Bolitoglossa dofleini
Giant Palm Salamander, Doflein's Salamander, Alto Verapaz Salamander
Subgenus: Pachymandra
family: Plethodontidae
subfamily: Hemidactyliinae

© 2007 Sean Michael Rovito (1 of 48)
Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN (Red List) Status Near Threatened (NT)
Other International Status None
National Status None
Regional Status None


View distribution map using BerkeleyMapper.


This salamander is the largest known member of the genus Bolitoglossa. The body is robust with 13 costal grooves (Campbell 1998). The snout is truncate to broadly rounded when viewed from above, and and broadly rounded in profile (McCranie and Wilson 2002). Labial protuberances are weakly developed (McCranie and Wilson 2002). No sublingual fold is present (McCranie and Wilson 2002). Toes are fully to extensively webbed, and toe tips lack well-defined subdigital pads (McCranie and Wilson 2002). Toes not fully encompassed in webbing (Toe III on manus and Toes III-IV on pes) have tips that are pointed or acutely rounded (McCranie and Wilson 2002). The tail is robust and has a constriction at the base (Campbell 1998). This species is sexually dimorphic. Females can reach up to 114.8 mm SVL, while males reach 70 mm SVL (in Guatemala; males unknown for Honduras) (McCranie et al. 1996). Females can be distinguished by their large body, relatively short limbs (adpressed limb interval of 2-3 costal folds in Honduran females) and a high number of maxillary-premaxillary teeth (mean of 93 in Honduran females) (McCranie and Wilson 2002). Males are smaller, with relatively longer limbs (adpressed limb interval ranges from one costal fold to overlapping by one costal fold in Guatemalan males) and have a moderate number of maxillary-premaxillary teeth (mean of 55 in Guatemalan males) (McCranie and Wilson 2002).

Adult female coloration (in Honduran females) is pale brown to dark brown dorsally and may be mottled with rust-red and tan (McCranie and Wilson 2002). Scattered, irregular dark brown spots are present, usually centered on the costal grooves dorsolaterally (McCranie and Wilson 2002). A single subadult female from Honduras was purplish-brown with irregular cream-colored blotches on the body and tail (McCranie and Wilson 2002).

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Guatemala, Honduras


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Occurs in Guatemala (the Caribbean side of Alta Verapaz, Montanas del Chico and the Sierra de Merendon), Belize (Cayo District) and north-central Honduras (several disjunct populations from Copán to central Yoro), at elevations from 50-1,450 m asl (Cruz et al. 2004; Raffaëlli 2007). In Honduras it is found between 650 to 1,370 m asl (McCranie and Wilson 2002). Individuals can be found in premontane to lower montane wet forest, under dead vegetation on the forest floor (McCranie and Wilson 2002; Campbell 1998). Specimens have also been found under logs in coffee groves and under a stump in a pasture that was formerly cloudforest (and still adjacent to existing cloudforest; McCranie and Wilson 2002), and in cardamom plantations (Raffaëlli 2007).

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors

Bolitoglossa dofleini is considered terrestrial (McCranie and Wilson 2002), although Raffaëlli (2007) notes that females may be more terrestrial, preferring to take cover in leaf litter, and males may be more arboreal. This salamander has been found on cardamom plants, which grow to 2-3 m above the ground (Raffaëlli 2007).

This species is likely to have direct development, as do other members of the genus Bolitoglossa. B. dofleini takes 10-12 years to achieve sexual maturity (Cruz et al. 2004).

The salamander preys on invertebrates, and in turn is preyed upon by the false coral snake Urotheca elapoides (Lee 1996). A video of B. dofleini feeding (made by Stephen Deban) can be viewed here.

Trends and Threats
This species appears to be able to tolerate some habitat disturbance, since individuals have been found under cover in coffee and cardamom plantations and in pastures.

B. dofleini occurs in several protected areas in Honduras: Parque Nacional Cusuco, Parque Nacional Cerro Azul and the Refugio de Vida Silvestre Texiguat (Cruz et al. 2004). Chytridiomycosis appears to be widespread in at least one of those protected areas (Parque Nacional Cusuco) with Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis infections now having been found in half of the park's endangered amphibian species (Kolby et al. 2009). Amphibian populations in the park have been undergoing sudden unexplained crashes, likely because of chytrid infection (Cruz et al. 2004; Kolby et al. 2009). B. dofleini may be susceptible to chytridiomycosis since a group of six captive B. dofleini imported into Belgium appeared healthy initially but succumbed to chytridiomycosis (confirmed by histology; Pasmans et al. 2004).

