CaliforniaHerps.com

A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


Southern Torrent Salamander - Rhyacotriton variegatus

Stebbins and Lowe, 1951
Click on a picture for a larger view



Southern Torrent Salamander Range MapRange in California: Red

Dot-locality Range Map



observation link





Southern Torrent Salamander Southern Torrent Salamander Southern Torrent Salamander
  Adult male, Del Norte County  
Southern Torrent Salamander Southern Torrent Salamander Southern Torrent Salamander
  Adult male, Del Norte County  
Southern Torrent Salamander Southern Torrent Salamander Southern Torrent Salamander
  Adult female, Del Norte County  
Southern Torrent Salamander Southern Torrent Salamander Southern Torrent Salamander
  Adult female, Del Norte County  
Southern Torrent Salamander Southern Torrent Salamander Southern Torrent Salamander
Adult male, Del Norte County, south of Crescent city
from a location far from permanent water. © Alan Barron
Dark adult male, Del Norte County, north of Smith River © Alan Barron
Southern Torrent Salamander Southern Torrent Salamander Southern Torrent Salamander
Adult, Del Norte County Adult female, Humboldt County Adult, Mendocino County,
© Mike Spencer
Southern Torrent Salamander larva Southern Torrent Salamander larva Southern Torrent Salamander larva
Small larva underwater Underside of larvae, Del Norte County, north of Smith River © Alan Barron
Southern Torrent Salamander larva Southern Torrent Salamander larva Southern Torrent Salamander larva
Tiny hatchling underwater (note small gills) Del Norte County, north of Smith River © Alan Barron Larva out of water, Del Norte County, north of Smith River
© Alan Barron
Large larvae, Del Norte County, north of Smith River © Alan Barron
     
Habitat
Southern Torrent Salamander Habitat Southern Torrent Salamander Habitat Southern Torrent Salamander Habitat
Habitat, Humboldt County Habitat, Humboldt County Habitat close-up, Del Norte County
Southern Torrent Salamander Habitat Southern Torrent Salamander Habitat Southern Torrent Salamander Habitat
Habitat, Mendocino County Habitat, Del Norte County Habitat, Del Norte County
     
Short Video
  Southern Torrent Salamander  
  Southern Torrent Salamanders next to a creek, showing they are capable of great bursts of speed.  
   
Description
 
Size
Adults are 1.5 - 2.4 inches long (4.0-6.2 cm) from snout to vent.

Appearance
A medium-sized salamander with a slim body, a short tail, and a small head with large protuberant eyes.
Color and Pattern
Coloring is olive to brown dorsally with dark and light speckling.
The ventral surface yellowish, similarly speckled.
The eyes are large and dark, flecked with metallic gold.
Male / Female Differences
Males have distinct squareish cloacal lobes.

Life History and Behavior
With highly reduced lungs, this species relies on its skin surfaces to take in oxygen, making it very intolerant of dessication.
Activity
Primarily aquatic, but also capable of terrestrial activity. 
Adults are active even at very low temperatures, as cold as 41 - 50 degrees F (5 -10 degrees C), and are extremely moisture dependant.
When temperatures rise and stream flows decrease significantly, and when stream flows increase to levels too high for them to tolerate, salamanders burrow into stream bed substrates.
Diet and Feeding
Diet consists primarily of aquatic and semi-aquatic invertebrates, including amphipods, and springtails.
Breeding
Reproduction is aquatic.
Little is known about the seasonal reproductive habits of Torrent salamanders (Rhyacotriton).
Eggs
Single, loosely laid, pigmentless eggs are laid in water and abandoned.
Clutches of 8 and 11 eggs have been found beneath rocks in streams with gravel substrates.
Torrent Salamander egg development is slow - eggs of Columbia Torrent Salamanders, R. kezeri, have reported hatching after about 210 days in the laboratory.
Larvae
Larvae develop in the water, with short stubby gills and a tail fin that does not extend onto the back.
Larvae may take 3-5 years to metamorphose, at which time they are about 1 - 1.5 inches long (3.1-4.0 cm).

Geographical Range
In California, this species occurs throughout humid coastal drainages from near Pt. Arena in southern Mendocino Co., to the Oregon border in the coniferous belt.

Outside of California occurs north in Oregon along the coast and inland into the Cascade Mountains.
An isolated population occurs east of the established range in the upper McCloud River drainage in Siskiyou County.

Full Species Range Map
Red = Approximate Range of Rhyacotriton variegatus - Southern Torrent Salamander

Elevational Range
Occurs from sea level to from 4,500 ft. - 5,000 ft. (1,390 - 1,500 m).

Habitat
Found in shallow, cold, clear, well-shaded streams, waterfalls and seepages, particularly those running through talus and under rocks all year, in mature to old-growth forests.
Occasionally found in riparian vegation adjacent to water, but usually found in contact with water.
R. variegatus
is found primarily in waters on north-facing slopes in the southern part of their range where forests are warmer and drier.

Aquatic larvae live in clear shallow water and still, mucky water in creeks, often with accumulated leaves.

Notes on Taxonomy
Previously recognized as a subspecies of Rhyacotriton olympicus. Good et al. (1987) found considerable genetic variation within the complex, which eventually led to the elevation of R. variegatus to full species status.

Highton (2000) proposed that R. variegatus is composed of four cryptic species.

Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
Severely impacted by clear-cutting of old-growth forests near drainages. According to Stebbins (2003), aproximately 50 - 90 percent of suitable habitat in California has been altered or eliminated through overharvesting of old-growth forests and destruction of small seeps and springs.

Protected from take with a sport fishing license in 2013.
Taxonomy
Family Rhyacotritonidae Torrent or Seep Salamanders Tihen, 1958
Genus Rhyacotriton Torrent Salamanders Dunn, 1920
Species

variegatus Southern Torrent Salamander Stebbins and Lowe, 1951
Original Description
Stebbins and Lowe, 1951 - Univ. California Publ. Zool. Vol. 50, No. 4, p. 471

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

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Rhyacotriton: Greek - stream & Triton - Greek sea god.
variegatus: Latin - variegated, referring to the dorsal color/pattern.

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

Alternate Names
Formerly - Rhyacotriton olympicus variegatus - Southern Olympic Salamander

Related Western Salamanders
Rhyacotriton kezeri - Columbia Torrent Salamander
Rhyacotriton cascadae - Cascades Torrent Salamander
Rhyacotriton olympicus - Olympic Torrent Salamander

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.



Organization
Status Listing
U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) None
California Endangered Species Act (CESA) None
California Department of Fish and Wildlife DFG:SSC California Species of Special Concern
Bureau of Land Management None
USDA Forest Service USFS:S Sensitive
 

Home Site Map About Us Identification Lists Maps Photos More Lists CA Snakes CA Lizards CA Turtles CA Salamanders CA Frogs
Contact Us Usage Resources Rattlesnakes Sounds Videos FieldHerping Yard Herps Behavior Herp Fun CA Regulations
Beyond CA All Herps


Return to the Top

 © 2000 -