This special treat comes to us courtesy my friend John Howard of Adams County, a naturalist extraordinaire. Probably no one knows more about the natural history of Adams and Scioto counties - Ohio's most biodiverse region - than does John. He routinely makes great finds, and is always a hoot to get out in the field with.
John recently found a new site for the rare Mud Salamander in southern Ohio's sprawling, 65,000 acre Shawnee State Forest. As you can see from the photo, these viscous little beasts are quite the charmers. Too bad they mostly remain out of sight, buried in gelatinous mire under rocks in springy outflows.
Mud Salamanders resemble the more common Red Salamander, Pseudotriton ruber, but notice the dark iris and relative lack of black spotting in John's photo. Reds are more heavily speckled and have a yellowish iris.
This species is known from only a few counties in southernmost Ohio, and is considered threatened in the state. It isn't a species that one normally just stumbles across, and kudos to John for working the habitat and finding these secretive little wrigglers.