With its bright orange body and scattered dark spots, the cave salamander is one of Oklahoma’s most striking and recognizable salamanders. Beyond the bold color pattern, cave salamanders can be readily identified by their flat head topped with large eyes and their distinctively long tail.
Despite the name, cave salamanders aren’t restricted to caves. While this species is often associated with the entrances or “twilight zone” of limestone caves, they are also regularly found under rocks in damp areas, near spring-fed swamps and climbing damp rock walls. Though an adept swimmer, this salamander is primarily terrestrial. Cave salamanders inhabit limestone areas from Virginia to Oklahoma, but are only found in our state’s Ozark Mountain region.
Like other salamanders, cave salamanders are carnivorous and feed primarily on invertebrates. Adult cave salamanders are known to prey on at least 73 species of invertebrates found both on the surface and inside caves. They seem especially fond of flies, mosquitos, gnats and midges. The aquatic salamander larvae feed on small crustaceans that live at the bottom of the stream. Cave salamanders have an extended breeding season, running from late summer through fall with most reproduction occurring between August and October. This timing coincides with the typical cave’s seasonal patterns, when internal temperatures are modest compared to surface temperatures and stream flow is low. Females deposit fertilized eggs in small cave pools where they are protected from the main stream’s current. Eggs may be attached to a rock in clumps, or found singly at the bottom of the pool. Multiple clutches of eggs are often laid during the breeding season, with each female averaging 70 eggs a season. When the salamander larvae hatch, they may move into the cave’s main stream within a few weeks, or remain in the pool for months.
4-6 inches in length.
This species has a closed season and cannot be removed from the wild.