The Appalachian Blue Ridge Mountains are one of the most ecologically diverse habitats in North America. There are millions of insects, reptiles, and amphibians that call this region home. The Shenandoah region of Virginia, which encompasses the southwest part of the state and The Blue Ridge Mountains, contains thousands of species that are endemic to these particular mountain ranges and valleys. There are fauna within Appalachia that cannot be found anywhere else in Virginia or even in The United States broadly. The uniqueness of the fauna present in The Shenandoah Valley is a part of what makes this area so spectacular. Though this list does not come close to describing the complete variety of insects, amphibians, and reptiles within the Blue Ridge, it’s a small start. For more information, visit The Virginia Museum of Natural History.
Flat Backed Millipede
Millipedes common in the Shenandoah region belong primarily to the Xystodesmidae family. Members of this family often have very small distributional areas; there are 300 distinct species in The Appalachian Mountains alone. Several flat backed millipedes are endemic to the Shenandoah region, including semionellus placidus, nannaria morrisoni, and syctonotus virginicus.
Small, freshwater spring snails are abundant in the Blue Ridge. The fontigens orolibas snail is the most endemic to the Shenandoah region, particularly. Its habitat extends as far south as Rockfish Gap, where it then ends abruptly despite no significant ecological changes.
Appalachia is the global center for plethodontidae (also known as lungless salamander) diversity. There are some 34 distinct species of lungless salamander present in the Appalachian Blue Ridge Mountains. These salamanders lack traditional lungs, instead breathing through skin and mouth tissue. The plethodon richmondi shenandoa and desmognathus monticola jeffersoni are endemic to the Shenandoah region of Appalachia.
Though found across North America, the common snapping turtle (chelydra serpentina) is prevalent and well known within The Blue Ridge Mountains. Though feared by many, snapping turtles typically stay hidden within fresh water ponds or rivers, only emerging from their hiding places to scavenge for food. However, considering how common snapping turtles are within the Blue Ridge, one should always be careful when wading or fishing, for snapping turtles have a mean bite.
These are just a few of the thousands of notable species that inhabit the Blue Ridge Mountains. The biodiversity of this area is one of its greatest treasures, and these ecosystems deserve to be protected. Every year, large swaths of forest are disrupted or destroyed by pollution, invasive plant and animal species, and human industrial invasion. In order to preserve the breathe of plant and animal life that call this beautiful region home, we must try to keep our forests clean and free from pollution. To find out how you can help preserve The Blue Ridge, reach out to the Blue Ridge Conservancy today!