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A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


Speckled Black Salamander - Aneides flavipunctatus flavipunctatus

(Strauch, 1870)

Speckled Black Salamander - Aneides flavipunctatus (Strauch 1870)
Shasta Black Salamander - Aneides iecanus (Cope 1883)
Klamath Black Salamander - Aneides klamathensis Stebbins, 1951 & Dubois and Raffaelli, 2009

Click on a picture for a larger view



Black Salamanders Range MapRed = Range of this subspecies in California

Aneides flavipunctatus  flavipunctatus -
 Speckled Black Salamander

Range of other subspecies in California:

Orange: Aneides flavipunctatus niger -
 Santa Cruz Black Salamander


Click the map for a topographical view






observation link





Four species of Aneides flavipunctatus have been described in August, 2019 (see range map below). I have divided up my pictures of black salamanders and their habitat on this page according to which of the three species to which they belong. (I did that years ago when the first information was published that there were multiple clades within the species.) However, I will not yet fully divide them into four species with a separate page for each pending acceptance of the new taxonomy (which should happen easily based on the fact that there have been several papers published over a period of year so these results have been expected.) The fourth species is Aneides niger, which can be found on the Aneides flavipunctatus niger page.
 
Speckled Black Salamander - Aneides flavipunctatus (Strauch 1870)
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander
Large-spotted adult, Mendocino County Adult, frosted form, southern Humboldt County
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander
Large-spotted adult, Mendocino County Large-spotted adult, Mendocino County Large-spotted adult, Mendocino County Juvenile, Large-spotted form,
Mendocino County 
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander
Large-spotted adult, Mendocino County Large-spotted sub-adult,
Mendocino County
Underside of large-spotted adult, Mendocino County Juvenile, Large-spotted form,
Mendocino County 
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander
Large-spotted adult, Mendocino County Large-spotted adult from Lake County.
© Mike Spencer
Large-spotted adult from the inner Coast Range, Lake County
© John Stephenson
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander
Three views of the same tiny juvenile from Mendocino County (with a sympatric adult in the third picture.) Large-spotted sub-adult,
Mendocino County
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander
Solid black adult, Mendocino County Lightly spotted adult and juvenile,
coastal Mendocino County
Juvenile, solid black form,
Mendocino County 
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander
Adult at southern edge of range,
eastern Sonoma County
© egret.org / Audubon Canyon Ranch
Adult with small spots, Sonoma County
© Zach Lim
Adult with small spots, Sonoma County
© Zach Lim
Sub-adult, frosted form, southern Humboldt County
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander
Adult, frosted form, southern
Humboldt County
Adult, frosted form, southern
Humboldt County
Adult and juvenile, frosted form, southern Humboldt County Adult, frosted form, southern
Humboldt County
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander
Adult, frosted form, southern Humboldt County Juvenile, Mendocino County
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander
Juvenile, frosted form, southern Humboldt County Juvenile, southern Humboldt County Juvenile, southern Humboldt County, with juvenile Ensatina for comparison.
Very dark adult, southern Humboldt County © Grayson Sandy
Speckled Black Salamander      
Small-spotted adult, Sonoma County
© Zachary Lim
     
       
Aneides flavipunctatus - Speckled Black Salamander Habitat
Speckled Black Salamander Habitat Speckled Black Salamander Habitat Speckled Black Salamander Habitat Speckled Black Salamander Habitat
Habitat, forest clearing,
Mendocino county
Habitat, Mendocino County
Creekside talus habitat,
Mendocino County
Redwood forest habitat,
southern Humboldt County
Wandering Salamander Habitat    
Streamside habitat, southern
Humboldt county
     
       
Klamath Black Salamander - Aneides klamathensis Stebbins, 1951 & Dubois and Raffaelli, 2009
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander
Adult, northwest Humboldt County © Mark Gary Fine-spotted adult, Siskiyou County © 2004 Tim Burkhardt
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander
Fine-spotted adult, Siskiyou County Adult, northwest Humboldt County
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander
Sub-adult, Del Norte County
© Alan Barron
Adult, Del Norte County
© Alan Barron
Underside of adult, Del Norte County
© Alan Barron
Juvenile, Del Norte County
© Alan Barron
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander    
Adults, northern Humboldt County
© Grayson Sandy
Adult, in an apparent "unken reflex" defensive pose, northern Humboldt County © Grayson Sandy    
       
Klamath Black Salamander - Aneides klamathensis Habitat
Speckled Black Salamander Habitat Speckled Black Salamander Habitat Speckled Black Salamander Habitat  
Rock talus habitat, Siskiyou County Habitat, northern Humboldt County  
       
