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A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


Speckled Black Salamander - Aneides flavipunctatus flavipunctatus

(Strauch, 1870)
Click on a picture for a larger view



Black Salamanders Range MapRange in California: Red

Green: Santa Cruz Black Salamander

Dot-locality Range Map


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Central Lineage
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 large-spotted 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, frosted form, Humboldt County Adult, frosted form, Humboldt County Adult and juvenile, frosted form, Humboldt County Sub-adult, frosted form, Humboldt County
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander
Adult, frosted form, Humboldt County Juvenile, frosted form, Humboldt County
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander    
Juvenile, Humboldt County Juvenile, Humboldt County, with juvenile Ensatina for comparison.
   
   
Central Lineage 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,
Humboldt County
Wandering Salamander Habitat      
Streamside habitat, Humboldt county      
       
Northwest Lineage
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander
Fine-spotted adult, Siskiyou County Fine-spotted adult, Siskiyou County
© 2004 Tim Burkhardt
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
       
Northwest Lineage Habitat
Speckled Black Salamander Habitat Speckled Black Salamander Habitat    
Rock talus habitat, Siskiyou County    
       
Shasta Lineage
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander
Small-spotted adult, Shasta County Adult, eastern Tehama County, just north of Red Bluff, which should represent a range extension for this species.
© Ryan Henson
   
Shasta Lineage Habitat
Speckled Black Salamander Habitta Speckled Black Salamander Habitat Speckled Black Salamander Habitat  
Habitat, Shasta County

Habitat, Shasta County Habitat, Shasta County  
The Southern Disjunct Lineage can be seen here:
Aneides flavipunctatus niger - Santa Cruz Black Salamander

     
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 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.
Lungless Salamanders breathe through their skin which requires them to live in damp environments on land and to move about on the ground only during times of high humidity. (In California, they do not inhabit streams or bodies of water, but they are capable of surviving for some time if they fall into water.)
Lungless salamanders are distinguished by their naso-labial grooves, which are vertical slits between the nostrils and upper lip that are lined with glands used in chemoreception. All California Lungless Salamanders lay eggs in moist places on land. The young hatch from the egg 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, as occurs with 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.
Breeding
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.

Geographical Range
Endemic to California and a small area in extreme southwest Oregon. 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.
Elevational Range
Most common at low elevations, but found from near sea level to over 5,500 ft. (1,700 meters.)

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

Taxonomic Notes
Aneides flavipunctatus occurs in three geographically isolated regions that studies show consist of at least four species:

  • The southern population south of the San Francisco Bay is currently recognized as the subspecies A. f. niger by some researchers, or as the species A. niger by others.
  • The group south of Mt. Shasta is also isolated from populations to the west.
  • Two distinct groups are separated in Humboldt County along the boundaries of tectonic plates.

  • In a 2014 paper, Reilly and Wake continue to show four species-level units of A. flavipunctatus, but they do not describe any new species. They also show support for two populations within the Central Core. They show that two of the boundaries between these species-level units are associated with current tectonic plate boundaries and that the break within the Central Core population is associated with uplift associated with tectonic plates. They also show the contact zone between the Northwest and Central lineages farther north in the vicinity of the Van Duzen River in Southern Humboldt County.


    In a 2013 study3 Sean B. Reilly et al. concluded that there are three distinct populations of Black Salamanders in the Klamath, Rogue, and Smith River watersheds and that "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. The three populations recovered from our linked model clustering analysis, found in the Klamath region west of Shasta County, should also be managed as distinct conservation units." However they did not recommend elevating the Shasta County population to species status. "While we believe that the Shasta population represents an independent evolving lineage, elevation of this lineage to species status would render the rest of the A. flavipunctatus complex paraphyletic. Studies are currently in progress on the entire A. flavipunctatus complex, and future publications will include detailed phylogeographic studies with much greater sampling density than in prior studies, and a comprehensive taxonomic revision."


    In a 2012 study2, Sean B.Reilly et al. concluded that " Black Salamanders in northwestern California belong to at least three or four populations or species, and these all meet criteria for being Evolutionary Significant Units or ‘ESUs’ and therefore warrant conservation consideration." They did not describe and name these species.


    In a study published in 2007 1 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.

    The new names would most likely be
    Aneides flavipunctatus
    for the Central Lineage (Purple)
    Aneides niger
    , for the Southern Disjunct lineage (Green)
    Aneides iëcanus
    , for the Shasta lineage (Orange)
    A new name or names will be given to the Northwest lineage (Red) and other lineages.


    Tentative distribution map of the four main lineages of Black Salamanders.
    (Based on Reilly & Wake, 2014)

    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.

    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

    Alternate Names
    Aneides flavipunctatus - Black Salamander
    Aneides flavipunctatus - Speckled Black Salamander

    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.

    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.


    Conservation Status

    The following status listings come from the Special Animals List and the Endangered and Threatened Animals List which are published by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.


    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
    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
     

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