Bolitoglossa compacta

Subgenus: Eladinea
family: Plethodontidae
subfamily: Hemidactyliinae

© 2008 James Hanken (1 of 2)

View distribution map using BerkeleyMapper.

Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN (Red List) Status Endangered (EN)
See IUCN account.
Other International Status None
National Status None
Regional Status None


Bolitoglossa compacta is a robust, moderately-sized salamander (Savage 2002). Adult males are 44 - 53 mm in standard length and females are 68 - 74 mm in standard length (Savage 2002). The tail is about 44 - 50% of the total length (100 - 143 mm) (Savage 2002). Head width is 14 - 16% of the standard length (Savage 2002). Eyes are large and protruding (Savage 2002). Below the eye a deep unpigmented groove is present; posterior to the eye, a well-defind postorbital groove extends (Wake et al. 1973). The canthus rostralis is moderately short and slightly arched (Wake et al. 1973). A gular fold is present (Wake et al. 1973). Adults have 11 - 50 maxillary teeth and 19 - 33 vomerine teeth (Savage 2002). Vomerine teeth are arranged in two single rows, one on each side and near the midline, angling sharply towards the parasphenoid tooth patches (Wake et al. 1973). There are 1.5 - 2.5 costal folds between adpressed limbs (Savage 2002). Male leg length is 22 - 24% of the standard length, while in females, the leg length is 25 - 28% of the specimen's standard length (Savage 2002). The tail is compressed laterally (Wake et al. 1973). A pale crescent-shaped postiliac gland is present (Wake et al. 1973). Hands and feet are moderately webbed (Savage 2002). Digit tips are broad and truncated (Wake et al. 1973). Finger lengths are 3>2>4>1 and toe lengths are 3>4>2>5>1 (Wake et al. 1973). At least two phalanges on the longest digits lack webbing (Savage 2002). Males are generally smaller but have broader heads, longer hind limbs, and larger feet (Wake et al. 1973).

In life, it is brown (Savage 2002) or black (Wake et al. 1973) with red or orange markings on the dorsal surface (blotches, indistinct paired dorsolateral stripes, or a mid-dorsal field). The venter is a uniform brown. The iris is pale brown (Savage 2002).

In preservative, the dorsum and venter are black with orange to yellowish markings. The ventral surface is almost as dark as the dorsal surface and it is very uniform. A few large orange splotches are seen near the base of the tail, along with some spots on the top of the head and behind the eyes. The eyelids are black and orange, mottled. The limbs are black with one small lighter spot on the left hind limb above the ankle (on the holotype). The palms are graym (Wake et al. 1973).

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Costa Rica, Panama

View distribution map using BerkeleyMapper.
Occurs in both Costa Rica (Lips 1993; Savage 2002) and Panama (Wake et al. 1993; Ibañez et al. 2000), near the Costa Rica - Panama border. On the Costa Rican slopes (Pacific versant) they are found at 1650 - 1980 m asl, while in western Panama (Atlantic and Pacific versants) they are found at 1810 - 2780 m asl (Savage 2002). The species is usually found on the ground or on low vegetation in undisturbed, humid lower montane rainforests (Savage 2002), with an understory of palms and ferns (Wake et al. 1973). Moisture is assumed to be plentiful year-round due to heavy moss growth (Wake et al. 1973).

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
This species is nocturnal and scansorial (Savage 2002). It breeds by direct development (Stuart et al. 2008). Egg deposition occurs during the dry season and larvae hatch at the beginning of the wet season (Hanken 1979).

An adult female (84.7 mm SVL) was collected from under a log on the southern slope of Cerro Respingo, at 2,710 m asl. In captivity, this female deposited a clutch of 39 eggs, as a clump (typical of Bolitoglossa species). Parental care was not evident; after one day, the female did not show signs of attempting to brood or disturb the eggs in any way. Eggs were removed to a moistened paper towel in a petri dish and kept at 13 degrees C, closely approximating the temperature of 11.8 degrees C at the locality of capture, and the mean temperature reported for Bolitoglossa subpalmata nest sites at comparable elevations in Costa Rica (12.8 degrees C at 2,300-3,200 m asl). About two to three weeks after oviposition, fungal mycelia were observed on the clutch, and subsequently the eggs were washed in 0.5% hydrogen peroxide every 2-4 days until hatching. Eggs/embryos were preserved when it appeared certain that the embryos had stopped developing. Two embryos hatched at 249 and 251 days after oviposition, with a total development time of 8.1 months. Growth appeared to stop at about eight weeks, when the hatchlings did not change in total length; the juveniles were then preserved (Hanken 1979).

The time to hatching (over 8 months for B. compacta) is relatively long compared to other salamanders. However, it follows the general pattern of longer development for neotropical vs. temperate salamanders.For the direct-developing temperate salamanaders Plethodon vehiculum and Batrachoseps attenuatus, development time is 2 months, and for the direct-developing Ensatina eschscholtzii, development takes 4 months. For direct-developing Neotropical salamanders, development has been inferred to be 4-5 months for Bolitoglossa subpalmata and 5-6 months for B. rostrata (Hanken 1979).

Trends and Threats
The species is rare, and populations are also declining due to habitat loss from increased small farming and logging. It occurs within at least one protected area, Parque Internacional La Amistad, which is on the border between Costa Rica and Panama (Stuart et al. 2008).

Possible reasons for amphibian decline

General habitat alteration and loss
Habitat modification from deforestation, or logging related activities
Intensified agriculture or grazing

This species is similar to Bolitoglossa cerroensis except that B. cerroensis has yellow to green markings, a narrower head, and longer limbs (Savage 2002). It is also similar to B. pesrubra and B. subpalmata, but but B. compacta has a longer standard length and has fewer maxillary teeth (Savage 2002). It can be distinguished from B. marmorea and B. sooyorum because it has smaller hands and feet, and because it has fewer teeth (Wake et al. 1973). Compared to other species of this genus, this species has relatively weak and poorly developed upper and lower jaws for its size (Wake et al. 1973).

A Spanish-language species account can be found at the website of Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INBio).


Hanken, J. (1979). ''Egg development time and clutch size in two neotropical salamanders.'' Copeia, 1979(4), 741-744.

Ibañez, R., Solí­s, F., Jaramillo, C. and Rand, S. (2000). ''An overview of the herpetology of Panama.'' Mesoamerican Herpetology: Systematics, Zoogeography and Conservation. Johnson, J. D., Webb, R. G. and Flores-Villela, O. A., eds., The University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, Texas, 159-170.

Lips, K. R. (1993). ''Bolitoglossa compacta (NCN).'' Herpetological Review, 24, 107.

Savage, J. M. (2002). The Amphibians and Reptiles of Costa Rica. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Solís, F., Ibáñez, R., Wake, D., Savage, J., Chaves, G., and Bolaños, F. 2008. Bolitoglossa compacta. In: IUCN 2009. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.2. Downloaded on 09 November 2009.

Wake, D. B., Brame, A. H. and Duellman, W. E. (1973). ''New species of salamanders, genus Bolitoglossa, from Panama.'' Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County - Contributions in Science, 248, 1-19.

Wake, D. B., Brame, A. H., and Duellman, W. E. (1970). ''Bolitoglossa compacta, new species.'' Contributions in Science, (248), 12 - 19.

Written by Mae Huo (mxhuo AT, University of California, Berkeley
First submitted 2009-11-04
Edited by Kellie Whittaker (2010-04-08)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2010 Bolitoglossa compacta <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Jan 21, 2017.

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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2017. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 21 Jan 2017.

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