Cave Salamander

Eurycea lucifuga

Plethodontidae (lungless salamanders) in the order Caudata (salamanders)


A medium-sized salamander with a long tail. Normally bright orange, but can vary from yellow-brown to orange-red. Distinct dark brown or black spots cover most of the body. The belly is usually yellow-orange and without spots. There are 13 or 14 grooves along the side. The end of the tail is often black. Young cave salamanders are yellow with shorter tails.


Length: 4–6 inches.

Cave Salamander

Cave Salamander
Cave Salamander
Beautiful cave salamander, Bloomsdale

Cave Salamander

An orange salamander with black spots clings to a wet limestone cave wall
Cave salamander in a cave south of Hollister

Cave Salamander, Ste Genevieve County

Cave salamander, Ste. Genevieve County
Cave Salamander, Ste. Genevieve County
Cave Salamander, Ste. Genevieve County

Cave Salamander-20200424-30325.jpeg

A bright orange salamander with black spots
Cave Salamander in Highlandville MO
Habitat and conservation

Confined to Ozark Plateau areas having limestone outcrops. Although it usually occurs in caves, this species also can live in wooded areas, along rocky streams and springs, under rocks on glades during the spring and even in wells and swamps. Those living in caves live in the twilight zone, the dimly lit area beyond the cave entrance, but also occur far back in areas of permanent darkness. When not in caves, this species is nocturnal and spends days under rocks or rotting logs.


Eats a variety of small arthropods—insects, spiders and little crustaceans, for example.

Cave Salamander Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Throughout most of the southern half of Missouri, with the exception of the Mississippi Lowlands.


A common amphibian of the Ozark Plateau. As with all animals living in caves, this species should never be disturbed. The ecological balance in a cave is extremely fragile, and any disturbance could be dangerous to this balance.

Life cycle

Breeding generally is in early summer. The female lays 50–90 eggs in cave streams, springs or rocky streams outside of caves. The eggs are laid singly under rocks or on the stream bottom. The larvae are gilled stream-type and live 1–2 years in the water. Though cave salamanders are usually active only at night, after heavy rains they often rest on rocks or boulders during the day. When pursued, a cave salamander scampers quickly, often waving its tail to distract attention away from its head.

Human connections

Missouri’s Ozark caves, springs and rocky streams are genuine treasures—of geology, cool, clear groundwater, ferns and trees, birds and fish. We go there to be refreshed and renewed. The cave salamander is a valuable component of these restorative places, and thus is valuable to us as well.

Ecosystem connections

Well-adapted to life in darkness and semidarkness, cave salamanders are predators of small organisms and food for larger creatures such as fish, birds, reptiles and mammals.