Eastern Hellbender
Cryptobranchus alleganiensis

Photo by JD Willson

Description: The hellbender is a very large salamander with a flat body shape and wrinkled folds of skin on its sides.  It has a broad, flat head with small eyes and a broad, flat tail. Hellbenders are typically brown to orange in coloration. Larvae have feathery gills and irregular blotches and absorb their external gills after about 2 years of growth. They become adults between 5 and 8 years. Mudpuppies (Necturus maculosus) are the only other large salamanders in their geographic range and are easily distinguished from hellbenders by their red, feathery gills.

Habitat/Range: Hellbenders can be found in northern Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, western North Carolina, southwestern Virginia, and up the Appalachian mountain chain into Pennsylvania and New York.  They predominately inhabit waters that eventually empty into the Mississippi River.

Diet: Hellbenders eat crayfish, small fish, aquatic invertebrates, and salamanders (including other hellbenders).

Reproduction: Males make depressions beneath large siltless rocks and overhangs for females to deposit 200 to 400 eggs during the fall. This may occur with several different females and the male guards the eggs until hatching. It takes about 2 months for hatching to occur and juveniles to stay under the cover object for 6 months or more.

Back to Salamanders of North Carolina
Back to Herps of North Carolina

The shaded region represents the range of the eastern hellbender in North Carolina.

Photo by Lori A Williams

The body of a hellbender is flattened dorsoventrally.
Photo by D Dennis

The hellbender is the largest salamander in North America.
Photo by JD Willson

Photo by Mark Auten

Photo by Mark Auten

This website created by: J. Willson, Y. Kornilev, W. Anderson, G. Connette and E. Eskew.
For comments or questions contact M. Dorcas: midorcas@davidson.edu.
M. Dorcas homepage: http://www.bio.davidson.edu/dorcas
Davidson College, Davidson, North Carolina 28035-7118.

Partial Funding for this website provided by a Associate Colleges of the South, National Science Foundation, and Duke Energy.