In search of the slippery salamander

Red-cheeked salamanders (Plethodon jordani) are found only at higher elevations in the Great Smoky Mountains. Photo by Dean Stavrides via iNaturalist, CC.

It’s possible to hike hundreds of miles in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and never see a salamander. Even so, an exceptional number of the amphibians make their home in the mountains.  Scientists have identified 31 species of salamander in the Smokies and might be on the precipice of adding another. They range from tiny […]

An annual checkup for salamanders

A Blue Ridge two-lined salamander scurries beneath leaf litter near Chimney Tops in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Blue Ridge two-lined salamanders typically forage for small invertebrates at night near the forest floor. Provided by NPS.

Pay a visit to Chimneys Picnic Area in Great Smoky Mountains National Park during the first days of spring, and chances are you’ll hear the cheerful sounds of families enjoying meals together, downy woodpeckers drumming on the bark of deciduous trees, and a few small groups of students talking intently amongst themselves as they carefully […]

An Appalachian salamander’s glow could shed light on a biological mystery

In the white light of day, the biofluorescence of the southern gray-cheeked salamander remains invisible to the human eye. Southern gray-cheeked salamanders maintain relatively small home ranges and inhabit the northern hardwood and spruce-fir forests of Southern Appalachia at elevations generally above 3,500 feet. Climate change and habitat disruption from pests like the hemlock woolly adelgid pose the most significant threats to the survival of this and other salamander species found only at the highest elevations in the Smokies. Photo by Todd W. Pierson.

Three years ago, researchers from St. Cloud State University in Minnesota captured the attention of biologists around the world with a surprising discovery. After observing a number of frogs, salamanders, and newts under blue and ultraviolet light, the team found that every amphibian they tested could glow, or ‘biofluoresce.’ Although biofluorescence has been studied predominately […]

When the student becomes the teacher

Xavier's family gets to work gently unstacking rocks and returning them to the creek. Photo by Sue Wasserman.

The more you know, the more you care, the better you can do. It’s a naïve thought, but it’s what I choose to believe, especially in my capacity as Great Smoky Mountains Association’s 2022 Steve Kemp Writer in Residence. I shared this thought with an Illinois family I met on a late summer hike to […]

Scientists discover new salamander species hiding in plain sight

Until recently, it was thought that 30 species of salamander live in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. But a recent article in Bionomia, the international journal devoted to biological naming, announced that what was believed to be one species of salamander has been found to actually consist of at least four distinct species, two of […]