Comprehensive DescriptionRead full entry
Plethodon asupak is a robust, medium-sized salamander of the western Plethodon group. Male SVL averages 60.7 mm, while female SVL averages 67.2 mm. Tail length averages 50.6 mm for males and 57.8 mm for females. Males have an average of 16 costal grooves (range 16-17), while females have an average of 17 costal grooves (range 16-17). Males and females generally have 3 intercostal folds between adpressed limbs (range 2-3 for males, 3-5 for females). Teeth number 60 for premaxillary and maxillary teeth, and 15 vomerine teeth are also present. Forelimbs and hindlimbs are relatively long (Mead et al. 2005).
In life, a broad brown and bronze dorsal stripe extends from the head to the tail. The sides of the body are chocolate brown. Most parts of the body are flecked with white and yellow spots, especially on the sides and on the limbs. The ventral surface is dark gray to purple and is mottled with light gray patches and some white flecking. The gular region has more dense white flecks. The chin is gray and somewhat mottled. Eyes are black with gold flecks on the upper and lower regions (Mead et al. 2005).
Juveniles differ from adults in having two orange or red-brown stripes that extend from the eye toward the tail. The two stripes fuse into a single band just posterior to the vent. Dorsal stripes are lined with black pigment, which is replaced by brown pigment on the sides of the body. White or yellow flecks are concentrated on the dorsal surface of the head, the lateral parts of the trunk, and limbs. The ventral surfaces are dark gray to purple and have white flecks (Mead et al. 2005).
Similar species: Plethodon asupak can be distinguished from the similar species P. elongatus and P. stormi by allopatric location, a wider head and longer limbs, a slightly shorter tail relative to the body length (tail/body ratio of about 0.80 in P. asupak vs. 0.85-0.90 in P. elongatus and P. stormi) and by generally having one less intercostal fold between adpressed limbs (limb interval of 2.5-3.5 in P. asupak vs. 5-6 in P. elongatus and 4-5 in P. stormi). It can also be distinguished from P. elongatus by larger size (average total length 111.3 mm for P. asupak males, and 125.0 mm for P. asupak females, vs. average total length of 91.6 mm for P. elongatus males and 97.4 mm for P. elongatus females).
The specific epithet "asupak" is the Shasta Indian name for the area of the type locality. The Karuk tribe of Shasta Indians settled in this region and saw salamanders as omens of good luck and as serving to purify water (Mead et al. 2005).