Black Salamander, Speckled Black Salamander
|Taxonomic Notes: Rissler and Apodaca (2007, Syst Biol 56: 924-942) present arguments that the species as recognized by AmphibiaWeb should be broken into four species, with A. iecanus and A. niger recognized as full species, and a third that lacks a name in addition to A. flavipunctatus. The complex has been studied in depth by Reilly and colleagues (most recently Reilly and Wake, 2015, J Biogeog 42: 280-291), who find considerably more complexity than previously noted. No formal taxonomic changes have been made by primary researchers, but nonetheless taxonomic changes have been made by various compilers and book writers. The complex remains under study and taxonomic conclusions will be forthcoming.|
© 2009 William Flaxington (1 of 86)
Distribution and Habitat
Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: United States
U.S. state distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: California, Oregon
Habitat Requirements. Black salamanders occur in areas that receive > 75 cm annual precipitation (Lynch, 1974). Specific habitats include lowland forests, under rocks and logs or in wet soil along streams, under logs and rocks in grassy meadow pastures, and burned areas, and in talus slopes (Wood, 1936; Myers and Maslin, 1948; Stebbins, 1951; Lynch, 1974, 1981; Staub, 1993). The populations in the Santa Cruz Mountains appear to prefer moister microhabitats than more northern populations. Unlike their more arboreal congeners, black salamanders are primarily ground-dwellers (Myers and Maslin, 1948). Despite their ground-dwelling habits, black salamanders have a prehensile tail (Van Denburgh, 1895).
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Typically an egg clutch is found with a female in attendance. In the laboratory, females stayed with their clutches until eggs hatched (N. L. Staub, personal observation).
Abundance. Black salamanders were once considered common in many areas of their range, but have become rare in recent years (D. B. Wake, in Petranka 1998). The proliferation of vineyards in northern California has destroyed much of the black salamander’s prime habitat (personal observation). Behavior. In captivity, adults often bite one another (e.g., Myers 1930) and adult males and females show agonistic behavior toward intruders (Staub 1993). Animals captured in the field are frequently scarred; males show a higher frequency of scarring than do females (Staub 1993). This species may be territorial in the field.
Aestivation. In southern populations that are associated with streamside habitats, black salamanders are active year round. In habitats which are not associated with permanent water, salamanders move underground during the dry season (mid-April – mid-October) (Lynch 1974).
Interspecific Associations/Exclusions. Black salamanders occur syntopically with clouded salamanders (Aneides ferreus), wandering salamanders (Aneides vagrans), arboreal salamanders (Aneides lugubris), ensatinas (Ensatina eschscholtzi) and California slender salamanders (Batrachoseps attenuatus) (Lynch 1974, 1985; Myers and Maslin 1948; Wood 1936). Black salamanders also occur extensively with Plethodon elongatus in the Klamath River Valley and Trinity River drainage.
Feeding Behavior. Juveniles and adults feed on a wide variety of prey. The diet of adult salamanders consists primarily of diplopoda (millipedes), coleopterans, formicans (primarily ants), and isopterans (primarily termites) (Lynch 1985). The diet of juveniles includes these prey as well as dipterans and collembolans (Lynch 1985). Larger individuals consume larger prey items; mean and maximum prey size is correlated with body size. This correlation suggests that larger animals are selecting larger prey items and are ignoring smaller prey items. The number of prey items decreases as body size increases (Lynch 1985).
Predators. Predators include western terrestrial garter snakes (Thamnophis elegans; Lynch 1981).
Anti-Predator Mechanisms. When startled, juveniles generally remain immobile and adults flee (Van Denburgh 1895; Jones 1984). Other escape or defense behaviors include jumping (Van Denburgh 1895), the production of sticky skin secretions (Lynch 1981), an agonistic posture, and agonistic behaviors including biting (Lynch 1981; Staub 1993). The agonistic posture of the black salamanders is distinctive. The animal raises its body off the substrate with the legs fully extended, the back is arched, the head elevated with the snout pointed slightly downward, and the tail undulates (Jones 1984; Staub 1993; Stebbins 1954). In the laboratory, A. flavipunctatus will bite western garter snakes which can result in serious injuries (Lynch 1981).
Parasites. Nematodes have been found in the black salamander (Lehmann 1954; Schad 1960).
Trends and Threats
Dunn, E. R. (1926). The Salamanders of the Family Plethodontidae. Smith College, Northhampton, Massachusetts.
Jones, L. L. C. (1984). ''Life history notes: Aneides flavipunctatus flavipunctatus (Speckled Black Salamander). Behavior.'' Herpetological Review, 15(1), 17.
Larson, A. (1980). ''Paedomorphosis in relation to rates of morphological and molecular evolution in the salamander Aneides flavipunctatus.'' Evolution, 34(1), 1-17.
Lehmann, D. L. (1954). ''Some helminths of the West Coast urodeles.'' Journal of Parasitology, 40, 231.
Lynch, J. F. (1974). ''Aneides flavipunctatus.'' Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, 158.1.
Lynch, J. F. (1981). ''Patterns of ontogenetic and geographic variation in the Black Salamander, Aneides flavipunctatus.'' Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology, (324), i-iv, 1-53.
Lynch, J.F. (1985). "The feeding ecology of Aneides flavipunctatus and sympatric plethodontid salamanders in northwestern California." Journal of Herpetology, 19, 328-352.
Myers, G.S. (1930). "Notes on some amphibians in western North America." Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 43, 55-64.
Myers, G.S. and Maslin, T.P., Jr. (1948). ''The California plethodont salamander, Aneides flavipunctatus (Strauch), with descriptions of a new subspecies and notes on other western Aneides.'' Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 61, 127-128.
Nussbaum, R. A., Brodie, E. D., Jr., and Storm, R. M. (1983). Amphibians and Reptiles of the Pacific Northwest. University of Idaho Press, Moscow, Idaho.
Petranka, J. W. (1998). Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington and London.
Petranka, J.W. (1998). Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C.
Rissler, L. J., and Apodaca, J. J. (2007). ''Adding more ecology into species delimitation: ecological niche models and phylogeography help define cryptic species in the black salamander (Aneides flavipunctatus).'' Systematic Biology, 56, 924-942.
Schad, G. A. (1960). ''The genus Thelandros (Nematoda: Oxyuroidea) in North American salamanders, including a description of Thelandros salamandrae.'' Canadian Journal of Zoology, 38, 115-120.
Staub, N.L. (1993). ''Intraspecific agonistic hehavior of the salamander Aneides flavipunctatus (Amphibia: Plethodontidae) with comparisons to other plethodontid species.'' Herpetologica, 49, 271-282.
Stebbins, R. C. (1954). Amphibians and Reptiles of Western North America. McGraw-Hill, New York.
Stebbins, R. C. (1985). A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.
Stebbins, R.C. (1951). Amphibians of Western North America. University of California Press, Berkeley.
Van Denburgh, J. (1895). "Notes on the habits and distribution of Autodax iecrus." Proceedings of the California Academy of Science, 5, 776-778.
Wood, W.F. (1936). ''Aneides flavipunctatus in burnt-over areas.'' Copeia, 1936(3), 171.
Written by Nancy L. Staub and David B. Wake (staub AT gonzaga.edu), Gonzaga University and Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, UC Berkeley
First submitted 1999-02-28
Edited by Kellie Whittaker (2009-06-08)
Feedback or comments about this page.
AmphibiaWeb's policy on data use.