Like most of the slender salamanders (genus Batrachoseps),
B. attenuatus is elongated and slender,
with small, very short limbs and a long tail (1.5-2 times its
snout-vent length). Each foot has 4 digits. Dark brown to
blackish. Dorsal stripe of brick-red, brown, tan, buff, or yellow often
present. Dark color on belly usually forms a fine, unbroken network.
Underside of tail often lighter than belly and appears tinged with yellow from underlying fat deposits.
Fine white speckling on ventral surfaces, including midline of tail.
(Stebbins 1985; Petranka 1998).
Distribution and Habitat
Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: United States
U.S. state distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: California, Oregon
Found on the Pacific coast of North America, from Southern Oregon (near the mouth of the Rogue River) to central California (to the vicinity of the
San Benito River. Also found in the foothills of the Sierra
Nevada from Big Chico Creek to the American
River Drainage in central California. Scattered populations inhabit California's Sacramento Valley, including
Sutter Buttes. Isolated populations exist at Clipkapudi and Little Cow
Creeks in Shasta County, California.
Frequency of the different dorsal stripe colorations varies with locality. Individuals in the redwood belt in the Pacific Northwest
usually have red to reddish-brown dorsal stripes. In the San Francisco Bay area, many different stripe colorations may be found.
Lives in grassland (usually where there are scattered trees), chaparral, woodland, forest,
and suburban yards and vacant lots (Stebbins 1985). Shows strong
affinity for mature and old-growth forests in the northern part of its range
(Petranka 1998). You can find them under logs, boards, bark, and in damp leaf litter
and rotting logs during the period of time between the first fall rains and the
onset of dry weather in the spring or summer (Stebbins 1985).
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Active on the ground surface during wet weather. When the soil dries up or the
air temperature drops below freezing, they move underground
(Hendrickson 1954; Stebbins 1951).
Spends the dry summer in underground retreats, emerging with the arrival of
fall rains (Stebbins 1954).
During breeding, sexually active males have broader, more truncated snouts than females and enlarged premaxillary teeth
that project just beyond the closed mouth. However, these characters are often
hard to see (Petranka 1998).
Surfacing males, as well as those examined
during most of the rainy season, have viable sperm in their ducts
(Stebbins 1951). Mating may therefore occur in the dry summer, when the
salamanders are in underground retreats (Petranka 1998).
Most females seem to lay their eggs within a few weeks after they emerge in
October and November after the arrival of fall rains (Stebbins 1951).
Few eggs have been found, suggesting that most females oviposit in hidden
underground cavities. Most records are for surface nests (Stebbins 1951).
Some nests have been found under surface debris which contain many more eggs
than the average number of ovaries found in individual females, strongly
suggesting that females often lay their eggs in communal nests
(Maslin 1939; Storer 1925; Burke 1911; Anderson 1960).
Females do not seem to actively brood the eggs or provide parental care to their
young (Petranka 1998).
Natural predators of Batrachoseps species include the arboreal salamander
(Aneides flavipunctatus), small snakes, and white-footed mice (Peromyscus)
When threatened, Batrachoseps species may autotomize (detach) their long
tails at any segment and later regrow the lost tail (Petranka 1998).
B. attenuatus can regenerate a lost tail within 1-3 years
(Hendrickson 1954). B. attenuatus can employ additional
defenses. When first uncovered from
beneath surface objects, it coils into a tight spiral and remains
still. If touched, they may rapidly coil and uncoil and fling themselves
around like a spring, sometimes propelling themselves as far as 60 cm
(Brodie 1977; Brodie et al. 1974; Stebbins 1951; Storer 1925).
Batrachoseps species may produce toxic skin secretions
(Cunningham 1960; Hubbard 1903). However, it is unknown if
are used in defense (Petranka 1998).
Trends and Threats
Abundant throughout its range (D. Wake, personal communication).
northern California seem to be most dense in mature forests
In the Coast Range of California and Oregon, B. attenuatus is more abundant
in old-growth forests compared to recently logged forests
(Welsh and Lind 1988; Welsh and Lind 1991).
Bury (1983) censused amphibians in old-growth redwood
forest plots and matched plots of redwood forest regrowing after recent logging.
B. attenuatus was 10 times more abundant in the old-growth compared to logged
Relation to Humans
Often found in urban, suburban yards and lots as long as there is adequate cover (Stebbins 1985); therefore this salamander seems tolerant of moderate habitat alteration from human activity.
As recently as 1954, all populations of Batrachoseps in California were assigned to this species, but on the basis of work by Brame and Murray (1968) and especially Yanev (1980), the range of this species is restricted to northern California and the north-central Sierra Nevada.
