Eurycea longicauda is mainly distributed throughout the Ozark Highlands, Appalachian Highlands, and the Ohio River Valley. Long-tailed salamanders range from southeastern Missouri through extreme southern Illinois, throughout most of Kentucky, central and western Tennessee, extreme northeastern Mississippi, northern Alabama, northern Georgia, extreme southwestern and northwestern North Carolina, western Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, southern New York, and in the north from extreme eastern Illinois, west through southern Indiana and into southern and eastern Ohio (Lannoo 2005). Map (Lannoo, 2005)
Long-tailed salamanders typically inhabit streams, limestone seeps, springs, caves, abandoned mines, wet shale banks, and ponds. Because of their bi-phasic lifecycle, both aquatic and terrestrial habitats are needed. Larvae grow in aquatic environments, such as streams, ponds, or cave pools, while adults are typically terrestrial, found underneath rocks, crevices, and stone fragments near the margins of streams. ("Eurycea longicauda (Longtail Salamander)", 2004; "Eurycea longicauda longicauda (Green), Long-tailed salamander - Biodiversity of Great Smoky Mountains National Park", 2007; "LONGTAIL SALAMANDER (Eurycea longicauda)", 2002; "Long-tailed Salamander, Eurycea longicauda longicauda", 2011; Lannoo, 2005; "Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of New Jersey", 2007)
Long-tailed salamanders are typically yellow, but body color may range from yellow to red. Adults are between 100 and 200 mm long, with the tail making up about 60% of total body length. Long-tailed salamanders have large eyes and a slender body with stout limbs. A key characteristic of E. longicauda is a row of irregularly shaped, dark stripes found on the long, slender tail. Adult bodies have dark dashes or dots and may contain a broad dorsal band. The belly is colored light yellow to cream.
There are three recognized subspecies: Eurycea longicauda longicauda (long-tailed salamanders), Eurycea guttolineata (three-lined salamanders), and Eurycea longicauda melanopleura (dark-sided salamanders). Three-lined salamanders are identified by their coloration, which varies between yellow and bronze, as well as the three dark lines that run along the body and tail. Dark-sided salamanders are identified by two dark lines running along the sides of the body and tail with a lighter band running dorsally.
Long-tailed salamander larvae are aquatic and have features missing in terrestrial adults, including branching gills, slim bodies, and a tail fin that does not extend to the body. Larvae also differ from adults in that they have a cream colored dorsal pattern. ("Eurycea longicauda (Longtail Salamander)", 2004; "Eurycea longicauda longicauda (Green), Long-tailed salamander - Biodiversity of Great Smoky Mountains National Park", 2007; "LONGTAIL SALAMANDER (Eurycea longicauda)", 2002; "Long-tailed Salamander, Eurycea longicauda longicauda", 2011; Arnold, et al., 2008; Lannoo, 2005; "Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of New Jersey", 2007)
The larval period of long-tailed salamanders is typically 6 months. However, timing may vary among populations. In order to survive, aquatic larvae need shelter and food, which they find in a variety of aquatic invertebrates, including ostracods, copepods, and snails. If there is an insufficient food supply, metamorphosis may be delayed for a year and larvae may overwinter. The metamorphosis size of long-tailed salamanders is 23 to 28mm snout to vent length but, if overwintering occurs, they can be greater than 50 mm in total length. ("Eurycea longicauda longicauda (Green), Long-tailed salamander - Biodiversity of Great Smoky Mountains National Park", 2007; Lannoo, 2005)
Main breeding activity occurs during late fall to early spring. Females lay 60 to 110 eggs in water, attached to the underside of rocks. Time to hatching ranges from 4 to 12 weeks. Long-tailed salamanders are sexually mature at an average age of 2 years old. (Lannoo, 2005)
There is little information on parental investment in E. longicauda. However, like most salamanders, females leave aquatic habitats after laying eggs, so there is little parental involvement after egg-laying.
