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Amphibians of Washington

Plethodon vandykei, Van Dyke salamander (yellow morph)

Description. This is a small to medium sized salamander (up to 10 cm total length) that has large glands on the sides of the back of the head (parotid glands, which can be seen in the picture above). There are three color variants: yellow/orange, rose/salmon-pink, and yellow striped with black sides. Adult males have yellow throat patches.

Distribution (GAP Analysis map) Van Dyke salamanders are restricted to Washington. They occur in the Olympic Mountains, Willapa Hills, and Cascade Mountains of southern Washington.

Habitat. These salamanders usually live under rocks along stream banks, but also spend some time in large fallen, decaying logs. Populations occur in patches at low to mid elevations.

Cool Biology Facts. The color pattern variation in Van Dyke salamanders may be related to elevation and associated features, such as local climate. In eastern red-backed salamanders (in the eastern US), the color changes that occur with increasing elevation and latitude are correlated with environmental temperature.

Conservation status. These salamanders occur in apparently isolated populations. They appear to lay eggs inside large, fallen decaying logs, and therefore may be restricted to older forests that have such fallen logs. Disturbance of these habitats by clear-cutting or removal of fallen dead wood can cause local extinction of populations.

Plethodon vandykei, Van Dyke salamander (yellow morph)
Plethodon vandykei, Van Dyke salamander (yellow morph)
Photo by Brad Moon