Santa Lucia Mountains Slender Salamander
© 2017 Dr. Joachim Nerz (1 of 18)
Batrachoseps luciae Jockusch, Yanev and Wake, 2001
Robert W. Hansen1
1. Historical versus Current Distribution. Santa Lucia Mountains slender salamanders (Batrachoseps luciae) were described in 2001 on the basis of differences in allozymes and in DNA haplotypes in the mitochondrial gene cytochrome b (Jockusch, 1996; Jockusch et al., 2001). Santa Lucia Mountains slender salamanders are distributed throughout the northern Santa Lucia Mountains along the Pacific Coast in Monterey County (Jockush et al., 2001). They currently are known from a number of Monterey County locations in central coastal California. The northernmost known location is on the Monterey Peninsula and the southernmost is near the Monterey/San Luis Obispo County line. Inland, they are found along the Carmel Valley and the eastern slopes of the Santa Lucia Mountains from Arroyo Seco at least as far south as 36 ˚N. Differences between historical and current distributions are not apparent.
2. Historical versus Current Abundance. Unknown. Santa Lucia slender salamanders have been found abundantly at only a few sites, including the type locality, a park in the city of Monterey (Jockusch et al., 2001).
3. Life History Features.
A. Breeding. Reproduction is terrestrial.
i. Breeding migrations. Unknown.
ii. Breeding habitat. Unknown.
i. Egg deposition sites. A cluster of 19–20 eggs was found beneath a log in Pacific Grove on 10 February, along with several adult Santa Lucia Mountains slender salamanders, one of which was positioned ca. 5 cm from the cluster (D. Roberson; http://montereybay.com/creagrus/CABatrachoseps.html). Almost certainly these eggs were deposited by more than one female; this appears to be the first example of communal nesting (Jockusch and Mahoney, 1997) for this species.
ii. Clutch size. Jockusch (1997b) induced oviposition in gravid females collected from two localities. Average clutch sizes were 5.1 eggs (Carmel Valley, n = 10 clutches) and 10.6 eggs (Monterey, n = 13 clutches).
C. Direct Development. Developmental times for eggs incubated in the lab at 13 ˚C averaged 78 d (Jockusch 1997b). Dates of hatching in the wild are unknown.
D. Juvenile Habitat. Unknown how this may differ from adult habitat.
E. Adult Habitat. San Lucia Mountains slender salamanders are found predominantly in moist redwood and mixed coniferous forests. Inland, they occur mainly on wooded (with predominant vegetation being tan bark oaks and maples), north-facing slopes. During favorable climatic conditions, San Lucia Mountains slender salamanders also can be found under suitable cover in open, disturbed habitats, including the type locality, a park in the city of Monterey (Jockusch et al., 2001). In the Big Sur area, they have been found in wet, creekside situations.
F. Home Range Size. Unknown.
G. Territories. Unknown.
H. Aestivation/Avoiding Dessication. Unknown, but likely in populations occurring on the eastern flanks of the Santa Lucia Range. On the western flank of these mountains, Santa Lucia Mountains slender salamanders have been found under surface cover year-round. The presence of sharply rising mountain slopes adjacent to the Pacific Ocean results in frequent summer fogs that in turn allow salamanders to remain surface active outside the rainy season. We have recorded Santa Lucia Mountains slender salamanders under surface cover at substrate temperatures of 7.4–8.4 ˚C (mean 7.9 ˚C; n = 14) in January, although we expect activity across a broader range of temperatures.
I. Seasonal Migrations. Unknown.
J. Torpor (Hibernation). Unknown.
K. Interspecific Associations/Exclusions. Santa Lucia Mountains slender salamanders and Gabilan Mountains slender salamanders (B. gavilanensis) are parapatric, their ranges largely interdigitating for ca. 80 km along a broad ecotone in Carmel Valley. Populations of these species occur to within a few km of each other in Carmel Valley, but sympatry has not been discovered (Yanev, 1978; Jockusch et al., 2001). Similarly, their ranges converge in the Monterey Peninsula in an area with continuous habitat; further collecting in this region seems likely to reveal sympatry. They also occur within a few hundred meters of each other in the Nacimiento River valley in extreme southern Monterey County.
At their southern range limits, Santa Lucia Mountains slender salamanders come close to populations of San Simeon slender salamanders (B. incognitus) and black-bellied slender salamanders (B. nigriventris), but range overlap is unknown (Jockusch et al., 2001).
Other plethodontid salamanders occurring with the range of Santa Lucia Mountains slender salamanders include ensatinas (Ensatina eschscholtzii) and arboreal salamanders (Aneides lugubris).
L. Age/Size at Reproductive Maturity. Unknown. Based upon measurements of a small series, males range from 32.0–40.1 (mean 36.3, n = 10) mm SVL, females from 36.8–44.8 (mean 41.2, n = 10) mm SVL.
M. Longevity. Unknown.
N. Feeding Behavior. Santa Lucia Mountains slender salamanders, similar to other species of Batrachoseps, likely capture small insect prey using their projectile tongue.
O. Predators. Unknown, although lizards and snakes are likely predators.
P. Anti-Predator Mechanisms. Coiling and tail autotomy are common defensive responses in several species of attenuate Batrachoseps
Q. Diseases. Unknown.
R. Parasites. Unknown.
S. Comments. Although only recently described, specimens now referred to this species have been in scientific collections for many years though assigned to other taxa (e.g., B. attenuatus [Hendrickson, 1954]; and later, B. relictus [Brame and Murray, 1968] and B. pacificus [Yanev, 1980]). Yanev (1978, 1980), on the basis of allozymes, first identified the major lineages within the central coastal B. pacificus complex. Subsequently, these have been recognized as distinct species (gavilanensis, incognitus, luciae, and minor); Jockusch et al., 2001).
Based on studies of mtDNA and allozymes, Santa Lucia Mountains slender salamanders are known to be close relatives of B. incognitus, B. minor, and B. gavilanensis (Jockusch et al., 2001; Jockusch and Wake, 2002). There is some evidence that B. luciae and B. gavilanensis may have been in genetic contact early in their history, although there is no indication of present gene exchange despite sharing a long border through Carmel Valley (Jockusch et al., 2001).
4. Conservation. Santa Lucia Mountains slender salamanders are moderately widespread throughout the northern Santa Lucia Mountains and are abundant at a few sites. Portions of the range occur on publicly owned lands or other large land holdings that are likely to remain relatively undisturbed for the foreseeable future. Aside from local extirpations associated with human development, there are no known significant conservation concerns.
Acknowledgments. We thank Don Roberson for information concerning his discovery of a communal nest.
1 Robert W. Hansen
2 David B. Wake
Literature references for Amphibian Declines: The Conservation Status of United States Species, edited by Michael Lannoo, are here.
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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2022. <https://amphibiaweb.org> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 7 Aug 2022.
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