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King University News :: King Professor’s Search for the Yonahlossee Salamander Highlighted in July/August Edition of Tennessee Conservationist Magazine

BRISTOL, Tenn., August 15, 2014 – The July-August edition of The Tennessee Conservationist magazine features Instructor of Biology for King University Joshua Rudd and his journey to find the elusive yonahlossee salamander.

Rudd, who joined King’s Biology department in Jan. 2014, he studied at East Tennessee State University where he received his undergraduate degree in Biology, followed by his master’s in Conservation Biology. His graduate research focused on the yonahlossee salamander. Prior to coming to King, he taught at Sullins Academy, Northeast State Community College, and Virginia Highlands Community College.

Rudd’s article begins by describing the first documented yonahlossee sighting. “In 1917, near Grandfather Mountain, N.C., E.R. Dunn first described what today has become known to herpetologists as a true natural treasure of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. The salamander Dunn found had a red back contrasting brilliantly against an underlying black background with gray to white blotches bleeding up from its belly. Dunn named it the ‘yonahlossee’ after a nearby mountain road, which in Cherokee means ‘trail of the bear.’ For nearly 100, years, the yonahlossee has developed a mystique rivaling that of the giant hellbender.”

“The article isn’t as much about my graduate research as it is about my personal experience trying to find the mysterious yonahlossee and the impressions I acquired,” says Rudd. “This particular salamander is sometimes considered the triple-crown or Cadillac of salamanders. They can grow quite large and do not have lungs. For a salamander which grows so large, it is quite unusual to be without lungs. They are also considered to be quite rare, only being found in specific areas on the mountain tops of East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and Western North Carolina.

“We live in the world capital of salamander biodiversity,” added Rudd. “There are more species of salamanders here than anywhere else in the world; people come here from all over the globe to research salamanders. As I researched, I began to see why this salamander is so important. We put a lot of importance on our cultural heritage – folk art, folk music, and quilting. As a region, we have a strong emphasis on this aspect of our maintaining our historic and artistic heritage. You can think along these same lines with animals native to this region; this salamander is only found here. That’s it. If, for some reason these rare populations were to be lost, that would be it – you’d never get that back.”

Near the end of his article, Rudd observations quite eloquently portray the importance of the treasure of biodiversity found here in our own backyards.

“Many of us do not take the time to look at what surrounds us on our way to a particular destination. Like mine, your focus may be getting to the mountain bald or cliff top to view the rising peaks of mountains. Yet I challenge you to pause and consider what might be under the rock or log you pass by. In the Southern Appalachian Mountains, we have a remarkable and unique treasure of biodiversity, in both the flora and fauna. You can find something new whenever you take the time to look. From wildflowers to the largest hemlocks, songbirds to birds of prey, and amphibians like the yonahlossee; numerous species are just waiting for you to discover the diverse heritage of this region.”

To obtain a copy of The Tennessee Conservationist for $5.50, call 615.532.0060. Also, visit The Tennessee Conservationist website at


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