Date of Award


Degree Name

Biological Sciences


College of Science

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Thomas K. Pauley

Second Advisor

Donald Tarter


The Black Mountain salamander, Desmognathus welteri, is a relatively large brownish-green salamander that possesses morphological characters associated with a semi-aquatic lifestyle. The history of this species in the state of West Virginia is an interesting one. Due to taxonomic confusion and the lack of a thorough investigation of the species in the state, little was known about the species until recently. Surveys for Desmognathus welteri in southern West Virginia revealed five new populations. This makes 17 localities for the species in the state. It appears D. welteri is restricted to relatively high elevation, high gradient, forested streams in the Cumberland Plateau in the southern counties in West Virginia. This species reaches an adult body size of up to 95 mm snout-vent length, and males are longer and more massive than females. The larval period is approximately two years and transformation takes place during the summer at SVLs around 26-28 mm. Mating occurs in spring, but males appear capable of producing spermatophores year round. Data from ovary volume was inconclusive, but egg deposition likely takes place in early summer and hatching occurs in September. Females are biennial breeders. The communities within which the species occurs fit the classic description of a Desmognathus assemblage. Desmognathus welteri, the largest species in these systems, is the most aquatic followed by D. monticola, and D. fuscus. Adults and juveniles of D. welteri and D. monticola partition microhabitats. The partitioning is in terms of distance to water for D.welteri and size of cover objects for D. monticola. Desmognathus fuscus is the most terrestrial species and utilizes the smallest cover objects. Seasonal time also appears to be partitioned among the three species. Scarring on individuals of D. welteri indicates that adults are often involved in aggressive interactions, presumably with conspecifics. Individual salamanders are relatively sedentary and usually moved less than two meters between captures. The diet of D. welteri is comprised mainly of dipterans (adults and larvae), coleopterans, winged hymenopterans, and plecopterans. The diet of this species is very similar to that of sympatric D. monticola. Dietary differences between the two species can be attributed mostly to differences in habitat use and body size.


Desmognathus - Ecology.

Salamanders - West Virginia.