Slender salamander with a long tail, that can be autotomised. Total length of
males up to 156mm, for females up to 164mm. The length of the tail is about
half the total length in juveniles, and about two-thirds of the total length
in adults. Head elongated and with large, protruding eyes. Patroids are
distinct but small. The front legs, bearing 4 toes, are smaller and slimmer
than the hind legs, which bear 5 toes. The body is cylindrical in cross-section
and bears weakly developed costal grooves (10-12 on the body), which continue
on the lateral sides of the tail. The base color is black, with two golden
dorsal stripes, which unite in the dorsal side of the tail. In some
populations the dorsal stripes are discontinuous and can be reduced to a
number of golden spots. The entire dorsal surface has very small blue spots
distributed across it. The venter is dark-gray, and the throat is a lighter
gray. Semi-albinistic adults have been found in natural populations, and one
fully albinistic larva resides in the collections of the University of
Amsterdam. Males can be distinguished from females through the development
of a swollen cloaca and swollen upper parts of the front legs during
breeding season (Boehme et al 1999). The larvae are of the
"stream-type", having a streamlined build and small external gills
Distribution and Habitat
Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Portugal, Spain
C. lusitanica is an Ibero-Atlantic species, confined to the
Northwestern part of the Iberian Peninsula, where precipitation is plentiful.
In Spain, it is present in Galicia, Asturias, and in the western end of
(the easternmost population is in the Panes). It is also present in the
northern half of
Portugal north of the Tejo River) ; the southernmost population is found in
the south of serra de Alvélos. This species is found in regions with more
than 1000mm of annual precipitation. Adults usually live along the borders
of streams with overhanging vegetation and moss-covered rocks. They seem to
slightly acidic waters, with a pH value between 4.5 and 6.5. Adults can be
found up to 200m from the nearest stream, while juveniles tend to stay closer
to the water. With the drying of the brooks, a part of some populations
migrate to summer refuges such as dams and deserted mine-galleries or rock quarries.
refuges may also serve as a place for breeding and for egg deposition.
Larvae appear to select permanent rapidly flowing streams with highly
oxygenated water, they select microhabitat
in areas without aquatic vegetation and with a localized weak constant
current. The larvae live hidden between stones or in small holes and crevices
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
The activity of this species is reduced in summer by aestivation, and in winter
by hibernation. These rest periods are not passed in a state of total
lethargy, as rainfall can stimulate activity during aestivation, and active
salamanders can also be found during wintertime at temperatures slightly above
0ºC. Spring is usually the main period in which feeding takes place, and
reproduction takes place in autumn. On the northwestern part of the
distribution, however, the breeding takes place mainly in the spring. The
adults do not seem to feed during breeding season.
Mating takes place on land or in shallow water and involves ventral amplexus.
Up to 20 eggs (usually 14-17) per female are laid in rotten logs or under
stones and in cracks in slow-flowing streams. Eggs can also be found in the
summer refuges, usually groups of 100 to 1000 eggs. The eggs are whitish in
color and 5 to 8mm in diameter. Development of the embryo takes 6-10 weeks,
depending on the temperature. The larvae hatch with a snout-vent length of
12-13mm, and have a brown pigmentation, which grows denser with age. They
live hidden in cracks and holes, and seem photophobic. Larvae that hatch
during autumn spend the winter in the water, and grow very little over this
period. They, as well as the larvae that hatch in spring, metamorphose at
a snout-vent length of 22mm in July, August and September. Some larvae can
pass the winter in the water, and metamorphose the following spring.
Observations in captivity indicate longevity to be over 10 years. Like most
terrestrial salamanders, C. lusitanica is mostly nocturnal. They feed on
many invertebrates, mostly those that are 2-4mm in size. Spiders
seem to be a preferred food, followed by flies and beetles. The prey is
captured using the specialized tongue, which can be protruded over a distance
of 10mm. When threatened, the salamander can run quickly, or lets itself
fall into the water. The tail can be shed if grabbed, and can continue to
move for minutes, drawing the attention of the predator away from the
salamander. The tail contains storage tissues, and the loss of the tail can
negatively influence the fertility of females. The tail regenerates at an
average speed of 3mm per month. When disturbed, C. lusitanica can
also secrete a toxic, milky substance from glands on the back and tail
(Boehme et al 1999).
Trends and Threats
C. lusitanica has a limited distribution, but within its range, the
species is not necessarily rare. It is apparently in danger, but available
data are not yet sufficient to make an accurate assessment of the status. The
main threats come from the growing use of its habitats for agriculture,
tourism or industrial activities, and from pollution by chemicals, mainly
insecticides, which is increasing in some areas. The replacement of natural
forests by monocultures (Eucalyptus and Pinus) means that
C. lusitanica can no longer exist away from the stream and is
restricted to riverbeds. In recent years, fires have also become another
threat. In drier areas, water withdrawal is also a serious danger
Possible reasons for amphibian decline
General habitat alteration and loss
Habitat modification from deforestation, or logging related activities
Intensified agriculture or grazing
Drainage of habitat
Local pesticides, fertilizers, and pollutants
Boehme, W., Grossenbacher, K., and Thiesmeier, B. (1999). Handbuch der Reptilien und Amphibien Europas, band 4/I:Schwanzlurche (Urodela). Aula-Verlag, Wiesbaden.
Gasc, J.-P. (1997). Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles in Europe. Societas Europaea Herpetologica, Bonn, Germany.
Griffiths, R.A. (1996). Newts and Salamanders of Europe. T. and A. D. Poyser, London.
Pleguezuelos, J. M. (1997). Distribucion y Biogeografia de los Anfibios y Reptiles en España y Portugal. Asociacion Herpetologica Española, Las Palmas de Gran Canarias.
Stumpel-Rieks, S. E. (1992). Nomina Herpetofaunae Europaeae. AULA-Verlag, Wiesbaden.
Written by Arie van der Meijden (amphibia AT arievandermeijden.nl), Research associate, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, UC Berkeley
First submitted 1999-12-27
Edited by Vance Vredenburg (2010-09-21)
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