Amphibians and Reptiles of Minnesota

A Complete On-line Field Guide to Minnesota's Amphibians and Reptiles

Eastern Red-backed Salamander - Plethodon cinereus PDF Print E-mail
Salamanders of Minnesota - Salamanders of Minnesota

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Redback salamander, Plethodon cinereus, from Pine County, MN











No status assigned in Minnesota.


This is one of the smaller salamanders native to Minnesota. They are 21/2 to 4 inches long. The back and tail is usually a bright orange-red, but it can vary to almost a brown. Ventrally, they are gray or brown with white or silvery flecks. This pattern extends upward onto the sides. There is a "leadback" phase of this salamander in which the entire body and tail is gray. This phase has not been reported in Minnesota, but occurs in states east of here. They have proportionately long, slender bodies compared to our other salamanders. They have four toes on the front feet and five toes on the hind feet.


No subspecies of Plethodon cinereus are recognized.


Eastern red-backed salamanders are found in northeastern Minnesota with an old record as far south as Chisago County. There is an old, isolated record along the Minnesota River in Chippewa County.


These salamanders are primarily found in upland coniferous and mixed forests. Soil ph is important. They are found in and under rotting logs, stones, bark, and other debris. I have found these salamanders in moss mats in water saturated potholes in Pine County.


Eastern red-backed salamanders are the most terrestrial of all of Minnesota's salamanders. They breed on land and the female lays 3-14 eggs in damp soil under logs or inside the rotten logs themselves. She guards the eggs until they hatch and stay with the young up to three weeks thereafter. Colonies within populations appear to be localized. In one small area, there may be a specimen (or a few) under every good log and then you may not see a specimen outside of that zone for some distance. They seem to prefer slopes rather than flat bottomlands or uplands. They need high humidity and certain soil ph. Redbacks overwinter on land under debris and in ant mounds.


Eastern red-backed salamanders eat worms, ants, spiders, and a variety of other small invertebrates.


An eastern red-backed salamander from Mille Lacs County, Minnesota


An eastern red-backed salamander from Mille Lacs County, Minnesota


An eastern red-backed salamander from Mille Lacs County, Minnesota


An eastern red-backed salamander from Pine County, Minnesota

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