have only 4 toes on their hind feet.
All other California salamanders have
5 toes on their hind feet.
Some similar salamander species occurring with or near B. diabolicus
In the central Sierra Nevada, 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 shown here are not of equal size.)
Hell Hollow Slender Salamanders in Mariposa County.
Adults are 1 - 1/4 to 1-7/8 inches long (3.2 - 4.7 cm) from snout to vent.
A small slim salamander with a relatively broad head and slightly defined neck.
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.
Limbs are fairly long, and hands and feet are large compared to most Slender Salamanders.
Fingers/toes are long and distinct, with expanded tips.
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
Coloration is dark dorsally with a brownish stripe that is usually brighter at it's edges and continues onto head.
There is extensive pale speckling on both the dorsal surface and the grey ventral surface.
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.)
Active on rainy or wet nights when temperatures are moderate, generally from November to March or April.
Retreats underground when the soil dries or when air temperature gets below freezing.
Dark coloring helps to disguise them from predators.
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
Eats small invertebrates.
A sit-and-wait predator, using a projectile tongue to capture prey.
Reproduction is terrestrial.
Lays eggs on land, probably in the rainy season from November to January.
Nest sites are not known.
Young hatch fully formed.
Populations tend to occur along riparian zones in close proximity to large rivers and streams in pine-oak woodland and chaparral communities. North-facing slopes are preferred, and individuals are usually found beneath rock talus and large stones and other surface cover shaded by oak trees that dominate the region. Summer temperatures are extreme with no rainfall.
Endemic to the foothills of the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada in California, from the lower American River drainages in El Dorado County to Sweetwater Creek, Mariposa County. (Stebbins & MicGinnis, 2012)
From 650 feet (200 m) to approximately 2100 feet (650 m) in elevation.
Notes on Taxonomy
The common name of this species reflects the type-locality: Hell Hollow, Mariposa County. B. diabolicus was very recently described in 1998 by Jockusch, Wake, and Yanev, who partitioned B. relictus into four species - B. diabolicus, B. regius, B. kawia and B. relictus. It is the northernmost representative of the relictus group of salamanders. Two clades have been identified, one throughout the range and one only in Calaveras County, indicating that B.diabolicus may actually represent two distinct species.
Jockusch, E. L., D. B. Wake, and K. P. Yanev. "New species of slender salamanders, Batrachoseps
(Amphibia: Plethodontidae), from the Sierra Nevada of California." Contributions in Science, Natural History
Museum of Los Angeles County, #472 1998.
Meaning of the Scientific Name
Batrachoseps: Greek - amphibian, frog lizard - describes lizard-like appearance. diabolicus: Greek - devilish. Referring to the name of the type locality, Hell Hollow.
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.
Flaxington, William C. Amphibians and Reptiles of California: Field Observations, Distribution, and Natural History. Fieldnotes Press, Anaheim, California, 2021.
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.
The following conservation status listings for this animal are taken from the October 2021 California "Special Animals List" and the October 2021 "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.
NatureServe Global Ranking
Imperiled - At high risk of extinctiion due to very restricted range, very few populations (often 20 or fewer), steep declines, or other factors.
NatureServe State Ranking
Vulnerable in the state due to a restricted range, relatively few populations (often 80 or fewer), recent and widespread declines, or other factors making it vulnerable to extirpation from the state.