KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A new salamander species has been identified in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, according to the park service.
The 31st known species in the park is the Cherokee Black-bellied Salamander or Desmognathus gvnigeusgwotli. According to NPS, the species name means black belly in the Cherokee language.
The species was discovered after scientists using genetic analysis found it was distinct from the other black-bellied salamander in the park. It is known for its extremely dark belly and can often be found hunting along the banks of streams.
“If you see a large, dark-bodied salamander with a flattened tail resting on a river rock or poking its head out of a streamside hole, it’s likely the Cherokee Black-bellied!” wrote the park on Facebook.
The Great Smoky Mountains are often called the “Salamander Capital of the World” as the amphibians are especially abundant in the Smokies. According to the NPS, on an average day the majority of vertebrate animals, including human visitors, in the park are salamanders.
The majority of the salamanders in the park including the Black-bellied are lungless. This means they ‘breathe’ through the walls of blood vessels in their skin and the linings of their mouths and throats. Because of this, NPS asks people not to pick them up as the oils on our hands can “stress them out, disrupt their breathing or even spread infections.”
To learn more about the salamanders who live in the Smokies, click here.