Plethodon Tschudi, 1838

Class: Amphibia > Order: Caudata > Family: Plethodontidae > Subfamily: Plethodontinae > Genus: Plethodon
58 species

Plethodon Tschudi, 1838, Classif. Batr.: 92. Type species: Salamandra glutinosa Green, 1818, by subsequent designation of Fitzinger, 1843, Syst. Rept.: 33. Placed on the Official List of Generic Names in Zoology by Opinion 921, Anonymous, 1970, Bull. Zool. Nomencl., 27: 79.

Sauropsis Fitzinger, 1843, Syst. Rept.: 33. Type species: Salamandra erythronota Rafinesque, 1818, by original designation. Synonymy by Duméril, Bibron, and Duméril, 1854, Erp. Gen., 9: 86; Boulenger, 1882, Cat. Batr. Grad. Batr. Apoda Coll. Brit. Mus., Ed. 2: 53. Junior homonym of Sauropsis Agassiz, 1832.

SaurophisGray, 1850, Cat. Spec. Amph. Coll. Brit. Mus., Batr. Grad.: 35; Duméril, Bibron, and Duméril, 1854, Erp. Gen., 9: 86. Incorrect subsequent spelling of Sauropsis Fitzinger, 1843.

Hightonia Vieites, Nieto-Roman, Wake, and Wake, 2011, Mol. Phylogenet. Evol., 59: 632. Type species: Ambystoma vehiculum Cooper, 1869, by original designation. Coined as a subgenus of Plethodon.

English Names

Slimy Salamanders (Fowler, 1907, Annu. Rep. N.J. State Mus. for 1906: 55).

Woodland Salamanders (Conant, Cagle, Goin, Lowe, Neill, Netting, Schmidt, Shaw, Stebbins, and Bogert, 1956, Copeia, 1956: 175; Collins, Huheey, Knight, and Smith, 1978, Herpetol. Circ., 7: 7; Frank and Ramus, 1995, Compl. Guide Scient. Common Names Amph. Rept. World: 32; Collins, 1997, Herpetol. Circ., 25: 8; Crother, Boundy, Campbell, de Queiroz, Frost, Highton, Iverson, Meylan, Reeder, Seidel, Sites, Taggart, Tilley, and Wake, 2001 "2000", Herpetol. Circ., 29: 25; Stebbins, 2003, Field Guide W. Rept. Amph., Ed. 3: 169; Collins and Taggart, 2009, Standard Common Curr. Sci. Names N. Am. Amph. Turtles Rept. Crocodil., ed. 6: 13; Tilley, Highton, and Wake, 2012, in Crother (ed.), Herpetol. Circ., 39: 29; Powell, Conant, and Collins, 2016, Field Guide Rept. Amph. E. North Am., 4th ed.: 74; Highton, Bonett, and Jockusch, 2017, in Crother (ed.), Herpetol. Circ., 43: 30).


Southeastern and southwestern Canada; western and eastern USA but absent from the Great Plains region; one population in the southern Rocky Mountains of New Mexico.


