Recognized Subspecies in VA: None
Size: 2 - 4.5 inches
Range: Only described in the southwestern Piedmont, but may be more widespread
Status: Least Concern
The Flathead Salamander is one of the most underrated species in my opinion. Most people write-off most Duskies as too difficult to bother with, as they all look quite similar. Most references will tell you that this species is too similar to the Northern Dusky to ID without DNA. This is not necessarily true, as there are some differences, albeit very few. To be honest, I have focused on this species a bit, but I really don’t know any one good way to, rather it’s more of a sum of their traits… The best suggestion I have is to go somewhere that you know there are Flatheads, but no Northern Duskies such as Meadows of Dan or Rock Castle Gorge and find a few to put a good picture in your mind. It is difficult to explain the subtle differences, as both species are highly variable. The real issue is that Flathead Salamanders tend to resemble a unique locale of Northern Dusky, which many of these type locales are now becoming unique species. As adults these salamanders are a bit easier and tend to have longer, flatter heads than the typical Northern Dusky, and tend to be very orange compared to their other counterparts. Many adults have bold, black markings, but have two rows of large patternless patches without any these markings along the areas where juveniles have orange blotches. These can be quite red on some individuals, and typically linger until early into adulthood. Remember, Northern Duskies and Flatheads exclude one another, so if you are unsure, keep searching until you find a better specimen to ID.
This species is so over looked, that there is very little know about them. Hopefully, someone will do some more work on this species and we could get some more information on this species other than what we know. But here is what I can easily say: if you flip rocks in a stream in their known range, only Duskies you will find are Flathead Salamanders, Seal Salamanders, and, in places, Kanawha Blackbelly Salamanders.
Similar Species: Checking the belly pattern will easily rule out Seal Salamander and Kanawha Blackbelly Salamander. Range will rule out Northern Dusky.
Maps and External Sources
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