SMOKY MOUNTAINS, Tenn. (WATE) — The National Park Service announced a new salamander species and identified the species.
Paul Super is the research coordinator for the Appalachian Highlands Research Center out of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Super said the park has one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the country.
“We continue to find new species of animals, plants, fungi, bacteria, acacia, all matter of different things. So, it’s very exciting to work in a park that has so much biodiversity,” he said.
The new species is another kind of black belly salamander.
“Gvnigeusgwotli is the scientific name for it, which basically means black belly,” Super said.
Desmognathus gvnigeusgwotli or Cherokee black-bellied salamander can be distinguished from other species by its extremely dark belly.
The Great Smoky Mountains is often called the salamander capital of the world with dozens of species crawling around the Tennessee streams and rivers.
“The black belly salamander, the split, has now brought us up to 31 species of salamander that have been recorded in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park,” Super said.
Super said nationally there are five different species of black belly salamanders and now two of them have been recorded in the park.
“We got one called the Cherokee salamander, which is in most of the park, and then in the Cosby area, a different salamander called the Pisgah salamander or the Pisgah black belly salamander,” he said.
He added that the only way to tell the difference is through a genetic DNA analyst, which a person needs a permit for, but a person may be able to spot one poking its head out of the water if they look close enough,
“The black belly salamander is a really large salamander that lives in streams. You’d normally see them more in lower elevations,” he said.
If you do see one in the Smoky Mountains, do not try to pick them up. It can spread infections or disrupt their breathing.