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Phaeognathus hubrichti is an elongated salamander with reduced limbs and a prehensile tail. P. hubrichti is uniform dark brown in coloration and lacks the light line from the eye to the jaw of other desmognathine salamanders. Elongation in P. hubrichti is due to an increased number of trunk vertebrae, 22 vertebrae in P. hubrichti while most other Desmognathines have 15 (Highton 1961).
At one time, Phaeognathus hubrichti was considered possibly threatened by overcollection for museum specimens and subsequent destruction of habitat (Mount and Schwaner 1970). After its initial discovery under leaf litter at the type locality, herpetologists were unable to find additional specimens for some time. Valentine (1963a) suggested a collecting technique of locating salamanders in their burrow entrances and then driving a pick behind the salamander to prevent its escape down the burrow. Although obviously destructive to the fragile ravine habitat, this technique produced many museum specimens. Mount and Schwaner (1970) expressed concern at the destruction of the habitat of the type locality by collectors and suggested a new technique of "fishing" for P. hubrichti at the entrance to their burrows. A small fishhook baited with a cricket or spider is dangled in front of a P. hubrichti burrow and once the bait is taken the salamander can be gently pulled from its burrow. This technique rarely causes harm to salamanders and has been successfully employed in other studies (Gunzburger 1999). Due to its listing as a federally threatened species, collection of P. hubrichti is now prohibited.