Spiral Notebook
Smoky Mountain Salamander Hunt
by Mary Kay Carson
September 23, 2012
Smoky Mountain Salamander Hunt

Great Smoky Mountains National Park straddles the Tennessee-North Carolina border. These ancient tumble-down mountains are full of creeks and springs, mossy rocks, and fallen trees covered in fungus. It’s a perfect place for salamanders, thirty different species of them! All that moist moss, soggy soil, and rotting wood is just what these dampness-loving amphibians crave. It rains so much in the Smoky Mountains that it’s considered a rain forest. Not the tropical kind, but a temperate rain forest.

Rain, mud, and slippery rocks are great for salamanders. But constant rain makes for difficult photo shoots. Photographer Tom Uhlman and I are working on an upcoming book about science projects in America’s national parks. Last week we traveled to Great Smoky Mountains National Park to meet up with salamander scientist Amy Luxbacher. She was there collecting information about a (very cute!) species, the red-cheeked salamander. It has giant cartoon-character eyes and a red patch on its cheek.

Red-cheeked salamanders...

Plethodon jordani

...only live in GSMNP.

We spent a couple of days tromping through wet moss and fallen leaves looking for them. Mostly in the rain or drizzle. Tom Uhlman is an intrepid photographer, however, and did what was needed to photograph the scientist at work. He also spent a lot of time photographing as many species of salamanders as we could find. I turned out to be the superior salamander hunter, in case you’re wondering.

Here are some of the other species we found. Click on them for an up-close look.

Desmognathus wrighti

↑ This pygmy salamander is teeny tiny, the size of a noodle.

Desmognathus imitator

↑ The imitator salamander has a red cheek patch, too. But don't be fooled!

Eurycea wilderae

↑ Blue Ridge two-lined salamanders are super skinny and fast.

 Plethodon glutinosus or Plethodon teyahalee

↑ This slimy salamander lives up to its name!

Torn Paper

Recent Notes:
Follow Along As We Storm Chase In Tornado Alley
Is It Tornado Season Where You Live?
Ultima Journey Update
Fall 2018 Osprey Update!
All Hands on Deck to Support the Southern Residents
Ospreys in Missoula: Spring 2018 Update
SLJ Interview Gives Readers a Behind the Scenes Look
Crows Aren’t the Only Smart Birds in Town
Big News for Scientist in the Field Scott Dowd

HMH logoPrivacy Policy | Trademarks | Terms of Use
Copyright Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.