The Surprisingly Colorful Salamanders of Appalachia | At the Smithsonian | Smithsonian

The Surprisingly Colorful Salamanders of Appalachia

The region's cool forests and plentiful rivers make it home to more salamander species than any other part of the world

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At the ready, a yonahlossee salamander. Photo by John White, courtesy of National Zoo

Appalachia may be known for many things: its music, its industry, its culture, but what about its salamanders? It turns out, of the 550 known salamander species in the world, 77 can be found in this mountainous area, more than any other one region in the world. Many of them can only be found there. But this global hotspot of salamander diversity is in danger, according to the National Zoo; global warming, which dries salamanders’ naturally wet habitats, and water pollution are the two biggest threats. All of which is why the Zoo is bringing 10 different species to an upcoming exhibit, “Jewels of Appalachia,” even as observation in the field continues.

Salamanders are known to be a hardy bunch, having survived for more than 200 million years through three mass extinctions. But, because they have relatively long lifespans, it’s unclear if the rapid pace of climate change will leave them time to adapt.

A spotted salamander. Photo by John White, courtesy of National Zoo

A marbled salamander stands against a brown leaf. Photo by John White, courtesy of National Zoo

Eye-catching in color, a longtailed salamander. Photo by John White, courtesy of National Zoo

Able to blend into rivers, a gray cheeked salamander. Photo by John White, courtesy of National Zoo

A green salamander actually displays more than one color. Photo by John White, courtesy of National Zoo

About Leah Binkovitz
Leah Binkovitz

Leah Binkovitz is a Stone & Holt Weeks Fellow at Washington Post and NPR. Previously, she was a contributing writer and editorial intern for the At the Smithsonian section of Smithsonian magazine.

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