B. gregarius has a slimmer body with smaller feet and toes.
Habitat, 1,600 ft., Kern County
Habitat, 3,000 ft., Kern County
Habitat, 1,200 ft. Mariposa County
Habitat, Kern County
Habitat, 2,300 ft., Kern County
Habitat, 4,700 ft. Mariposa County
Habitat, 650 ft., Kern County
Habitat, 3,800 ft. Kern County
A look at some Gregarious Slender Salamanders in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Kern County.
As I lift a fallen branch with a Gregarious Slender Salamander underneath it, the salamander's tail comes off and begins wriggling on the ground. This is a defensive tactic used to distract a predator towards the moving tail and away from the animal which remains still. The salamander may have intentionally released its tail here, or it could have just been a result of lifting the log. I pick up the tail and you can see an edited version of it slowly wriggling to a stop.
Adults are 1 1/5 - 1 4/5 inches long (3 - 4.6 cm) from snout to vent.
A small slim salamander with 17-19 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 typical of all Slender Salamanders. (Other California salamanders have five toes on the hind feet.)
Color and Pattern
The ground color is dark blackish-brown with a lighter brownish dorsal stripe with tan highlights and dark flecks.
Many small white spots mark the ground color.
The venter is lighter, dark to pale gray.
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.)
Surface-active from the beginning of the fall rains until the end of the rainy period, which is typically from late October or November to March or April.
It is presumed that they go underground to avoid the extreme temperatures of winter and summer.
Typically found under rocks, logs, bark, and other debris.
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
Most likely eats a variety of small invertebrates.
Feeding behavior is not known, but other Batrachoseps species are sit-and-wait predators that use a projectile tongue to catch prey.
Reproduction is terrestrial.
Breeding and egg laying occurs with the beginning of fall rains, which varies from year to year and with elevation (typically November to early January at lower elevations, and late March to late April at higher elevation locations.)
Females lay eggs in communal nests in the spring (fall in southern populations) in moist places under rocks, logs, bark, or leaf litter.
Females then abandon the nests.
Nest sites have been found with from 10 - 300 eggs.
Females at the northen end of the range lay more eggs - an average of 15.3 eggs, than those at the southern end of the range who average 7.3 eggs, according to a 1997 study by Jockusch and Mahoney. Young hatch fully formed.
Young develop completely in the egg and hatch fully formed.
Mostly found in oak woodlands in the foothills, but they are also found in high-elevation coniferous forests, and grasslands on the floor of the Central Valley, including very hot and dry habitats at the southern end of its range.
Endemic to California. Occurs along the west slope of the central and southern Sierra Nevada Mountains from the southern boundary of Yosemite National Park almost to the kern River.
Occurs from around 1000 ft. to 5,900 ft. (300 - 1800 m.)
Notes on Taxonomy
Prior to its description in 1998, B. gregarius was recognized as B. nigriventris. Lower elevation southern populations are more slender, live in much drier habitats, lay fewer eggs than those in the north, and lay eggs in the fall. Future studies may establish that these are two different forms.
Listed as imperiled by one organization, though there are no apparent issues with this salamander other than some possible loss of habitat at the eastern edge of the Central Valley to development and agriculture.
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. gregarius: Latin - flock or herd, referring to the habit of laying eggs communally.
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.