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A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


California Slender Salamander - Batrachoseps attenuatus

(Eschscholtz, 1833)
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California Slender Salamander range mapRange in California: Red

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Range Map of all Slender Salamanders in California





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California Slender Salamander
California Slender Salamander
California Slender Salamander
California Slender Salamander
Adult, Santa Cruz County Adult, Santa Cruz County Adult, Santa Cruz County Adult, Contra Costa County,
coiled in defense after being disturbed.
California Slender Salamander California Slender Salamander California Slender Salamander
California Slender Salamander
Adult, Del Norte County   Adult, Humboldt County Adult, Contra Costa County Adult, underside, Santa Cruz County
California Slender Salamander California Slender Salamander California Slender Salamander
California Slender Salamander
Adult, Del Norte County Adult, Contra Costa County. When uncovered, slender salamanders are often found resting in this coiled position. Adult, Glenn County Adult, Butte County
California Slender Salamander California Slender Salamander California Slender Salamander California Slender Salamander
3 different variatins of adult salamanders from Del Norte County © Alan Barron Adult, Del Norte County
California Slender Salamander California Slender Salamander California Slender Salamander California Slender Salamander
Adult from Whaler Island, Del Norte County © Alan Barron Underside of juvenile,
Del Norte County © Alan Barron
California Slender Salamander California Slender Salamander and ensatina California Slender Salamander toes  
Adult, San Francisco County, with a forked tail © Zach Lim A Mendocino County adult found under a piece of bark with this Ensatina. Slender Salmanders (genus Batrachoseps) have only 4 toes on their hind feet. All other California salamanders have 5 toes on their hind feet.  
California Slender Salamander comp California Slender Salamander comp    
In Southern Santa Cruz County, the range of Batrachoseps gavilanensis overlaps that of B. attenuatus. The two species appear very similar, but you can see here that B. gavilanensis has proportionally larger fingers and toes. In the central Sierras, the range of Batrachoseps diabolicus overlaps that of B. attenuatus. The two species appear very similar, but this comparison shows that B. diabolicus has proportionally larger legs and toes (even though the salamanders are not of equal size.)    
       
Habitat
Coastal Giant Salamander Habitat Coastal Giant Salamander Habitat Coastal Giant Salamander Habitat Arboreal Salamander Habitat
Habitat, Contra Costa County Habitat, Contra Costa County Habitat, Alameda County Typical oak woodland habitat,
Contra Costa County
California Slender Salamander Habitat California Slender Salamander Habitat California Slender Salamander Habitat California Slender Salamander Habitat
Urban backyard habitat,
Alameda County
Habitat, Butte County Habitat, Glenn County Habitat, redwood forest,
Del Norte County
Northwestern Salamander Habitat
Speckled Black Salamander Habitat california slender salamander habitat Sierran Treefrog Habitat
Habitat, Mendocino County Habitat, Mendocino County
Habitat, Del Norte County Habitat, Contra Costa County
Northwestern Salamander Habitat Arboreal Salamander Habitat Santa Cruz Black Salamander Habitat  
Redwood forest habitat,
Humboldt County
Habitat, Marin County Habitat, Santa Cruz County  
  California Slender Salamander habitat    
  A careful look underneath the fallen bark of this dead tree in Contra Costa County turned up one Arboreal Salamander, two Coast Range Newts, one Yellow-eyed Ensatina, and 12 California Slender Salamanders, illustrating how dead wood and bark on a forest floor is an important microhabitat for salamanders and other wildlife.    
       
Short Videos
California Slender Salamander California Slender Salamander    
A few quick looks at several California Slender Salamanders sitting still, coiled up, and quickly wriggling away. On a late winter day in Northern California when the ground is green and wet it seems like there's a California Slender Salamander under everything you turn over.    
     
Description
 
Size
Adults are 1 1/4 - 1 7/8 inches long (3.2 - 4.7 cm) from snout to vent, 3 - 5 1/2 inches ( 7.5 - 14 cm) in total length.

