Northern Red Salamander

Scientific Name: Pseudotriton ruber ruber

US Range: southern New York to Virginia

Size: 4-7 inches (total length)

Conservation Status: state-listed as endangered in Indiana; not federally listed

Northern Red Salamander Facts

When it comes to blending in to avoid predators, beautiful and brightly-colored northern red salamanders must’ve missed the memo.

© Bob Hamilton

Actually, they use an entirely different strategy. Their vivid skin serves to send a message to predators. Red salamanders are not toxic, but they’ve been demonstrated to be unpalatable – in other words, to taste bad – to predators, especially birds. 

One hypothesis for their bright coloration is related to two other groups of salamander species: mud salamanders and spring salamanders. These two groups are also unpalatable and have similar red or orange coloration, and they’re found in the same locations in parts of the red salamander’s range. 

It’s thought that predators potentially learn that salamanders that look like this do not taste good. This could be reinforced when predators try to eat an individual of any of these three groups. Red salamanders, mud salamanders, and spring salamanders may form what’s called a Müllerian mimetic complex in which the species mimic each other for mutual benefit. 

Northern red salamanders have declined throughout parts of their range, mostly due to habitat loss and degradation.

ARC’s Work for Northern Red Salamanders

We’re working to protect and restore the forest, stream, and wetland habitats the northern red salamanders need for foraging and breeding throughout their range in PARCAs, or Priority Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Areas.

Can You Help?

Donate to ARC to invest in our work for often-overlooked species, like northern red salamanders.