I knew that North America is the salamander capital of the world, but nothing could prepare me for quite how true that is. Over a week in Ontario, Canada, I spent a few days in a suburb of Hamilton and canoe camping in Algonquin provincial park and must have encountered more than 30 salamanders. You can flip over any log, branch, tyre or abandoned door and you’re almost guaranteed to interrupt a salamander’s day. The species that was most often exposed to my incessant sampling was, by far, the red-backed salamander.
Red-backed salamanders (Plethodon cinereus) are abundant in deciduous forests throughout their range in southeastern Canada and northeastern USA as far South as North Carolina. They are terrestrial and require a moist environment to undertake respiration as, like other members of the Plethodontidae family, they don’t have lungs so all respiration occurs via the skin.
The red back salamander (Plethodon cinereus) red back morph.
The red back salamander comes in two different colour morphs. The classic ‘red back’ which has a big red-orange stripe and the ‘lead back’ morph, which lacks the stripe. In both morphs the belly is grey and speckled.