Pennsylvania has 22 species of salamanders representing five families and 11 genera. There are seven different families of salamanders in North America.
As a group, salamanders are secretive and nocturnal. All need moisture to survive. Their skin is smooth and must remain moist. Even the so-called terrestrial species can live only in areas that are moist or damp.
Salamanders sometimes can be confused with lizards because of their slender bodies, long tails and similar body shape. But on close examination, it is obvious that salamanders lack the claws, scales and external ear opening of the lizards.
Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis
The hellbender is more commonly gray, but some specimens could be an olive-brown to almost black above. Some dark mottling over the back and upper sides is also possible. The belly is lighter. Though not always present, irregular, scattered black spots sometimes pepper the back and sides. The body and head are flattened. Several loose flaps of thick, wrinkled skin hang along the lower sides. The legs are short and stout with four toes on the hindlegs. The tail is flat and rudderlike.
Necturus maculosus maculosus
The mudpuppy is also known as a waterdog. The most striking characteristic of this salamander other than its size, or perhaps because of it, is the large feathery set of reddish gills billowing out from behind each side of the head. The legs are short but strong. The tail fin is occasionally tinted orange or red. Its small eyes have no eyelids. There are four toes on the front and hind feet. Most salamanders have five toes on the rear pair of feet. The mudpuppy, or waterdog, is gray to rusty brown on the upper surfaces, which also are showered with dark blue-black spots. The spots have irregular edges and are well-separated from one another. The pale belly is usually gray and is accented with dark spots. A dark stripe runs through each eye. Fifteen or 16 costal grooves mark each side.
This salamander is long and slender with a wide snout. Its toes are proportionately longer than those of most other salamanders. The back and sides are brownish gray; the belly is a shade lighter. The area surrounding the vent is usually gray. Small, bluish marks speckle the head, limbs and sides, but these tend to disappear with age. This salamander has 12 costal grooves on each side.