Shasta Black Salamander - Aneides iecanus (Cope 1883)
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander
Small-spotted adult, Shasta County Adult, Shasta County
© Zach Lim
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander
Small-spotted adult, Shasta County
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander
Juvenile, Shasta County Juvenile, Shasta County
© Jonathan Hakim
Adult, Shasta County
© Jonathan Hakim
Adult, Shasta County
© Jonathan Hakim
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander
Adult, Shasta County
© Jonathan Hakim
Adult, Shasta County
© Jonathan Hakim
Adult and juvenile, Shasta County
© Jonathan Hakim
Juvenile, Shasta County
© Mark Gary
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander    
Adult, eastern Tehama County, just north of Red Bluff, which should represent a range extension for this species.
© Ryan Henson
Adult, Shasta County
© Spencer Williams
   
   
Shasta Black Salamander - Aneides iecanus Habitat
Speckled Black Salamander Habitta Speckled Black Salamander Habitat Speckled Black Salamander Habitat Speckled Black Salamander Habitat
Habitat, Shasta County
Habitat, Shasta County Habitat, Shasta County Habitat, Shasta County
© Jonathan Hakim
Speckled Black Salamander Habitat      
Habitat, Shasta County
© Jonathan Hakim
     
     
Identification Help
Speckled Black Salamander foot      
Black Salamanders have toes with rounded tips.
Compare with Aneides vagrans, Wandering Salamander, and
Aneides ferreus, Clouded Salamander,
which have toes with squared-off tips.
     
 
Short Videos
Speckled Black Salamander
Speckled Black Salamander
Speckled Black Salamander  
A Black salamander is discovered under a rock on a sunny late November afternoon in Mendocino County. Several adults and a juvenile move slowly and with amazing bursts of speed. Sprinting Black salamanders from southern Humboldt County.

A black salamander in
Mendocino County.
 
     
Description
 
Size
Adults measure 2 - 3 3/4 inches long (5.1 - 9.5 cm) from snout to vent, and up to 5.5 inches (14 cm) total length.

Appearance
A medium-sized salamander with two nasolabial grooves and 14 - 16 well-defined costal grooves.
Color and Pattern
Dorsal coloring varies depending on the locality - it can be solid black, black with fine white specks, black with large white spots, black with pale yellow spots, black frosted with green or gray, or black with many small white spots. The venter is greyish black.
Male/Female Differences
Males have a broader head than females.
Young
Young are black with a brassy or greenish coloration and yellow at the base of the limbs.

Life History and Behavior
A member of family Plethodontidae, the Plethodontid or Lungless Salamanders.

Plethodontid salamanders do not breathe through lungs. They conduct respiration through their skin and the tissues lining their mouth. This requires them to live in damp environments on land and to move about on the ground only during times of high humidity. (Plethodontid salamanders native to California do not inhabit streams or bodies of water but they are capable of surviving for a short time if they fall into water.)

Plethodontid salamanders are also distinguished by their naso-labial grooves, which are vertical slits between the nostrils and upper lip that are lined with glands associated with chemoreception.

All Plethodontid Salamanders native to California lay eggs in moist places on land.
The young develop in the egg and hatch directly into a tiny terrestrial salamander with the same body form as an adult.
(They do not hatch in the water and begin their lives as tiny swimming larvae breathing through gills like some other types of salamanders.)
Activity
Adapted for climbing with long toes and rounded prehensile tail, but mostly terrestrial.
Adults forage for small invertebrates on the ground at night during wet weather.
May be active along streams all year at the southern part of its range, but most stay underground during dry periods.
Territoriality
Adults appear to be agressively territorial.
Longevity
Black Salamanders have lived as long as 20 years in captivity.
Defense
When threatened, juveniles typically remain still while adults attempt to flee. Other defense tactics include defensive posturing - raising the body, lowering the head, and waving the tail, jumping, releasing noxious sticky skin secretions, and biting.
Diet and Feeding
Diet consists of a variety of small invertebrates, including millipedes, ants and termites.
As salamanders grow larger, they eat fewer, but larger prey items.
Reproduction
Reproduction is terrestrial.
Courtship and breeding behavior is not well known.
Breeding males have a well-developed mental gland.
Eggs
Females probably lay from 8 - 25 eggs in moist cavities belowthe ground in July and August.
Eggs are attached by peduncles.
Females stay with the eggs until they hatch.
Young
Young develop completely in the egg and hatch fully formed.

