Bolitoglossa adspersa
Peter’s Climbing Salamander
Subgenus: Eladinea
family: Plethodontidae
subfamily: Hemidactyliinae

© 2004 Dr. Rafael I. Marquez (1 of 3)
Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN (Red List) Status Least Concern (LC)
Other International Status None
National Status None
Regional Status None



View distribution map in BerkeleyMapper.

Bolitoglossa adspersa is a medium sized, robust neotropical salamander that has a female snout-vent length range of 43.8 – 68.4 mm and a male snout-vent length range of 39 – 69.1 mm (Brame and Wake 1963, Valdivieso and Tamsitt 1965). The holotype had a total length of 79 mm and a snout-vent length of 42 mm. The head is longer than wide (Peters 1863) making the head moderate to relatively narrow, but broader in males than females (Brame and Wake 1963). The head does not have paratoid glands (Boulenger 1882) but males have round mental glands. There is considerable sexual dimorphism with males having a swollen snout around the nostrils and conspicuously branched cirrus at the ends of their nasolabial grooves while females have inconspicuous and unbranced cirrus. Males also have three to four long premaxillary teeth that pierce the upper lip, while females do not. The cloaca in males have villi around the vent while females have pleats (Valdivieso and Tamsitt 1965). The skin of the body is smooth with 12 costal grooves (Boulenger 1882). The limbs are of almost equivalent lengths with the hind limb being slightly longer (Parker 1863). Males have longer limbs than females. When adpressed to the body, males have 1.5 – 4 costal grooves between the limbs while females have 2 – 4.5 costal grooves. The digits are robust, well-defined, and are not flattened distally. Webbing of the digits is variable but typically webbing ends at the terminal phalanx of fingers 2 and 4 and toes 2 and 5, halfway up the penultimate phalanx of finger 3 and toe 4, at the penultimate phalanx of toe 3 (Brame and Wake 1963). There are no tubercles on the fingers or toes. The tail is cylindrical and shorter than the body (Boulenger 1882) measuring 27.2 – 55.2 mm in males and 34.0 – 56.2 in females (Brame and Wake 1963).

This species is distinguished from B. biseriata, B. borhurata, B. capitana, B. nicefori, and B. pandi by having less webbing on the hands and feet, strongly demarcated digits, and a unique coloration with pale gold spots, flecks, and bars located in the dorsolateral region with a deep blackish brown body color. Bolitoglossa adspersa can be distinguished from B. hypacra by having more webbing and different coloration, and from B. savage and B. vallecula by having fewer maxillary teeth and different coloration (Brame and Wake 1963).

In life, the dorsal coloration ranges from dark brown to black and may have a lighter grayish-brown ventrum. Irregularly shaped rusty gold spots, flecks, streaks, and bars appear longitudinally along the dorsolateral surfaces (Wake and Brame 1962, Brame and Wake 1963). There are a few ventral guanophores, especially along the ventrolateral regions of the trunk and throat and there is a ventral network of dense melanophores. In preservative, the dorsolateral patterning fades to tan, yellowish, or silver. Some specimens may appear completely black. The lower eyelid is white (Brame and Wake 1963). Young salamanders of these species are bronze dorsally, with black on the sides, and a reddish tint on the throat (Wake and Brame 1962).

In this species, there are many variable characteristics and sexual dimorphism. Adult sizes vary depending on region (Wake and Brame 1962). Teeth number may also vary regardless of size. Digit webbing is also variable. With regards to sexual dimorphism, males have longer limbs, broader heads (Brame and Wake 1963), rounded mental glands, swollen snouts at the nostrils, distinctly branched cirrus at the ends of their nasolabial groove (instead of indistinct and unbranched in females), and longer premaxillary teeth that pierce the lower lip. Lastly, the cloaca in males have villi around the vent while females have pleats (Valdivieso and Tamsit 1965). There does not appear to be sexual dimorphism with regards to coloration (Brame and Wake 1963).

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Colombia


View distribution map in BerkeleyMapper.
Bolitoglossa adspersa is endemic to Columbia from the highlands of the Oriental Cordillera in the Eastern Andes. More specifically it occurs north of Bogotá to the Páramo de La Rusia, and south of Bogotá to Aguadita, near Fusagasuga. Its natural habitats vary from subtropical to tropical montane cloud forests, lower montane dry forests, subtropical to tropical high-altitude grassland, páramos, and secondary disturbed forest (Valdivieso and Tamsitt 1965, Pinilla et al. 2014) at altitudes of 1,750 - 3,650 m (Acevedo et al. 2013). Individuals have been found among fallen leaves on slopes, or on bushes and herbaceous vegetation (Pinilla et al. 2014).

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Bolitoglossa adspersa is believed to be diurnal. The species is both terrestrial and arboreal. It can usually be found in leaf litter, bushes, and trees in high altitude cloud forests. However, they can also be found near ponds and pools (Brame and Wake 1963, Valdivieso and Tamsitt 1965).