Appearance
A small slim salamander with 18 -21 costal grooves.
Short limbs, a long slender body with a narrow head and a long tail, and conspicuous costal and caudal grooves give this species the worm-like appearance typical of most Slender Salamanders.
There are four toes on the front and hind feet, which is also typical of Slender Salamanders.
(Other California salamanders have five toes on the hind feet.)
Color and Pattern
Variable in color; generally black or dark above, with red, brown, yellow, or tan coloring forming a dorsal stripe, sometimes with a herringbone pattern.
The venter is dark, with fine white speckles.

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 their mouth tissues, which 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 some 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
Active on rainy or wet nights when temperatures are moderate, beginning with the first fall rains until the spring or summer dry period.
In coastal forests which remain moist most of the year, activity may continue all year long.
Retreats underground when the soil dries or when air temperature gets below freezing.
Individuals tend to remain in a small area most of their lives, rarely moving beyond two meters distance.
Longevity
Longevity has been estimated at 8 - 10 years.
Defense
Slender salamanders use several defense tactics, including:
- Coiling and remaining still, relying on cryptic coloring to avoid detection.
- Uncoiling quickly and springing away repeatedly bouncing over the ground, then remaining still again to avoid detection.
- Detaching the tail, which wriggles on the ground to distract a predator from the salamander long enough for it to escape. 
(After its tail is detached or severed, the salamander will grow a new tail.)
Diet and Feeding
Diet consists of a variety of invertebrates, including springtails, small beetles, snails, mites, spiders, and isopods.

A sit-and-wait predator, catching prey with a projectile tongue.
Breeding
Reproduction is terrestrial.
Adults reach sexual maturity from an estimated 2 - 4 years.
Courtship probably occurs underground, but when it occurs is not known.
Eggs
Eggs are laid in October and November, shortly after the beginning of the fall rains.
Sierra Nevada populations may lay eggs in December and January.
Clutch sizes of 4 - 13 eggs have been recorded.
Females deposit eggs in moist areas under objects such as rocks and logs or underground.
Several females may lay eggs in the same location creating a communal nest, but they apparently do not remain with the eggs.
However, adult salamanders have been found at egg deposition sites.
Young
Young develop completely in the egg and hatch fully formed. Incubation time in a laboratory ranged from 72 - 86 days.
In the wild, hatchlings have been observed in late December, January, and February.

Geographical Range
Endemic to California and extreme southwest Oregon.
Occurs from central California south of the Bay Area in San Benito County, north along the coast and coast ranges into Oregon and in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains from Butte County to Calaveras County.
Isolated populations occur in scattered areas in the northern Central Valley and in Shasta County.

Habitat
Found in a variety of habitats: chaparral, woodland, grassland, forests, urban yards, vacant lots, marshes, and beach driftwood.
Generally found in moist locations, under logs, rocks, bark, leaf litter, stumps, debris. Can be very abundant in an area.

Notes on Taxonomy
In 2007, Martinez-Solano, Jockusch, and Wake (2007. Molecular Ecology 16: 4335–4355) suggested that Batrachoseps attenuatus contains at least five cryptic species.

In December 2013, Richard Highton, in Detecting cryptic species in phylogeographic studies/ Speciation in the California Slender Salamander, Batrachoseps attenuatus(2013 "2014." Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 71: 127–141) - from a study based on DNA sequence variation, suggested that Batrachoseps attenuatus is actually composed of 5 major species complexes, Northern, Eastern, Bodega Bay, Southern (North), Southern (South), which contain at least 39 cryptic species.

Here's a Diagram of the Batrachoseps Complex showing the relationships between species.

Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
Still present over most of their historical range except in the Central Valley where their habitat of narrow strips of riparian oak woodlands are being replaced with drainage ditches.
Taxonomy
Family Plethodontidae Lungless Salamanders Gray, 1850
Genus Batrachoseps Slender Salamanders Bonaparte, 1841
Species

attenuatus California Slender Salamander (Eschscholtz, 1833)
Original Description
Eschscholtz, 1833 - Zool. Atlas, Pt. 5, p. 1, pl. 21, figs. 1-14

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

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Batrachoseps: Greek - amphibian, frog lizard - describes lizard-like appearance.
attenuatus: Latin - slender, narrow.

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

Alternate Names
None

Similar Neighboring Salamanders
Batrachoseps diabolicus
Batrachoseps gregarius
Batrachoseps gavilanensis

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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