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How to Differentiate a
Black-bellied Slender Salamander from a
Garden Slender Salamander

 








 




observation link

 
Black-bellied Slender Salamanders and Garden Slender Salamanders overlap in range in Southern California. Ongoing surveys have found that both species occur throughout most of the L.A. Basin, as well as in the mountains and foothills. If you find a salamander in L.A. or Orange Counties, it could be either species. (If you find it high up in the San Gabriel Mountains, look here.) If you find a Black-bellied Slender Salamander in one of these counties, it will be helpful to those who are tracking their range in the area if you take some pictures and then report your observation at H.E.R.P. and iNaturalist. People there will also help you to confirm your ID as long as you photograph the underside.

It can be difficult to identify these two species where they both are found because it is hard to tell them apart unless they are side by side and that is not often possible. You can't tell just by the size or the body color alone. Both species are about the same size, and both have similar color variations.

The best way to determine the species is to look at the color of the salamander's underside.

This means you need to pick up the salamander and turn it over, which is not always easy because they do not like to be upside down. (It helps to use a camera flash to take photos because they rarely stop moving.) Wash your hands well before picking up any salamander, or use clean plastic gloves, to avoid getting anything harmful on their sensitive porous skin. Be careful not to break off the tail, and don't let a salamander stay away from moisture for long or get into the sun, because they can overheat and die quickly.

Black-bellied Slender Salamander Black-bellied Slender Salamander Garden Slender Salamander Garden Slender Salamander
Black-bellied Slender Salamanders - B. nigriventris

Garden Slender Salamanders - B. m. major
  Black-bellied Slender Salamander comparison Black-bellied Slender Salamander comparison  
  Black-bellied Slender Salamander (Top)
Garden Slender Salamander (Bottom)

Note the larger body, legs, and toes of the
Garden Slender Salamander

 
       
Comparison of the Undersides
Black-bellied Slender Salamander Black-bellied Slender Salamander Garden Slender Salamander Garden Slender Salamander
Black-bellied Slender Salamander Black-bellied Slender Salamander Garden Slender Salamander Garden Slender Salamander
Underside of Black-bellied Slender Salamander - B. nigriventris

The Black-bellied Slender Salamander is dark in color
on the belly and under the tail.
Underside of Garden Slender Salamander - B. m. major

The Garden Slender Salamander is light gray in color
under the tail and throat and not as dark on the belly.

Black-bellied Slender Salamander range map Garden Slender Salamanders Range Map
Black-bellied Slender Salamander Range
shown in Red. Possible Range shown in Gray.
Garden Slender Salamander Range
shown in Red
       
  Range Map of all Slender Salamanders in California  
     
San Gabriel Mountains Slender Salamander
A third species, the San Gabriel Mountains Slender Salamander, Batrachoseps gabrieli, occurs only high in the San Gabriel Mountains along with the Black-bellied Slender Salamander. [At elevations from 2,800 - 7,800 ft. - 850 - 2,380 m.) The two species look very much alike. If you find a salamander in that area, you can most likely rule out the Garden Slender Salamander, but you need to determine which of the other two species it is. This is not easy unless you have them side by side, but if you have observed a lot of slender salamanders and have an idea of the size of their limbs, you can notice that the legs, feet, and toes of the San Gabriel Mountains Slender Salamanders are larger in proportion to the body than those of the Black-bellied Slender Salamander and even a little bit larger than those of the Garden Slender Salamander.

San Gabriel Mountains Slender Salamander comparison
San Gabriel Mountains Slender Salamander comparison San Gabriel Mountains Slender Salamander Black-bellied Slender Salamander
Black Bellied Slender Salamander (Left)
A small San Gabriel Mountains Slender Salamander (Right)

(These two salamanders were found next to each other under the same rock.)

Even though the San Gabriel Slender Salamander in the picture is not as large as they get, you can still see that it has larger limbs and toes, and a larger body.

© William Flaxington

Garden Slender Salamander (Left)
San Gabriel Mountains Slender Salamander (collected by permit) (Right)

Note the darker color of the San Gabriel Mountains Slender Salamander and its larger feet and toes.

The underside of a San Gabriel Mountains Slender Salamander is uniformly dark, as it is on the Black-bellied Slender Salamander Underside of Black-bellied Slender Salamander from San Gabriel Mountains
San Gabriel Mountains Slender Salamander San Gabriel Mountains Slender Salamander Black-bellied Slender Salamanders Black-bellied Slender Salamander
San Gabriel Mountains Slender Salamanders, 3,800 ft. San Gabriel Mountains,
Los Angeles County
Black-bellied Slender Salamanders, 3,800 ft. San Gabriel Mountains, Los Angeles County Black-bellied Slender Salamander, 3,000 ft. San Gabriel Mountains, Los Angeles County
     
San Gabriel Mountains Slender Salamander Range Map
San Gabriel Mountains Slender Salamander Range shown in Red
 

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