A review of colour phenotypes of the Eastern Red-backed Salamander, Plethodon cinereus, in North America


  • Jean-David Moore Forêt Québec, Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs, Direction de la recherche forestière, 2700 rue Einstein, Québec, Québec G1P 3W8
  • Martin Ouellet Amphibia-Nature, 469 route d’Irlande, Percé, Québec G0C 2L0




Phenotypes, coloration, red-backed, lead-backed, erythristic, colour morph, iridistic, albino, leucistic, amelanistic, melanistic, colour anomaly, Eastern Red-backed Salamander, Plethodon cinereus, North America


The Eastern Red-backed Salamander (Plethodon cinereus) is the most abundant salamander species in many forests of northeastern North America. It is well-known for its colour polymorphism, which includes eight colour phenotypes: the red-backed (striped), lead-backed (unstriped) and erythristic morphs, as well as the iridistic, albino, leucistic, amelanistic and melanistic anomalies. Here we review the various colorations of P. cinereus, with the objective of facilitating the identification of these different phenotypes and of generating interest among field herpetologists and scientists reporting on this species. We also list six previously unpublished occurrences of colour variants in this species (1 case of erythrism, 3 of iridism, 1 of leucism, and 1 of partial leucism). To our knowledge, these cases include the first documented occurrence of iridism in the red-backed morph of P. cinereus, and the first two mentions of this colour anomaly in the lead-backed morph from Canada.