This species was featured in the News of the Week on August, 30, 2021:
Despite lacking specialized climbing structures, a wide range of salamanders are known to climb vegetation, trees, or rocks. Their ability to cling and climb allows these salamanders access to more food resources, to more suitable microclimates, and to escape predators. O'Donnell and Deban (2021) explored what factors contribute to this ability across a wide range of size, morphology, and ecological niches in salamanders. They found that the adhesive nature of their mucus coating was a major factor, but that cling ability also was associated with body mass and the amount of body contact area utilized, which include feet, tail, belly, and ventral surface of their head, to increase cling. The best clingers in their experiments were the small plethodontid salamanders, such as Batrachoseps attenuatus, Desmognathus aeneus, D. ocoee, Eurycea guttolineata, and E. wilderae. However, plethodontid salamanders in general, like large salamander Desmognathus quadramaculatus, were comparable or exceed the cling ability of arboreal and scansorial frogs. (AChang)
See another account at californiaherps.com.
Adams, D. R. (1968). ''Stomach contents of the salamander Batrachoseps attenuatus in California.'' Herpetologica, 24, 170-172.
Anderson, P. K. (1960). "Ecology and evolution in island populations of salamanders in the San Francisco Bay region." Ecological Monographs, 30, 359-384.
Block, W. M. and Morrison, M. L. (1998). ''Habitat relationships of amphibian and reptiles in California oak woodlands.'' Journal of Herpetology, 32(1), 51-60.
Brame, A. H., Jr. and Murray, K. F. (1968). ''Three new slender salamanders (Batrachoseps) with a discussion of relationships and speciation within the genus.'' Bulletin of the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, (4), 1-35.
Brodie, E. D., Jr. (1977). "Salamander antipredator postures." Copeia, 1977, 523-535.
Brodie, E. D., Jr., Johnson, J. A., and Dodd, C. K., Jr. (1974). "Immobility as a defensive behavior in salamanders." Herpetologica, 30, 79-85.
Burke, C. V. (1911). ''Note on Batrachoseps attenuatus Esch.'' The American Naturalist, 45, 413-414.
Bury, R. B. (1983). "Differences in amphibian populations in logged and old growth redwood forest." Northwest Science, 57, 167-178.
Bury, R. B. and Martin, M. (1973). "Comparative studies on the distribution and foods of plethodontid salamanders in the redwood region of northern California." Journal of Herpetology, 7, 331-335.
Cunningham, J. D. (1960). ''Aspects of the ecology of the Pacific Slender Salamander, Batrachoseps pacificus, in southern California.'' Ecology, 41, 88-99.
Hendrickson, J. R. (1954). ''Ecology and systematics of salamanders of the genus Batrachoseps.'' University of California Publications in Zoology, 54, 1-46.
Hubbard, M. E. (1903). ''Correlated protective devices in some California salamanders.'' University of California Publications in Zoology, 1, 157-170.
Jackusch, E. L. (1993). ''Evolution of a reaction norm in salamanders of the genus Batrachoseps (Annual Meeting of the American Society of Zoologists, Los Angeles, California, USA, December 26-30, 1993).'' American Zoologist, 33(5), 24A.
Maiorana, V. C. (1978). "Behavior of an unobservable species: diet selection by a salamander." Copeia, 1978, 664-672.
Maslin, T. P., Jr. (1939). ''Egg-laying of the Slender Salamander (Batrachoseps attenuatus).'' Copeia, 1939, 209-212.
Petranka, J. W. (1998). Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C. and London.
Stebbins, R. C. (1954). "Natural history of the salamanders of the Plethodontid genus Ensatina." University of California Publications in Zoology, 54(2), 47-124.
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.
Storer, T. I. (1925). "A synopsis of the amphibia of California." University of California Publications in Zoology, 27, 1-342.
Wake, D. B., and Castanet, J. (1995). ''A skeletochronological study of growth and age in relation to adult size in Batrachoseps attenuatus.'' Journal of Herpetology, 29(1), 60-65.
Welsh, H. H., Jr. and Lind, A. J. (1988). ''Old growth forests and the distribution of the terrestrial herpetofauna.'' Management of amphibians, reptiles, and mammals in North America, General Technical Report RM-166. R. C. Szaro, K. E. Severson, and D. R. Patton, eds., USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experimental Station, Fort Collins, Colorado, 439-455.
Welsh, H. H., Jr. and Lind, A. J. (1991). ''The structure of the herpetofaunal assemblage in the Douglas-fir/hardwood forests of northwestern California and southwestern Oregon.'' Wildlife and Vegetation of Unmanaged Douglas-fir Forests, USDA Forest Service, General Technical Report PNW-GTR-285. L. F. Ruggiero, K. B. Aubry, A. B. Carey, and M. H. Huff, eds., USDA Forest Service, 394-413.
Yanev, K. P. (1979). ''Biogeography and distribution of three parapatric salamander species in coastal and borderland California.'' The California Islands: Proceedings of a multidisciplinary symposium. D. M. Power, eds., Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Santa Barbara, CA., 531-550.
Originally submitted by: John Romansic, David B. Wake (first posted 1999-04-15)
Edited by: Tate Tunstall 11/12/03 (2021-08-29)
Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2021 Batrachoseps attenuatus: California Slender Salamander <https://amphibiaweb.org/species/3941> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Oct 17, 2021.
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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2021. <https://amphibiaweb.org> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 17 Oct 2021.
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