Sacramento Mountains Salamander
© 2011 Todd Pierson (1 of 5)
Aneides hardii (Taylor, 1941)
1. Historical versus Current Distribution. There is no evidence to support either an expansion or a contraction of the historical range of Sacramento Mountain salamanders (Aneides hardii) within the three disjunct areas where they occur: the Capitan, White, and Sacramento mountains of south-central New Mexico, in Lincoln and Otero counties (Ramotnik, 1997). Researchers have revisited some historical localities known from the 1950s and 1960s (these salamanders were discovered in 1940) in the Capitan and Sacramento mountains and have continued to find salamanders (Meents, 1987; Scott et al., 1987; C. Painter, personal communication). The increase in new locality records from the Sacramento Mountains in the last 10 yr most likely reflects increased survey effort and not range expansions (Ramotnik, 1997).
2. Historical versus Current Abundance. Historical abundance unknown. Sacramento Mountain salamanders are abundant in appropriate habitat (above 2,800 m), but populations can be patchy within relatively uniform habitat (Ramotnik and Scott, 1988).
3. Life History Features.
A. Breeding. Reproduction is terrestrial.
i. Breeding migrations. None reported.
ii. Breeding habitat. Courtship and mating take place in underground sites (Johnston and Schad, 1959).
i. Egg deposition sites. Clutches have been found from mid July to September, usually within large, decaying Douglas fir logs or stumps, but eggs also are believed to be oviposited below ground (Johnston and Schad, 1959).
ii. Clutch size. Clutch size ranges from 1–10 eggs (mean = 5.9; Staub, 1986), the lowest of any North American plethodontid salamander.
C. Direct Development. As previously noted (see "Egg deposition sites" above), clutches have been found from mid July to September, usually within large, decaying Douglas fir logs or stumps, but eggs also are believed to be oviposited below ground (Johnston and Schad, 1959). Newly emerged salamanders from a clutch hatched in captivity measured 11–13 mm (SVL) and had color patterns similar to adults (Weigmann et al., 1980).
D. Juvenile Habitat. Presumably the same as adult habitat.
E. Adult Habitat. Within mesic mixed-habitat forest above 2,400 m, the salamander can be found within and under logs and moist litter and under rockslides and surface objects such as bark, rocks, and small woody debris. Above timberline they are associated with rocks and mats of mosses and lichens (Moir and Smith, 1970). Salamanders are often found within coniferous logs (primarily Douglas fir) in advanced stages of decay. They can be found under bark or in small cracks and chambers near the inner bark surface in less decayed logs (Johnston and Schad, 1959). Sacramento Mountain salamanders are more frequently associated with an understory of Rocky Mountain maple, less frequently with a sparse understory, and rarely with Gambel oak (Weigmann et al., 1980). However, Johnston and Schad (1959) noted that small oaks (Quercus sp.) were present among dominant conifers at all collecting sites.
F. Home Range Size. Unknown. Fifteen marked salamanders moved an average of 22.7 m (range = 0–50 m) between July and September (Staub, 1986).
G. Territories. Unknown.
H. Aestivation/Avoiding Dessication. During periods of drought, salamanders retreat beneath surface objects (e.g., large decayed logs) or to subterranean retreats; they respond to decreased temperature and precipitation in September by reducing surface activity (Ramotnik, 1997).
I. Seasonal Migrations. None reported.
J. Torpor (Hibernation). Believed to be inactive below ground from October–May (Johnston and Schad, 1959; Scott and Ramotnik, 1992).
K. Interspecific Associations/Exclusions. Interspecific competition is unlikely within their range because the only salamanders that occur sympatrically are tiger salamanders (Ambystoma tigrinum), which have distinctly different microhabitat preferences (Ramotnik, 1997).
L. Age/Size at Reproductive Maturity. Sexual maturity is reached at 43 mm SVL when females are 4 yr of age (based on growth-rate estimates by Staub, 1986). Williams (1976) reports that females reach sexual maturity from 2–3 yr of age but do not oviposit for another year in order to allow ova to reach sufficient size.
M. Longevity. At least 10 yr of age (based on a growth rate of 3.2 mm/yr, Staub, 1986).
N. Feeding Behavior. Salamanders feed on ground-dwelling invertebrates, primarily arthropods, especially spiders and insects, some mollusks (Johnston and Schad, 1959; Staub, 1986), and earthworms (Scott, 1990). In a sample of 83 stomachs of Sacramento Mountain salamanders, ants (Formicidae) occurred most frequently and were found in 55% of the stomachs, followed in frequency by rove beetles (Staphylinidae: 20%) and springtails (Sminthuridae: 18%; unpublished data). Males and females exhibit little difference in the sizes of prey taken (Staub, 1989). Captive salamanders initially foraged during daylight hours but after acclimation actively foraged at night or under low-light conditions (Johnston and Schad, 1959).
O. Predators. Wandering garter snakes (Thamnophis elegans) are the only known predators (Painter et al., 1999).
P. Anti-Predator Mechanisms. Immobile when initially exposed; body coiled and body flipped (sensu Brodie, 1983); will spin and writhe in a continuous motion when held by hand (Ramotnik, 1997).
Q. Diseases. None reported.
R. Parasites. A sample of 30 adult salamanders collected in July showed a high infection rate, 83% and 90%, by two species of nematodes, Oswaldocruzia sp. and Thelandros sp., respectively (Johnston and Schad, 1959).
4. Conservation. Sacramento Mountain salamanders are listed as Threatened in New Mexico (Levell, 1997; New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, 2000) and are potentially vulnerable to actions such as logging and fire that dry the habitat and reduce the amount of moisture available to them for respiration. However, salamanders have endured bouts of logging activities (sometimes intense) in the Sacramento Mountains over the past 60–90 yr, and there is no evidence that populations have been eliminated. Numbers of salamanders decreased the first year following logging in the Sacramento Mountains, but their numbers approached or exceeded pre-logging values after 5–7 yr (unpublished data). Salamanders apparently survived the frequent, low-intensity fires that occurred historically in the Sacramento Mountains, but fire suppression has created opportunities for large, catastrophic, “stand-reducing” fires. The intensity of these fires compared to historical fires makes it difficult to predict how salamanders will respond. An opportunity to study a recent large-scale fire occurred in May 2000, when the Scott Able Fire burned over 16,000 ac within the habitat of Sacramento Mountain salamanders. Second year results from the five-year study indicate that salamanders minimize moisture loss on burned sites by aggregating in large numbers beneath logs, and that arthropod prey diversity is greatest on low-burned sites (unpublished data).
1 Cindy Ramotnik
Literature references for Amphibian Declines: The Conservation Status of United States Species, edited by Michael Lannoo, are here.
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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2019. <http://amphibiaweb.org> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 17 Jan 2019.
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