Habitat
Occurs in mixed deciduous woodland, lowland coniferous forests, coastal grasslands.
Found under rocks near streams, in talus, under damp logs, and other objects.

Geographical Range
This subspecies - Speckled Black Salamander, Aneides flavipunctatus flavipunctatus - occurs from Sonoma county north along the coast and coast ranges to southwest Oregon in Jackson and Josephine Counties, and east to near Mt. Shasta.

Another subspecies - Santa Cruz Black Salamander, Aneides flavipunctatus niger - occurs in a small area north of Monterey Bay.

Full Species Range Map
Elevational Range
Most common at low elevations, but found from near sea level to over 5,500 ft. (1,700 meters.)

Taxonomic Notes
In a 2019 paper Reilly & Wake confirmed that Aneides flavipunctatus consists of four species:

Klamath Black Salamander - Aneides klamathensis - Stebbins, 1951 & Dubois and Raffaelli, 2009
Speckled Black Salamander - Aneides flavipunctatus (Strauch 1870)
Shasta Black Salamander - Aneides iecanus (Cope 1883)
Santa Cruz Black Salamander - Aneides Niger Myers & Maslin 1948

(Reilly and Wake (2019), PeerJ, DOI 10.7717/peerj.7370 )

In a 2014 paper,  Reilly and Wake continue to show four species-level units of A. flavipunctatus, including the isolated population south of the San Francisco Bay, but they do not describe any new species.

(Sean B. Reilly and David B. Wake. Cryptic diversity and biogeographical patterns within the black salamander (Aneides flavipunctatus) complex.
Journal of Biogeography, 2014.)


In a study published in 2007, Rissler and Apodaca determined that even though there is little morphological divergence across the species, the use of mtDNA analyses and ecological modeling indicates that there are four separate main lineages of A. flavipunctatus which eventually should be given full species status: A Southern Disjunct lineage on the San Francisco Peninsula and in the Santa Cruz Mountains; a Shasta lineage in the Mount Shasta region; a Central lineage on the north coast and north coast ranges north of San Francisco Bay; and a Northwest lineage in the northwest corner of the state including Humboldt, Del Norte, and Siskiyou Counties. There is another population within the Central Lineage which is also distinct, but they do not discuss this in detail. They recommended that the Shasta and Southern lineages be elevated to species status, but that more work is needed to determine the southern extent of the Northwest lineage. Once that has been determined, they recommend that the Northwest lineage also be elevated to species status.

(Rissler, Leslie J., and Joseph J. Apodaca. Adding More Ecology into Species Delimitation: Ecological Niche Models and Phylogeography Help Define Cryptic Species in the Black Salamander (Aneides flavipunctatus). Syst. Biol. 56(6):924–942, 2007 )



Distribution map of the four species of Black Salamanders.
(Based on Reilly & Wake, 2019)

Red: Klamath Black Salamander - Aneides klamathensis - Stebbins, 1951 & Dubois and Raffaelli, 2009
Purple: Speckled Black Salamander - Aneides flavipunctatus (Strauch 1870)
Orange: Shasta Black Salamander - Aneides iecanus (Cope 1883)
Dark Blue: Santa Cruz Black Salamander - Aneides Niger Myers & Maslin 1948
Gray: Species not yet assigned



1 Rissler, Leslie J., and Joseph J. Apodaca. Adding More Ecology into Species Delimitation: Ecological Niche Models and Phylogeography Help Define Cryptic Species in the Black Salamander (Aneides flavipunctatus). Syst. Biol. 56(6):924–942, 2007

2 Sean B. Reilly, Sharyn B. Marks, W. Bryan Jennings.
Defining evolutionary boundaries across parapatric ecomorphs of Black Salamanders (Aneides flavipunctatus) with conservation implications
Molecular Ecology (2012) 21, 5745–5761

3 Sean B. Reilly, Mitchell F. Mulks, Jason M. Reilly, W. Bryan Jennings, and David B. Wake.
Genetic Diversity of Black Salamanders (Aneides flavipunctatus) across Watersheds in the Klamath Mountains
Diversity 2013, 5, 657-679
www.mdpi.com/journal/diversity

Sean B. Reilly and David B. Wake. Cryptic diversity and biogeographical patterns within the black salamander (Aneides flavipunctatus) complex.
Journal of Biogeography, 2014.


