Jackson's Climbing Salamander
© 2004 James Hanken (1 of 12)
Diagnosis: A large Bolitoglossa species, with females reaching 65 mm in standard length (known from only two specimens). This species has few maxillary teeth (31 in the young adult female holotype) and a moderate count of vomerine teeth (21 in the holotype). It has a simple vertebral tail autotomy mechanism (see Wake and Dresner 1967 on tail autotomy in salamanders). B. jacksoni can be distinguished from most congeners in nuclear Central America (the region from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec to the Nicaraguan Depression), B. jacksoni by tail autotomy mechanism and color pattern, a brilliant yellow with a wide mid-dorsal band of chocolate brown bordered by a thin white edge. B. jacksoni can be distinguished from Bolitoglossa species with a similar tail autotomy mechanism (such as B. flaviventris, B. mexicana, B. mulleri, B. odonnelli, B. platydactyla and B. salvinii) by virtue of having the dark coloration restricted to the mid-dorsal area (Elias 1984).
Description: Females (n=2) reach up to 65 mm in standard length. Tail length of the holotype (a young adult female) is 0.8x standard length, and the tail is rounded in cross-section. Fourteen trunk vertebrae are present, along with two caudosacral vertebrae and thirty caudal vertebrae. Nostrils are small, and the female holotype had poorly developed nasolabial protuberances. The canthus rostralis is rounded and somewhat arched, and is moderately long. Eyes are slightly protuberant and are moderate-sized. Groove below eye is deep, unpigmented and does not extend to the lip. Post-orbital groove is shallow, extending posteriorly and slightly ventrally before proceeding ventrally; it then extends behind the posterior end of the lower jaw and becomes a shallow but defined nuchal groove, parallel and anterior to the gular fold. Vomerine teeth number 21 in the holotype and are found in single arching rows to either side of the midline, extending laterally to the midpoint of the choanae. Maxillary teeth are found in two rows and number 31 in the holotype. Premaxillary teeth number 5 and protrude from behind the lip. Limbs are moderately long. Three costal grooves are visible when limbs are adpressed. Both forefeet and hindfeet are fully webbed, lacking subdigital pads. Toetips are rounded when viewed from above. Relative length of fingers is 3>2>4>1; relative length of toes is 3>4>2>5>1. The phalangeal formula for the hand is 1,2,3,2 and for the hand is 2,3,3,2. Terminal phalanges of the three outermost fingers and the four outermost toes are expanded. The innermost finger and toe have pointed terminal phalanges and curve along the pad's rim towards the other digits (Elias 1984).
Coloration in life: A brilliant egg-yolk yellow, with a wide dark brown mid-dorsal band edged thinly in white (with the white edging complete in the young adult female and incomplete in the older adult female specimen). In the holotype, the dark brown band originates at the level of the eyelids and runs straight across the head, spanning across the head from the center of one eyelid to the center of the other, then runs down the body, diminishing and finally vanishing just before the tail tip. In the larger female specimen, the brown mid-dorsal band is interrupted by a large, oval spot of yellow on the nape and a break on the tail; also, a brown spot is present on the otherwise yellow right hind foot. The holotype lacks ventral markings; it is not known whether the larger adult female lacked ventral markings. The eyes are metallic gold (Elias 1984).
Coloration in preservative: Pale yellow ground color with broad mid-dorsal band of dark brown; the mid-dorsal brown band begins at the level of the eyelids (and spans from center to center of each eyelid), diminishing gradually toward the tail tip (Elias 1984).
Distribution and Habitat
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Trends and Threats
In October 2017, Bolitoglossa jacksoni was rediscovered in the recently established Finca San Isidro Amphibian Reserve (also known as Yal Unin Yul Witz) on the northern slopes of the Sierra de los Cuchumatanes, Guatemala, very close to the original discovery site. A sub-adult found by reserve guard, Ramos Leon, is only the third specimen ever seen. The species had not be seen since September 1975, and was listed among the top 25 most wanted species in the world by Global Wildlife Conservation’s The Search for Lost Species (Mayer 2017). Bolitoglossa jacksoni is a strictly arboreal salamander whose close relatives in the subgenus Bolitoglossa range from San Luis Potosi, Mexico, to central Panama. All are arboreal and lay eggs that hatch as miniatures of adults and have no aquatic larval stage. Hence, they typically are difficult to find (Wake personal communication).
Relation to Humans
Possible reasons for amphibian decline
General habitat alteration and loss
Only two B. jacksoni individuals have ever been collected and only one specimen was preserved, the young adult female holotype. The larger adult female was brought into captivity at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology (MVZ) at U. C. Berkeley, where two photographs were taken, but the female either escaped or was stolen from the animal care facility within the first few days of captivity (T. Papenfuss, pers. comm.; its disappearance was not due to a deliberate release in the field by a student, as Dubois and Nemésio 2007 thought).
Although one of the two AmphibiaWeb photos (of the same specimen) shows the color of the flanks as being caramel, this is due to underexposure and the color was actually a brilliant egg-yolk yellow, as in the first photograph.
The species was described by Elias (1984) and the type specimen is held at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology (MVZ 134634). It was named in honor of the collector, Jeremy L. Jackson, who accompanied Paul Elias of the MVZ on his field expedition to the Cordillera de los Cuchumatanes and the Montañas de Cuilco of western Guatemala (Elias 1984).
Acevedo, M., Wake, D., Elias, P., Rovito, S., and Vasquez, C. (2008). Bolitoglossa jacksoni. In: IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.2. www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded on 31 August 2010.
Dubois, A., and Nemésio, A. (2007). ''Does nomenclatural availability of nomina of new species or subspecies require the deposition of vouchers in collections?'' Zootaxa, 1409, 1-22.
Elias, P. (1984). ''Salamanders of the northwestern highlands of Guatemala.'' Contributions in Science, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, 348, 1-20.
Mayer, K.R. (2017). ''FOUND: Remarkable Salamander Rediscovery Heralds Early Success For Worldwide Quest To Find And Protect Lost Species'' Global Wildlife Conservation. https://www.globalwildlife.org/press-room/found-remarkable-salamander-rediscovery-heralds-early-success-for-worldwide-quest-to-find-and-protect-lost-species/ Downloaded on 30 October 2017.
Parra-Olea, G., García-París, M., Wake, D. B. (2004). ''Molecular diversification of salamanders of the tropical American genus Bolitoglossa (Caudata: Plethodontidae) and its evolutionary and biogeographical implications.'' Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 81, 325-346.
Wake, D. B., and I. G. Dresner (1967). ''Functional morphology and evolution of tail autotomy in salamanders.'' Journal of Morphology, 122, 265-306.
Written by Kellie Whittaker (kwhittaker AT berkeley.edu), UC Berkeley
First submitted 2010-08-30
Edited by Kellie Whittaker; updated by Ann T. Chang (2020-03-02)
Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2020 Bolitoglossa jacksoni: Jackson's Climbing Salamander <http://amphibiaweb.org/species/3983> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Sep 19, 2020.
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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2020. <http://amphibiaweb.org> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 19 Sep 2020.
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