"Valley and Ridge Salamander Complex" Valley and Ridge Salamander (Plethodon hoffmani) & Shenandoah Mountain Salamander (Plethodon virginia)
Recognized Subspecies in VA: None
Size: 3.5 - 4.5 inches
Range: Northern Valley and Ridge Region
Status: Valley and Ridge is Least Concern | Shenandoah Mountain is Tier III
Meet the two species that are usually forgotten about and written off as Eastern Red-backed Salamander in the field. These two species are virtually identical, and really range and DNA is the only way to truly distinguish these two. Sometimes, costal groove counts may help, as Valley and Ridge Salamander (V&RS) will usually have 21 costal groves and the Shenandoah Mountain Salamander (SMS) will have 20-23.
These species can be found under rocks and logs along ridges with rich soils. V&RS seem to like hardwood forest, while SMS are often found in spruce. Very little is known about these species, as they are really overlooked. They do seem to like conditions that are drier than Eastern Red-backed Salamanders can survive.
Similar Species: Of course the Eastern Red-backed Salamander's "Lead-backed" morph is very similar. This complex is slightly larger, with more silver specks, a longer tail, and a dark venter with light flecks. Eastern Red-backed Salamanders also tend to have 18-20 costal grooves. Wehrle's Salamander is larger, stockier, and has large, clean white spots down the flanks and 17 costal grooves. No other small, gray Plethodon species abut this complex's range in Virginia.
Maps and External Sources
Note: These two exclude each other (though individuals around the boundaries are likely hybrids), and the Valley and Ridge map was made before the Shenandoah Mountain Salamander described. This means if you are within the blue area on the SMS map and have found a member of this complex, it will be a SMS. If not, but you are within the blue on the V&RS map, than you have a V&RS.