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and Reptiles of California


Shasta Salamander - Hydromantes shastae

Gorman and Camp, 1953
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Shasta Salamander range mapRange in California: Red

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Shasta Salamander Shasta Salamander Shasta Salamander
Adult, Shasta County Adult, Shasta County Adult, Shasta County
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Adult, Shasta County Adult, Shasta County Adult, Shasta County
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Adult and juvenile, Shasta County Adult, Shasta County Adult, Shasta County
Shasta Salamander Shasta Salamander Shasta Salamander
Adult, Shasta County Adult, Shasta County Adult, Shasta County, showing
how flattened the body is
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Adult, Shasta County © Jon Hirt Underside of adult, Shasta County Webbed toes

Juveniles
Shasta Salamander Shasta Salamander Shasta Salamander
Adult, Shasta County Juvenile, Shasta County Juvenile, Shasta County
  Shasta Salamander  
  Juvenile, Shasta County

 
Habitat
Shasta Salamander habitat Shasta Salamander habitat Shasta Salamander habitat
Habitat, Shasta County Habitat, Shasta County Habitat, Shasta County
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Habitat, Shasta County Habitat, Shasta County Habitat, 1,500 ft., Shasta County
Shasta Salamander habitat Shasta Salamander  
Habitat, Shasta County

Adult in habitat, Shasta County
© Jon Hirt

 
Short Video
  Shasta Salamander  
  A good look at adult and juvenile Shasta Salamanders, even if they're barely moving.  
Description

Size
Adults measure 1 3/4 - 2 1/2 inches long (4.4 - 6.3 cm) from snout to vent length, and from 3 - 4 1/3 inches (7.5 - 11 cm) in total length.
Appearance
A small stocky salamander with a short tail, webbed feet, a flattened body, and a very long mushroom-like tongue capable of extending out up to 2.4 inches (6 cm) from the front of the mouth.
13 costal grooves, and nasolabial grooves. Dark reddish brown above, mottled with grayish green to tan specks, with some yellow on the tail. Venter is grayish.
Not as adapted for crack dwelling as other Hydromantes species; has less toe webbing and body is less flat.
Behavior and Natural History
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.)Active at night during fall, winter, and spring rains. They may also be active underground in the summer - over 20 were discovered in a cave in August. Can be found under surface objects during daytime. Adapted to climb easily over smooth rock surfaces, using webbed feet and the tail as an aid. Lungless, breathing through thin moist skin.

A similar salamander, Hydromantes platycephalus, feeds by shooting out a very long sticky mushroom-like tongue very quickly to catch prey. You can see examples of this here.
Diet
Probably feeds on insects and other small invertebrates.
Reproduction and Young
Little is known about breeding behavior. Reproduction is terrestrial. Young hatch fully formed.  Adults apparently lay eggs in moist limestone shelters in late summer and brood them until they hatch in late fall. Two clutches of 9 eggs were found in a cave by Gorman in 1956. They would have hatched in late October or early November.
Range
Endemic to California in a fairly small area in the Cascade range near man-made Shasta Lake, Shasta County.
Habitat
Found around cliff faces, vertical cavern walls and level ground in mixed forests of Douglas fir, pines, and oaks. Lives in moist caves and rock cracks. Mostly associated with limestone outcrops, but one population has been found in a volcanic outcrop, and others in forest areas with no rock outcrops.

At elevations of 1,000 - 3,000 ft. (300 - 900 m).
Taxonomic Notes
Originally discovered in the early 1900's by Eustace Farlong, but not formally described until they were re-discovered by Joseph Gorman in 1950.

H. shastae is one of only three species (thus far) of Hydromantes in the United States, all of which are endemic to California, including H. brunus, and H. platycephalus. The only other members of the genus Hydromantes (now called Speleomantes by some researchers) occur in Italy and southern France. They are the only plethodontid salamanders found outside of the Americas. Why Hydromantes is found only in Europe and California is still an amazing biogeographical mystery, even though it is now accepted that the two populations are different, but similar, genera.

In Detecting Cryptic Species Using Allozyme Data, (Bruce, Jaeger and Houck (editors) The Biology of Plethodontid Salamanders, 2000.) Richard Highton suggested that this taxon consisted of two species. He describes a 1978 allozyme analysis by Wake et al of 5 samples from near Lake Shasta that showed one sample from near Potter and Marble Creeks diverging from the other four, and recognized that it might represent a separate species though he did not recommend any taxonomic changes. The four other samples are closer genetically to H. platycephalus than they are to the Potter-Marble Creek form.
Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
Listed as a threatened species by the state.
The limited habitat of this species is threatened by increased recreation around Shasta Lake, limestone quarrying, and raising of lake water levels. Much of its habitat was probably lost in the construction of Shasta Dam in 1949, and from road building and mining.
Taxonomy
Family Plethodontidae Lungless Salamanders Gray, 1850
Genus Hydromantes Web-toed Salamanders Gistel, 1848
Species


shastae Shasta Salamander Gorman and Camp, 1953
Original Description
Gorman and Camp, 1953 - Copeia, p. 39

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

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Hydromantes: Greek - water/soothsayer or prophet.
shastae: Shasta County, California, the type locality.

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

Alternate Names
None

Related California Salamanders
Mt. Lyell Salamander
Limestone Salamander

More Information and References
Natureserve Explorer

California Dept. of Fish and Game

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.

Gorman, J. and Camp, C. L. (1953). "A new cave species of salamander of the genus Hydromantes from California, with notes on habits and habitats." Copeia, 1953, 39-43.

Thelander, Carl G., editor in chief. Life on the Edge - A Guide to California's Endangered Natural Resources - Wildlife. Berkeley: Bio Systems Books, 1994.

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.


Jones, Lawrence L. C. , William P. Leonard, Deanna H. Olson, editors. Amphibians of the Pacific Northwest. Seattle Audubon Society, 2005.

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.



Organization
Status Listing
U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) None
California Endangered Species Act (CESA) ST - 6/27/71 Threatened
California Department of Fish and Wildlife None
Bureau of Land Management BLM:S Sensitive
USDA Forest Service USFS:S Sensitive
 

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