A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California

Lesser Slender Salamander - Batrachoseps minor

Jockusch, Yanev & Wake, 2001
Click on a picture for a larger view

Lesser Slender Salamander range mapRange in California: Red

Range Map of all Slender Salamanders in California

observation link

Lesser Slender Salamander Lesser Slender Salamander Lesser Slender Salamander
Adult 1, San Luis Obispo County Adult 1, San Luis Obispo County
© David Wake
Lesser Slender Salamander Lesser Slender Salamander Lesser Slender Salamander comparison
Adult 2, San Luis Obispo County

A comparison of an adult salamander (adult 2) that is probably Batrachoseps minor shown on the left with a small specimen of the sympatric Black-bellied Slender Salamander, Batrachoseps nigriventris, which was found well outside of the range of B. minor. (B. nigriventris adults grow larger than this specimen.) You can see that B. minor has distinctly larger hands and feet.

Adult 1, shown in the top row, was the first live specimen of B. minor found in more than ten years. It was discovered by Tim Burkhardt, a major contributor to this website, with Samantha Winegarner in February of 2001. Chemical analysis by the University of California at Berkeley confirmed the species. More information here.
Adult 2 was found in February 2003 in the same location where adult 1 was found. It is difficult to positively differentiate B. minor from B. nigriventris by sight, only chemical analysis is definitive. Adult 2 was tentatively identified by its body and limb size and this was confirmed through photographs by David Wake, but it was not identified through chemical analysis.
Lesser Slender Salamander Lesser Slender Salamander Lesser Slender Salamander
Adult 3, San Luis Obispo County. © Spencer Williams. The species of this salamander was confirmed by an expert from these pictures from the dorsal texture which is matte, not glossy, the large head, the relatively short tail, long legs, and large feet with distinct toes, and the orange wash on the thighs.
  Lesser Slender Salamander  
  Adult 4, San Luis Obispo County
© Ryan Sikola
Lesser Slender Salamander habitat Lesser Slender Salamander habitat Lesser Slender Salamander habitat
Habitat, San Luis Obispo County Habitat, San Luis Obispo County Habitat, San Luis Obispo County
© Spencer Williams
Lesser Slender Salamander habitat Lesser Slender Salamander habitat  
Habitat, San Luis Obispo County
© Spencer Williams
Habitat, San Luis Obispo County
© Spencer Williams
Adults are 1 - 2 3/10 inches long (2.5 - 5.8 cm) from snout to vent.

A small, slim salamander, the smallest of the Slender Salamanders, with 17-18 costal grooves, a short body, fairly long legs, and a broad head with a distinct neck.
Small size, 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 9-12 costal folds between adpressed limbs.
There are four toes on the front and hind feet, which is also typical of Slender Salamanders.
five toes on the hind feet.)
Color and Pattern
Color is blackish brown, sometimes with a tan dorsal stripe with pinkish or apricot highlights, most noticable on the tail.

Comparison with Sympatric Slender Salamanders
Coexists with B. nigriventris. B. minor is distinguished by its more robust body, broader head and longer and larger limbs with more conspicuous toes than B. nigriventris.

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, fall through spring.
Retreats underground when the soil dries or when air temperature drops to near freezing.
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 well known, but other Batrachoseps species are sit-and-wait predators that use a projectile tongue to catch prey.
Little is known about the breeding behavior and egg-laying habits of this species.
Reproduction is terrestrial.
Other female Slender Salamanders lay eggs in moist places underground.
Young develop completely in the egg and hatch fully formed.

Inhabits moist locations in forests of mixed oak, tanbark oak, sycamore and laurel above 1,300 ft. (400 m).

Geographical Range
Endemic to California. Found only in a small area in the southern Santa Lucia Mountains of San Luis Obispo county.

Notes on Taxonomy
Prior to its description in 2001, B. minor was recognized as B. pacificus which has been split into ten species as the result of molecular studies.

"B. minor is now genuinely rare. We (Arden Brame and I) once found 25 salamanders in an area near York Mountain Winery. They could be sorted into two piles of 10 and 15. The B. minor were small but robust, with distinctly larger hands and feet in individuals of the same length, and these also had a somewhat broader head and a "neck", altough the latterfeature is subtle. When examined osteologically the two also differed in one important character, presence or absence of a tibial spur. This is what convinced me that there were two species. It took many years to finally get the genetic information that demonstrated that the two rather similar species are distinct and not even close relatives."
David B. Wake, public internet forum correspondence.

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

Alternate and Previous Names (Synonyms)

Batrachoseps minor - Lesser Slender Salamander (Jockusch, Yanev, Wake 2001, Stebbins 2003, 2012)
Batrachoseps pacificus - Pacific Slender Salamander (Stebbins 1985)
Batrachoseps attenuatus - California Slender Salamander (Stebbins 1954, 1966)
Batrachoseps attenuatus attenuatus - Worm-salamander (Bishop 1943)
Batrachoseps attenuatus - Slender Salamander (Storer 1925)
Batrachoseps nigriventris (Cope 1869)
Batrachoseps attenuatus (Cooper 1868)
Batrachoseps attenuata (Baird 1850)
Salamandrina attenuata (Eschscholtz 1833)

Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
Previously more common, B. minor is now difficult to find, and is greatly outnumbered by B. nigriventris with which it co-exists. Similarities in appearance with B. nigriventris make it difficult to survey for and estimate current numbers of this species.
Family Plethodontidae Lungless Salamanders Gray, 1850
Genus Batrachoseps Slender Salamanders Bonaparte, 1841

minor Lesser Slender Salamander Jockusch, Yanev & Wake, 2001
Original Description
Elizabeth L. Jockusch, Kay P. Yanev, and David B. Wake ''Molecular phylogenetic analysis
of slender salamanders, genus Batrachoseps (Amphibia: Plethodontidae), from central coastal
California with descriptions of four new species.'' Herpetological Monographs, #15 2001.

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Batrachoseps: Greek - amphibian, frog lizard - describes lizard-like appearance. minor: probably referring to the small size of this salamander compared
to other Batrachoseps species

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

Similar Neighboring Salamanders
Batrachoseps incognitus
Batrachoseps nigriventris
Batrachoseps gavilanensis

More Information and References
California Department of Fish and Wildlife


Elizabeth L. Jockusch, Kay P. Yanev, and David B. Wake ''Molecular phylogenetic analysis of slender salamanders, genus Batrachoseps (Amphibia: Plethodontidae), from central coastal California with descriptions of four new species.'' Herpetological Monographs, #15 2001.

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.

Conservation Status

The following status listings are copied from the April 2018 Special Animals List and the 2017 Endangered and Threatened Animals List, both of which are published by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

If no status is listed here, the animal is not included on either CDFW 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.

Check here to see the most current complete lists.

Status Listing
NatureServe Global Ranking G1 Critically Imperiled—At very high risk of extinction due to extreme rarity (often 5 or fewer populations), very steep declines, or other factors. Imperiled—At high risk of extinction due to very restricted range, very few populations (often 20 or fewer), steep declines, or other factors.
NatureServe State Ranking S1

Critically imperiled in the state because of extreme rarity (often 5 or fewer populations) orbecause of factor(s) such as very steep declines making it especially vulnerable to extirpation from the state.

U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) None
California Endangered Species Act (CESA) None
California Department of Fish and Wildlife SSC Species of Special Concern
Bureau of Land Management None
USDA Forest Service S Sensitive
IUCN DD Data Deficient

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