Species Dive 4 – Aneides aeneus: The green, cryptic climber of the Eastern U.S.

The Green Salamander may be one of the more interesting and intriguing amphibians of the eastern United States. Their pattern and coloration boldly contrast that of any other salamander native to their rocky plateau range. They spend most of their lives high above the ground. And their climbing ability is impressive.

The Green Salamander is aptly named; bright, moss-colored blotches mottle their bodies. This pattern serves the animal well in blending into the moist crevices they call home. A. aeneus lives among the narrow cracks of large exposed rockfaces (often sandstone) (Gordon 1952). Rock outcrops that are adequately shaded are required, and moisture from rain and humidity provide most of the water this amphibian needs. In Mississippi, these conditions only exist in a small portion of the state.

Since only a small portion of the rocky plateau of the southern Appalachians extends into Mississippi, many folks living in the state have not seen one. Many more may not even realize they exist! They had been near the top of my list to see in Mississippi. Especially after developing this online resource, I wished to learn more about them and capture images that could help teach others about their beauty and unique biology!

Pictured below (left) is an example of the type of rock and habitat in which Green Salamanders live in northern Mississippi. The cracks and crevices that streak these ancient geologic structures are where greens call home. These rocks may be covered in various plants and lichens that provide camouflage (below, right) for A. aeneus and habitat for their invertebrate prey. At night, particularly on wet nights, Green Salamanders may emerge and utilize their large toes to climb the surfaces of the rocks to capture prey and court mates. Mature females tend to lay one clutch of around 30 eggs per year in what is called a “brood crevice” (Gordon 1952; may be different from the normal area they reside).

Rocky outcrop where green salamanders may be found
Aneides caryaensis, a closely related species in North Carolina, blends in well with the mosses on its rock.

Despite the small area of the state they inhabit, the population is apparently healthy. On a good night in late spring or early summer, one may survey a dozen or more of these secretive salamanders. Scientists often use flashlights to search for the shiny bodies of amphibians at night when they may be more active. I made my way up to explore this region in mid-April of 2022. The season’s weather was not humid or warm enough yet for a stellar night of Green Salamander searching, but I was fortunate enough to shine one gorgeous, large male late after dark with my partner (pictured below). The long drive and hours put into finding this animal were well worth it, and the photos ended up being some of my favorites from the whole of 2022.

Adult male found in the rocky habitats of northeast Mississippi


Gordon, R. E. 1952. A Contribution to the Life History and Ecology of the Plethodontid Salamander Aneides aeneus (Cope and Packard). American Midland Naturalist 47:666.

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