They are active year round and have an acyclic breeding season lasting from March to November. Although initially thought to be viviparous, it was later determined that the species was oviparous and has direct development (Brame and Wake 1963, Valdivieso and Tamsitt 1965).

Fertilization is internal. Females produce 1 - 11 opaque white yolked eggs that measure 1 – 4.5 mm while still in the ovaries. In the lab, between 1961 and 1962, three females each laid 10 - 11 eggs under tiles, on the ground, and curl their body around the eggs. Eggs measured 6 – 8 mm in diameter and appeared as an oblong adhering mass. The eggs hatched after four to twelve weeks depending on the climatic conditions (Valdivieso and Tamsitt 1965).

Males have lobed testes (Valdivieso and Tamsitt 1965).

Due to not having lungs, these salamanders employ the use of cutaneous respiration (Valdivieso and Tamsitt 1965).

Both adults and hatchlings prey primarily upon small insects using their projectile like tongues. These salamanders may fall prey to larger amphibians, reptiles, birds, or mammals within the area. It is not known if this species has anti predator toxins (Valdivieso and Tamsitt 1965).

Trends and Threats
This species appears to have a stable, abundant population and is listed as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List. However it is still threatened by habitat destruction and degradation associated with agriculture. The species can be found in some protected areas, such as Sumapaz and Chigaza National Natural Parks and the Santuario de Fauna y Flora Guanetá Alto Rio Fonce (Pinilla et al. 2004).

Possible reasons for amphibian decline

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

The species authority is: Peters, W. C. H. (1863). “Fernere Mittheilungen über neue Batrachier.” Monatsberichte der Königlichen Preussische Akademie des Wissenschaften zu Berlin 1863: 445–470.

Bayesian and Maximum Likelihood analysis of 16S rRNA in 2013 found that B. adspersa was most closely related to an unnamed species from El Soche, Departmento Cundinamarca, Colombia and the two of them were sister to the clade containing B. altamazonica, B. biseriata, B. leandrae, B. medemi, B. nicefori, B. palmate, B. paraensis, B. peruviana, B. orestes, B. sima, B. tamaense, and an unnamed species from Venezuela (Acevedo et al. 2013).

Additional Bayesian and Maximum Likelihood analysis on 16S rRNA and cyt B in 2017 showed that B. adspersa is sister to the clade composed of B. mucuyensis and B. orestes and the clade composed of these species is sister to the clade including B. altamazonica, B. palmata, B. paraensis and B. peruviana. However, the latter relationship is not strongly supported (Meza-Joya et al. 2017).

Bolitoglossa adspersa is a member of the subgenus Elandinea and of a species complex named after the species, which extends from northern Panama to central Bolivia. The B. adspersa species complex includes at least 36 species, of which 22 are found in Colombia, including B. adspersa, B. altamazonica, B. capitana, B. leandrae, B. lozanoi, B. nicefori, B. palmate, and B. pandi, all of which are found in the Cordillera Oriental (Meza-Joya et al. 2017).

Interestingly, some of the material available for study of adspersa from certain localities near Bogota was destroyed in a riot in 1948 (Wake and Brame, 1963).


Acevedo, A.A., Wake, D.B., Márquez, R., Silva, K., Franco, R., Amézquita, A. (2013). ''Two new species of salamanders, genus Bolitoglossa (Amphibia: Plethodontidae), from the Eastern Colombian Andes.'' Zootaxa, 3609(1), 69-84. [link]

Boulenger, G.A. (1882). Catalogue of the Batrachia Salientia s. Ecaudata in the Collection of the British Museum, Ed. 2. Taylor and Francis, London.

Brame, A. H., Wake, D.B. (1963). ''The salamanders of South America.'' Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County - Contributions in Science, 69, 5-72.

Peters, W. (1863). ''Fernere Mittheilungen über neue Batrachier.'' Monatsberichte der königlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin, Oktober, 445-470.

Pinilla, M. P. R., Osorno-Muñoz, M., Rueda, J. V., Amézquita, A., Ardila-Robayo, M. C. (2004). ''Bolitoglossa adspersa''. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. . Downloaded on 04 December 2014.

Valdivieso, D., Tamsitt, J.R. (1965). ''Reproduction in a Neotropical Salamander, Bolitoglossa adspersa.'' Herpetologists’ League, 21(3), 228-236. [link]

Wake, D.B., Brame, A. H. Jr. (1962). ''A New Species of Salamander from Colombia and the Status of Geotriton andicola Posada Arango.'' Contrib. Sci. Nat. Hist. Mus. Los Angeles Co, 49, 1-8. [link]

Written by Zachary P. Wetsel and Taylor Bonnet (Zachw AT, taylor62591 AT, University of Texas, Austin and University of Nevada, Reno
First submitted 2019-06-24
Edited by Ann T. Chang (2019-06-24)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2019 Bolitoglossa adspersa: Peter’s Climbing Salamander <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Jan 20, 2021.

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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2021. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 20 Jan 2021.

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