Distribution and relative abundance of Tennessee Cave Salamanders (Gyrinophilus palleucus and Gyrinophilus Gulolineatus) with an emphasis on Tennessee populations

Brian T. Miller, Matthew L. Niemiller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Tennessee Cave Salamander complex (Gyrinophilus palleucus and G. gulolineatus) consists of three obligate cave-dwelling taxa inhabiting subterranean waters of east and central Tennessee, north Alabama, and northwest Georgia. Although ranges of these taxa are pooriy understood, their populations are reportedly small and declining. The IUCN lists G. gulolineatus as "Endangered" and G. P. necturoides as "Vulnerable"; whereas, NatureServe fists G. gulolineatus (G1) and G. p. necturoides (G2G3T1) as Critically Imperiled. To better determine the distribution and relative abundance of extant populations, we searched 113 cave streams in middle and east Tennessee, seven in northwest Georgia, 13 in north Alabama and two in southern Kentucky. We found 1183 salamanders, including 63 G. gulolineatus, 681 G. palleucus, and 439 G. porphyriticus (Spring Salamanders), during 229 surveys of 135 eaves. Gyrinophilus palleucus and G. gulolineatus were observed in more caves (30) than G. porphyriticus (17 caves). Members of the complex were found at 52% (12 of 23) of historic caves and at 16% (18 of 110) of non-historic caves. We extended the known distribution of G. palleucus in the Collins, Elk Duck, and lower Tennessee River watersheds of central Tennessee, and the distribution of G. gulolineatus into the Clinch River watershed of east Tennessee. We found robust populations at historic sites thought to be declining; therefore, our data do not support previous claim of range-wide declines. However, the fragile ecosystems of subterranean environments make populations vulnerable to habitat alteration. In particular, Knox Co. populations of G. gulolineatus and Rutherford and Wilson cos. populations of G. palleucus are located in areas of rampant urban development associated with significant surface habitat and concomitant groundwater alteration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalHerpetological Conservation and Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Cumberland plateau
  • Gyrinophilus gulolineatus
  • Gyrinophilus palleucus
  • Middle Tennessee
  • Tennessee Cavé Salamanders
  • Threats

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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