Date of Award


Degree Name

Biological Sciences


College of Science

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Tom Pauley

Second Advisor

Leonard J. Deutsch


Very little has been written on the ecology and natural history of the Cow Knob salamander, Plethodon punctatus Highton, since it was described by Highton (1971). Plethodon punctatus is known only from the higher elevations of Great North (above 2,800 ft) and Shenandoah (above 3,000 ft.) Mountains in Virginia and West Virginia (Highton, 1972; Conant and Collins, 1991). The type locality is Cow Knob, Pendleton County, West Virginia. Plethodon punctatus is a large (up to 75 mm snout-to-vent length) dorso-ventrally flattened salamander with creamish iridiophore spots on the back and sides, webbed feet for a fossorial lifestyle, and large black protruding eyes (Green and Pauley, 1987; Figure 1). Plethodon wehrlei Fowler and Dunn is a near sibling of P. punctatus and has almost identical coloration and markings except that in P. wehrlei the spots on the sides do not extend onto the back and some individuals (especially juveniles) may possess red dots on the back (Green and Pauley, 1987; Figure 2). Highton (1972) reported that P. punctatus has nearly similar morphological and phenotypic characteristics to Wehrle's salamander, Plethodon wehrlei, but was considered different based on the fact that P. punctatus usually had one more trunk vertebrae (and in turn one more costal groove) and more whitish-yellow iridiophore spots on the dorsum and sides. Highton (1972) theorized that P. punctatus diverged from the main stock of P. wehrlei and now constitutes a separate lineage, one that separated nearly 29 million years ago (Maxson, Highton, Wake, 1979). Plethodon punctatus and P. wehrlei are considered members of the eastern large Plethodon (wehrlei) group (Highton and Larson, 1979).


Pendleton County (W. Va.).

Lungless salamanders – West Virginia.

Salamanders – Ecology.

Salamanders – West Virginia.