Northern Dusky Salamander


Scientific Name: Desmognathus fuscus
Size: 2.8 – 5.6” (adult length)
Status: A recently identified inhabitant of Michigan; current status and distribution within the state unknown. Further study needed.


Northern Dusky Salamander


Occupy edges of rocky streams, hillside springs, and seepages, often in wooded or partially wooded areas.

Adult Coloration:

Often with light stripe from back of the eye to the back of the jaw. Overall coloration variable, but most often there is a broad yellowish gray, tan, or brown stripe from head to tail, often with darker spots and an irregular dark brown or black border on each side. Dorsal pattern may become obscured with darker pigment with age. Belly white or gray with dark gray mottling.

Adult Characteristics:

Small stout salamander with hind legs larger than front legs. Tail flattened at tip and narrow ridge along upper edge. Males longer than females with broader heads. Vent becomes swollen during breeding in males, with fingerlike projections at cloacal opening.

Juvenile Characteristics:

Paired light reddish or yellowish spots along the back.

Larvae Characteristics:

Well-developed limbs and small, white gills at hatching. Gray or brownish dorsally with paired light spots down back and tail, usually separated by light central stripe. Belly white or gray.

Species Confused With:

No other salamander in our region has a light line from the eye to the jaw, or hind legs larger than front legs (usually all limbs are round the same size in other species.


  • Amphibians and Reptiles of the Great Lakes Region by Jim Harding
  • Harding, J.H. and J.A. Holman. 1992. Michigan Frogs, Toads, and Salamanders. MSU Cooperative Extension Service and MSU Museum. Extension Bull. E-2350, 144 pp.
  • Ruthven, A. G., H. B. T. Gaige, et al. 1912. The herpetology of Michigan, by Alexander B. Ruthven. Crystal Thompson and Helen Thompson; Memoranda towards a bibliography of the archaeology of Michigan, by Harlan I. Smith; prepared under the direction of Alexander G. Ruthven. Lansing, Mich., Wynkoop Hallenbeck Crawford, State Printers.
  • Holman, J. A. 2012. The Amphibians and Reptiles of Michigan: A Quaternary and Recent Faunal Adventure. Detroit, Mich., Wayne State University Press.
  • Conant, R., and Collins, J. T. 1998. Reptiles and Amphibians: Eastern, Central North America. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Press.