Wild Guide

By |
From Missouri Conservationist: February 2019

Grotto Salamander/Eurycea spelaea

  • Status: Species of Conservation Concern
  • Size: 3–4¾ inches
  • Distribution: Wet caves of Missouri’s Ozark Plateau

The smooth gracefulness of these vulnerable pink salamanders reminds us of the overall delicacy of their cave ecosystem. The survival of the grotto salamander requires healthy caves, which requires clean groundwater and lack of disturbance by humans. It is important to respect caves, their inhabitants, and the archaeological artifacts they contain. “Walk softly and leave no trace.”

  • Life Cycle: Grotto salamanders breed during the winter and early spring. Fertilization occurs internally, and the eggs are attached to stones in or near water in caves. The larvae are aquatic and inhabit cave streams, springs, or streams that flow out of caves or grottoes. Larvae may take 2–3 years to transform into adults.
  • Foods: Adults eat small insects that feed on bat guano, so you’re likely to find grotto salamanders in caves with high bat populations. Larvae eat tiny freshwater crustaceans and other small aquatic invertebrates.
  • Ecosystem connections: salamanders are considered predators to insects and other small prey in the cave ecosystem. However, they and their larvae serve as prey to larger creatures, such as mammals venturing into caverns. Even after they die, grotto salamanders serve as nutrients for future cave life.

Did You Know?

This is the only species of blind salamander in Missouri. Adults are true troglobites, meaning they live in total darkness and require caves with a spring or stream for survival

Also In This Issue

This Issue's Staff

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld

Associate Editor - Bonnie Chasteen

Staff Writer - Larry Archer
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek

Creative Director - Stephanie Thurber

Art Director - Cliff White

Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter

Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner

Circulation - Laura Scheuler