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Eastern Red-backed Salamander

Plethodon cinereus
  • A small 5-10 cm salamander.
  • There are two colour phases: the red-back phase has a broad, red stripe down the back and tail; the lead-back phase has a dark grey or lead-coloured back. The side of the slender body are dark grey becoming mottled with light grey towards the belly. Very rarely all-red salamanders are found.
  • The red-back salamander is one of three Ontario salamander species which has no lungs. Since all respiration must take place through the skin, the red-back is restricted to moist environments.
  • This is, in part, the result of a life cycle that can be completed free of standing water; unlike other amphibians, the red-backs complete their development on land without becoming free-swimming gilled larvae.
  • Larval development occurs entirely within the egg from which a tiny, fully formed, 2cm, salamander emerges.
  • The red-back salamander is found in woodlands, wooded ravines, and river valleys.
  • During rainy periods they feed on spiders and small insects in the leaf litter on the forest floor.
  • Look for these salamanders under logs and rocks or in moist rotting stumps. When disturbed they scurry into tunnels or wriggle deeper into the crumbling stump.
  • They mark their territory using a secretion from glands under their chin. These chemicals act as warnings to other salamanders that they are trespassing and may be attacked.
  • Courtship is in September and October.  The female retains the sperm during hibernation.
  • In the spring she lays 6-10 eggs, which hatch in August and September fully formed.