Fall color …
Hello everyone! As we inch our way into fall (my favorite time of year), we all look forward to the changing colors of nature. Those vivid reds, oranges, yellows, and varying shades of brown just grab the eye after several months of green. For this week’s Keeper Stories, I thought I would discuss a little bit of fall color through …you guessed it …SALAMANDERS!
As some of you may already know, salamanders are among my most favorite of the world’s inhabitants (I have to be a little pragmatic, those snakes can get jealous). Although often secretive, salamanders lead completely fascinating, complex lives, and when you take just a moment to observe them, they can be incredibly vibrant, beautiful animals. In my opinion they can hold their own against the most brilliantly colored tropical frogs! Below I’ve included a smattering of some of the salamanders I’ve seen during visits to the myriad streams, creeks, forests, mountains, and hollers of the Southeastern USA that represent the colors of the season to me.
Southern two-lined salamander (Eurycea cirrigera)
The slightly subdued golden color displayed by this salamander makes me think of the yellows of beech trees as the days get shorter and the air more crisp.
Blue Ridge two-lined salamander (Eurycea wilderae)
I saw a female of this species meandering along a tiny stream in northern Georgia on a chilly October morning. She looked a bit like drizzled honey.
Ocoee salamander (Desmognathus ocoee)
This species is among the most variable in appearance in the Southeast. With various browns, a pop of orange, and even some flecks of gold, the Ocoee salamander just screams fall!
Red salamander (Pseudotriton ruber)
Just as the name suggests, this salamander is RED! When older, they often turn a shade of pinkish or dark purple, but the youngsters really pop! Always a great splash of color mixed into the brown leaves and gravel along the streamside.
Spring salamander (pictured) (Gyrinophilus porphyriticus)
While many populations of spring salamanders are some shade of reddish orange in color, this amelanistic (or albino) individual (pictured here) from a spot in southwestern North Carolina really takes the cake. It was like stumbling upon a small four-legged Jack ’o Lantern (even the eyes look like they’re on fire)!
Eastern newt (Notophthalmus viridescens)
For many reasons, no fall is complete without seeing at least one red eft. “Efts” are the terrestrial juvenile phase of the eastern newt and can be found wandering various forest trails day or night late into the summer and fall (also in the spring, but that’s for another post!). Seeing these little red-on-red critters moving through the leaf litter is enough to make your heart skip a beat.
Robert L. Hill
Associate Curator of Herpetology