginia Rose

Spined Micrathena

Eastern Worm Snake

Sassafras Weevil

Chigger

Relationship to Humans:

Red-backed Salamanders help humans by controlling insect populations.

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

KINGDOM
Animal
PHYLUM
Chordate
CLASS
Amphibians
ORDER
Caudata
FAMILY
Plethodontidae
GENUS
Plethodon
SPECIES
Plethodon cinereus

QUICK LINKS

Organism Menu
Home
Glossary
Student Activities
Relationships
Classification Info
How to Use This Site
Bibliography