Synonymies and review of many species are available in Highton, 1962, Bull. Florida State Mus., Biol. Sci., 6: 235–367 (although this was published before many species were removed from synonymy or newly named). Brodie, 1970, Herpetologica, 26: 468–516, discussed the systematics of western Plethodon and rejected subspecies, and formulated species groups for the taxa that he addressed. Highton and Larson, 1979, Syst. Zool., 28: 579–599, discussed phylogenetic relationships of the species and defined the species groups as employed here. According to Highton and Larson, the western species lineage contains the Plethodon vandykei, Plethodon neomexicanus, Plethodon vehiculum, and Plethodon elongatus groups; the eastern lineage contains the Plethodon cinereus, Plethodon glutinosus, Plethodon wehrlei, and Plethodon welleri groups. Weisrock and Larson, 2006, Biol. J. Linn. Soc., 89: 25–51, discussed phylogenetics within the Plethodon jordani complex. Larson, Wake, Maxson, and Highton, 1981, Evolution, 35: 405–422, and Duncan and Highton, 1979, Copeia, 1979: 95–110, studied the interrelationships of the large Plethodon (Plethodon ouachitae, Plethodon caddoensis, and Plethodon fourchensis) of the Ouachita Mountains. Larson and Highton, 1978, Syst. Zool., 27: 431–448, studied geographic protein variation and divergence in the Plethodon welleri group. Highton, Maha, and Maxson, 1989, Illinois Biol. Monogr., 57: 1–153, reviewed the Plethodon glutinosus complex and discussed phylogenetic relationships. Highton, 1999, Herpetologica, 55: 43–90, reviewed the Plethodon cinereus group and discussed geographic protein variation. Sites, Morando, Highton, Huber, and Jung, 2004, J. Herpetol., 38: 96–105, also discussed phylogenetics of the Plethodon cinereus group. See Petranka, 1998, Salamand. U.S. Canada: 332–416, for accounts of most species. Highton and Peabody, 2000, in Bruce et al., Biol. Plethodontid Salamanders: 31–93, reviewed the evolution and taxonomy of the Plethodon glutinosus and Plethodon jordani complexes. Sessions and Larson, 1987, Evolution, 41: 1239–1241, suggested that the western Plethodon lineage was more closely related to Aneides than to the eastern Plethodon lineage, rendering Plethodon paraphyletic with respect to Aneides. Mahoney, 2001, Mol. Phylogenet. Evol., 18: 174–181, discussed the phylogenetics of Plethodon on the basis of molecular evidence and noted that 1) the preponderance of all evidence suggests strongly that Plethodon is paraphyletic with respect to Aneides; 2) the molecular evidence for a monophyletic Aneides is weak; 3) the species groups of eastern Plethodon are monophyletic, 4) previous notions of relationships within species groups require further investigation. Macey, 2005, Cladistics, 21: 194–202, and Chippindale, Bonett, Baldwin, and Wiens, 2004, Evolution, 58: 2809–2822, presented evidence for the monophyly of Plethodon. Kozak, Weisrock, and Larson, 2006, Proc. R. Soc. London, Ser. B, Biol. Sci., 273: 539–546, reported on the phylogenetics (and the rapid development of species) within the taxon. Powell, Collins, and Hooper, 2011, Key Herpetofauna U.S. & Canada, 2nd Ed.: 27–34, provided a key to the species. Vieites, Nieto-Roman, Wake, and Wake, 2011, Mol. Phylogenet. Evol., 59: 623–635, placed this genus in their Plethodontini and supported its monophyly. Fisher-Reid and Wiens, 2011, BMC Evol. Biol., 11 (300): 1-20, discussed discordance of mtDNA and nuDNA datasets in Plethodon, which largely confirmed earlier work. Highton, Hastings, Palmer, Watts, Hass, Culver, and Arnold, 2012, Mol. Phylogenet. Evol., 63: 278–290, provided and extensive discussion of the phylogenetics of eastern Plethodon via mt- and nuDNA and allozyme evidence as well as the pitfalls that affected previous efforts by other authors to elucidate its phylogenetic structure. Fouquette and Dubois, 2014, Checklist N.A. Amph. Rept.: 191–192, discussed the species groups and their consistency (or lack thereof) with recent molecular trees. Pyron and Wiens, 2011, Mol. Phylogenet. Evol., 61: 543–583, noted that the former Plethodon wehrlei group is nested within the Plethodon welleri group and Fouquette and Dubois, 2014, Checklist N.A. Amph. Rept.: 191, combined them under the name Plethodon wehrlei-welleri group. Raffaëlli, 2013, Urodeles du Monde, 2nd ed.: 386–409, provided brief accounts, photographs, and range maps. Camp and Wooten, 2016, Copeia, 2016: 111–117, briefly discussed modes of diversification in the Plethodon glutinosus complex. Felix, Wooten, Pierson, and Camp, 2019, Zootaxa, 4609: 429–448, evaluated the phylogeny within the Plethodon wehrlei group using molecular markers, resulting in the resurrection of Plethodon jacksoni and the naming of Plethodon pauleyi. 

Contained taxa (58 sp.):

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