LOOK: Great Smoky Mountains Park Officials Discover New Salamander Species

by Megan Molseed

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been dubbed the “Salamander Capital of the World.” The skitterish little amphibians are uniquely abundant in the Smokie Mountains. According to the National Park Service (NPS), the salamanders are known to outnumber any other creature in the mountains. Including human visitors.

However, there’s more in the mountains as a new species to include in this group. The National Park Service announces the discovery of an entirely new salamander species in recent days. Additionally, park officials are calling this newfound salamander species the Cherokee Black-bellied Salamander. Take a look at the new species here.

Scientists Identify A Brand New Black-Bellied Salamander Species

The National Park Service notes that this newly discovered species is the 31st species that currently inhabit the Great Smokie Mountains, National Park. The Cherokee Black-bellied Salamander is the amphibian’s common name. However, the amphibian’s official name is Desmognathus gvnigeusgwotli. The National Park Service officials note that this name means “black belly” in the Cherokee language.

Scientists discovered this brand new salamander species after applying a genetic analysis that discovered this animal was distinct from other salamanders in the national park. The species is identifiable by its dark black belly. And, like many amphibians within the Salamander family, the Cherokee Black-bellied Salamander regularly hunts for food along the water banks throughout the Great Smokie Mountains.

The Cherokee Black-Bellied Salamanders Feature A Flattened Tail

When not hunting for snacks, this new species of salamander can be found sunning itself on river rocks. Or even cooling themselves off in the streams. It is identified not only by its dark body but also by its flat tail.

“If you see a large, dark-bodied salamander with a flattened tail resting on a river rock or poking its head out of a streamside hole, it’s likely the Cherokee Black-bellied!” notes a statement from the Great Smokie Mountain National Park.

The Cherokee Black-bellied Salamander is a “lungless” animal, much like many of the others living in the region. The lungless description means that the salamanders breathe using the blood vessels under their skin as well as using the linings of their mouths and throats.

It is because of this that officials with the National Park Service recommend that nature-lovers avoid picking up the animals. According to the NPS, the natural oils on a person’s hand can end up messing with the amphibian’s breathing process. Additionally, the Park Service warns that handling the salamanders will stress them. This, officials warn can “disrupt their breathing or even spread infections.”