Females are more frequently encountered in the leaf litter and are thus more frequently collected for the international pet trade (Raffaëlli 2007). Since this species takes a long time to reach reproductive age (10-12 years), collecting for the pet trade may have a significant negative impact on smaller local populations.

In Guatemala, this species is found in two protected areas: Parque Nacional Laguna Lachuá and the Reserva de Manantiales Montañas del Mico (Cruz et al. 2004).

Relation to Humans
This species is collected for the international pet trade.

Possible reasons for amphibian decline

General habitat alteration and loss
Habitat modification from deforestation, or logging related activities
Habitat fragmentation
Intentional mortality (over-harvesting, pet trade or collecting)


To view a movie of this salamander feeding, click here


The specific epithet honors Franz J. Theodor Doflein, a naturalist from Germany (McCranie and Wilson 2002).

Defenders of Wildlife and SSN have recently recommended that the United States advocate for inclusion of Bolitoglossa dofleini in Appendix II of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), which would recommend controls on commercial trade in this species. B. dofleini does reproduce until females are 10-12 years old; the collection of predominantly females for commercial trade may have significant negative impact on smaller populations. In addition, chytrid has been decimating amphibian species in at least one of the localities where B. dofleini is found (Cusuco National Park, Honduras). B. dofleini is known to be susceptible to chytridiomycosis in captivity (Pasmans et al. 2004).

However, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports that the U. S. is not planning to propose inclusion of B. dofleini under CITES Appendix II unless "significant additional information is received" about the population and trade status, or assistance is requested by a range country (Belize, Guatemala, or Honduras). The deadline for submitting comments and information to USF&W is September 11, 2009. Species submitted for consideration by the United States and other CITES member countries will be discussed at the CoP15 meeting in Qatar on March 13-25, 2010.

Comments pertaining to species proposals should be sent to the Division of Scientific Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Room 110, Arlington, VA 22203, or via e-mail at:, or via fax at: 703–358–2276. Comments pertaining to proposed resolutions, decisions, and agenda items should be sent to the Division of Management Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Room 212, Arlington, VA 22203, or via e-mail at:, or via fax at: 703–358–2298.

For further information pertaining to species proposals contact: Rosemarie Gnam, Chief, Division of Scientific Authority, phone 703–358– 1708, fax 703–358–2276, e-mail: For further information pertaining to resolutions, decisions, and agenda items contact: Robert R. Gabel, Chief, Division of Management Authority, phone 703– 358–2095, fax 703–358–2298, e-mail:


Campbell, J. A. (1998). Amphibians and Reptiles of Northern Guatamala, the Yucatan, and Belize. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma.

Cruz, G., Wilson, L. D., McCranie, R., Acevedo, M.. Wake, D. B., Lee, J., Papenfuss, T., Castañeda, F., and Rovito, S. 2004. Bolitoglossa dofleini. In: IUCN 2009. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.1. Downloaded on 02 August 2009.

Kolby, J. E., Padgett-Flohr, G. E., and Field, R. (2009). ''Amphibian chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in Cusuco National Park, Honduras.'' Diseases of Aquatic Organisms, Special Edition 4, preprint 3. Published online May 6, 2009.

Lee, J. C. (1996). The Amphibians and Reptiles of the Yucatan Peninsula. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York.

McCranie, J. R., Wake, D. B., and Wilson, L. D. (1996). ''The taxonomic status of Bolitoglossa schmidti, with comments on the biology of the Mesoamerican salamander Bolitoglossa dofleini (Caudata: Plethodontidae).'' Caribbean Journal of Science, 32, 395-398.

McCranie, J. R., and Wilson, L. D. (2002). ''The Amphibians of Honduras.'' Contributions to Herpetology, Vol 19. K. Adler and T. D. Perry, eds., Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, Ithaca, New York.

Pasmans, F., Zwart, P., and Hyatt, A. D. (2004). ''Chytridiomycosis in the Central American bolitoglossine salamander (Bolitoglossa dofleini).'' The Veterinary Record, 154, 153.

Written by Theresa Ly (tea_ly AT, UC Berkeley
First submitted 2004-03-23
Edited by Kellie Whittaker (2010-09-21)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2010 Bolitoglossa dofleini: Giant Palm Salamander <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Mar 21, 2018.

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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2018. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 21 Mar 2018.

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