This species is rarely bred in captivity and there is no information on its lifespan in the wild. Other plethodontids live as much as 5 to 10 years in the wild. ("Eurycea longicauda longicauda (Green), Long-tailed salamander - Biodiversity of Great Smoky Mountains National Park", 2007)
Adults exhibit seasonal patterns in habitat use. For example, during periods of heavy rain, adults migrate uphill. Also, adults are known to migrate into and out of caves and mine shafts. (Lannoo, 2005)
Long-tailed salamanders can cover a considerable distance over a year but their home range size is unclear. This is attributed to the fact that many juveniles and adults spend most of their time underground. (Lannoo, 2005)
Long-tailed salamanders communicate in similar ways to other plethodontid salamanders, using pheromones. These chemical signals are very important especially in mating rituals. Courtship rituals occur mainly aquatically, and one account reports tactile interactions as well. During mating, plethodontids typically exhibit head-rubbing, which serves a communicative purpose. Long-tailed salamanders have developed senses of smell and sight allowing them the ability to perceive its environment either visually or chemically. (Arnold, et al., 2008; Lannoo, 2005)
Long-tailed salamanders typically eat adult and immature arthropods, worms, and other terrestrial invertebrates. Although all adults are invertebrate generalists, the types of invertebrates preyed on depends on the environment. For example, in New Jersey, spiders, homopterans, beetles, and moths and butterflies are the main diet. However, in one Indiana population, more than 20 types of invertebrates are eaten. (Lannoo, 2005)
Anti-predator mechanisms have not been studied extensively in this species, but one mechanism has been observed. When threatened, individuals display a defensive posture with an elevated tail, and the tail autotomizes (breaks off) when the salamander is handled. Also, long-tailed salamanders are quick, able to bolt for cover when threatened. (Lannoo, 2005)
Long-tailed salamanders are predators on both terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates. They are also important competitors in cave environments with other salamanders. Long-tailed salamander larvae appear to be competitive equals with larval cave salamanders (Eurycea lucifuga), but they appear to be displaced by several other salamander species. (Lannoo, 2005)
Long-tailed salamanders may help in pest control because they feed on various terrestrial invertebrates, but their effect on humans is minimal. (Lannoo, 2005)
There are no known adverse effects of E. longicauda on humans.
Long-tailed salamanders remain locally abundant, but populations have declined due to habitat loss from strip mining, acid drainage from coal mining, and clear cutting. This species has been listed as threatened in both Kansas and New Jersey and is a species of special concern in North Carolina. In New Jersey, long-tailed salamanders were listed as a threatened species in 1979. This was attributed to the decline of natural habitats and pollution of larval ponds. The New Jersey Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act helped protect long-tailed salamanders in New Jersey by outlawing the development of wetland areas and "buffers." Buffers are protected areas within 150 feet of wetlands. In Kansas, the long-tailed salamanders are protected by the Kansas Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act. This act requires project developers to obtain a permit from the Environmental Services Section of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks anytime a development project is proposed that will impact the natural habitats of the species. ("Eurycea longicauda (Longtail Salamander)", 2004; "LONGTAIL SALAMANDER (Eurycea longicauda)", 2002; "Long-tailed Salamander, Eurycea longicauda longicauda", 2011; "Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of New Jersey", 2007)
Jonathan Haun (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Rachelle Sterling (editor), Special Projects, Phil Myers (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
an animal that mainly eats meat
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.
animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature
fertilization takes place outside the female's body
union of egg and spermatozoan
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
mainly lives in water that is not salty.
having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.
Animals with indeterminate growth continue to grow throughout their lives.
An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.
makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
active during the night
reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.
chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species
breeding is confined to a particular season
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
associates with others of its species; forms social groups.
uses touch to communicate
that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).
Living on the ground.
movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others
uses sight to communicate
State of New Jersey. 2007. Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of New Jersey. Trenton, NJ: Department of Environmental Protection.
2004. "Eurycea longicauda (Longtail Salamander)" (On-line). Accessed March 20, 2010 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/59268/0.
2007. "Eurycea longicauda longicauda (Green), Long-tailed salamander - Biodiversity of Great Smoky Mountains National Park" (On-line). Accessed March 20, 2010 at http://www.dlia.org/atbi/species/Animalia/Chordata/Amphibia/Urodela/Plethodontidae/Eurycea_longicauda.shtml.
2002. "LONGTAIL SALAMANDER (Eurycea longicauda)" (On-line). Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. Accessed March 20, 2010 at http://www.kdwp.state.ks.us/news/Other-Services/Threatened-and-Endangered-Species/Threatened-and-Endangered-Species/Species-Information/LONGTAIL-SALAMANDER.
2011. "Long-tailed Salamander, Eurycea longicauda longicauda" (On-line). Accessed March 20, 2010 at http://www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/ensp/pdf/end-thrtened/lngtlsalamander.pdf.
Arnold, S., K. Kiemnec, H. Godwin. 2008. A Recombinant Courtship Pheromone Affects Sexual Receptivity in a Plethodontid Salamander. Cary, NC: Oxford University Press.
Lannoo, M. 2005. Amphibian Declines: The Conservation Status of United States Species. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.