Alternate and Previous Names

Aneides flavipunctatus flavipunctatus - Speckled Black Salamander (Stebbins & McGinnis 2012)
Aneides flavipunctatus - Black Salamander (Stebbins 1985, 2003)
Aneides flavipunctatus flavipunctatus - Speckled Black Salamander (Stebbins 1966)
Aneides flavipunctatus flavipunctatus - Black Salamander (Stebbins 1954)
Aneides flavipunctatus - Black Salamander (Shasta Salamander) (Bishop 1943)
Autodax iecanus - Shasta Salamander - Black Salamander (Grinnell and Camp 1917)
Autodax iecanus (Cope 1886)
Aneides iecanus (Cope 1886)
Plethodon flavipunctatus (Strauch 1870)

Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
Disappeared from many areas of their range. Much prime habitat has been lost when it has been converted to agricultural use, especially vineyards, and probably through logging of forests.

The population in Shasta County should be given special conservation consideration, as it is the most distinct population genetically, and may represent a species distinct from Aneides flavipunctatus.
Taxonomy
Family Plethodontidae Lungless Salamanders Gray, 1850
Genus Aneides Climbing Salamanders Baird, 1849
Species flavipunctatus Black Salamander (Strauch, 1870)
Subspecies

flavipunctatus Speckled Black Salamander (Strauch, 1870)
Original Description
Aneides flavipunctatus - (Strauch, 1870) - Mem. Acad. Sci. St. Petersburg, Ser. 7, Vol. 16, No. 4, p. 71

from Original Description Citations for the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America © Ellin Beltz

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Aneides: Greek - lacking form or shape.
flavipunctatus: Latin - yellow spotted - refers to conspicuous white or yellow spots on dark background.

from Scientific and Common Names of the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America - Explained © Ellin Beltz

Related or Similar California Salamanders
Santa Cruz Black Salamander
Arboreal Salamander
Wandering Salamander
Clouded Salamander

More Information and References
California Department of Fish and Wildlife

AmphibiaWeb

Stebbins, Robert C., and McGinnis, Samuel M.  Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of California: Revised Edition (California Natural History Guides) University of California Press, 2012.

Stebbins, Robert C. California Amphibians and Reptiles. The University of California Press, 1972.

Samuel M. McGinnis and Robert C. Stebbins. Peterson Field Guide to Western Reptiles & Amphibians. 4th Edition. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2018.

Stebbins, Robert C. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. 3rd Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003.

Behler, John L., and F. Wayne King. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.

Powell, Robert., Joseph T. Collins, and Errol D. Hooper Jr. A Key to Amphibians and Reptiles of the Continental United States and Canada. The University Press of Kansas, 1998.

Bartlett, R. D. & Patricia P. Bartlett. Guide and Reference to the Amphibians of Western North America (North of Mexico) and Hawaii. University Press of Florida, 2009.

Bishop, Sherman C. Handbook of Salamanders. Cornell University Press, 1943.

Lannoo, Michael (Editor). Amphibian Declines: The Conservation Status of United States Species. University of California Press, June 2005.

Petranka, James W. Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution, 1998.


Corkran, Charlotte & Chris Thoms. Amphibians of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Lone Pine Publishing, 1996.

Jones, Lawrence L. C. , William P. Leonard, Deanna H. Olson, editors. Amphibians of the Pacific Northwest. Seattle Audubon Society, 2005.

Leonard et. al. Amphibians of Washington and Oregon. Seattle Audubon Society, 1993.

Nussbaum, R. A., E. D. Brodie Jr., and R. M. Storm. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Pacific Northwest. Moscow, Idaho: University Press of Idaho, 1983.

Joseph Grinnell and Charles Lewis Camp. A Distributional List of the Amphibians and Reptiles of California. University of California Publications in Zoology Vol. 17, No. 10, pp. 127-208. July 11, 1917.
s
Conservation Status

The following conservation status listings for this animal are taken from the November 2020 California "Special Animals List" and the November 2020 "State and Federally Listed Endangered and Threatened Animals of California" list, both of which are produced by multiple agencies and available here: https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Data/CNDDB/Plants-and-Animals. You can check the link to see if there are more recent lists.

If no status is listed here, the animal is not included on either list. This most likely indicates that there are no serious conservation concerns for the animal. To find out more about an animal's status you can go to the NatureServe and IUCN websites to check their rankings.

This salamander is not included on the Special Animals List, meaning there are no significant conservation concerns for it in California according to the California Department of Fish and Game.


Organization Status Listing  Notes
NatureServe Global Ranking
NatureServe State Ranking
U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) None
California Endangered Species Act (CESA) None
California Department of Fish and Wildlife None
Bureau of Land Management None
USDA Forest Service None
IUCN
 

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