Description: The black-bellied salamander is a large, stream-dwelling salamander. These salamanders are brown to black in color, often with a light splotchy pattern on the back. Mature adults will have jet black bellies. One or two rows of light spots may be present on the side of the body. This species is easily confused with the shovel-nosed salamander (Desmognathus marmoratus), yet black-bellied salamanders have less flattened heads, more prominent eyes, and a more conspicuous light line from the eye to the back of the jaw. Because small black-bellied salamanders may have light bellies, the color of the belly does not always reliably distinguish between these two species.
Habitat/Range: In North Carolina, the black-bellied salamander is often abundant in cool, steep mountain streams. Although black-bellied salamanders are generally extremely aquatic, they may also be found along stream edges, in seepages, in burrows in the bank, and on wet rock faces.
Diet: Although black-bellied salamanders primarily comsume small aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates, they will also consume crayfish and small salamanders.
Reproduction: Females typically lay eggs on the bottom of rocks in fast moving water and guard them until hatching. Black-bellied salamanders have a larval stage lasting up to 3 years. During the larval stage, black-bellied salamanders have external gills and tend to occupy the center of the stream while the adults occupy the stream edges.
Miscellaneous: Black-bellied salamanders have historically been sold as fish bait across much of their range. These salamanders were probably released by fisherman into many drainages where they were not historically present. Although the black-bellied salamander is often abundant, populations in many areas have declined as a result of timber-harvesting, stream acidification, heavy metal pollutants, and over-collection for fish bait.