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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
To obtain a copy of The Tennessee Conservationist for $5.50, call 615.532.0060. Also,
visit The Tennessee Conservationist website at http://www.tn.gov/environment/conservationist/.
King University is a Presbyterian, doctoral-level comprehensive university. Founded in 1867 as King
College, the University offers more than 90 majors, minors, pre-professional degrees
and concentrations in fields such as business, nursing, law, medical and health sciences,
pharmacy, education, and humanities. Graduate programs are offered in business administration,
education, and nursing. A number of research, off-campus learning opportunities, and
travel destinations are also available. King University is a NCAA Division II and
a Conference Carolinas member with 25 varsity sports. For more information about King
University, visit www.king.edu. King University does not discriminate against academically qualified students of
any race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, age, or disability. King University
is certified by SCHEV to operate locations in Virginia. For more information, contact
the King University office at Southwest Virginia Community College, 309 College Road,
Richlands, VA 24641.