Bolitoglossa mexicana
Mexican Mushroom tongue Salamander, Mexican Mushroom-Tonged Salamander, Galliwasp, Black-and-Gold Salamander, Mexican Climbing Salamander, Spanish - Salamanquesa
Subgenus: Bolitoglossa
family: Plethodontidae
subfamily: Hemidactyliinae

© 2009 Josiah H. Townsend (1 of 40)
Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN (Red List) Status Least Concern (LC)
Other International Status None
National Status None
Regional Status None


View distribution map using BerkeleyMapper.


Bolitoglossa mexicana is a highly arboreal neotropical salamander that almost reaches 200 mm in total length. Males tend to be smaller and slimmer than females with male total lengths ranging between 125 – 145 mm and females ranging between 155 - 183 mm. Full-grown adults can reach a snout-vent length of just under 100. The snout-vent length is always slightly shorter than the length of their tail. Individuals have 13 costal grooves (Schmidt and Köhler 1996). All of the digits are webbed as an adaptation to their highly arboreal lifestyle (Wiens 2008). Adults often have cirri and males occasionally have mental glands (Morán et al. 2015, Parra-Olea et al. 2004).

Juveniles are direct developers with a total length of 14 - 16 mm at hatching and a snout-vent length of 9 – 10 mm. They have shorter tails compared to their bodies than adults do. However, the tail grows at a positive allometric rate (Schmidt and Köhler, 1996) and juveniles have a fast growth rate (Billie and Bringøe 1998).

Bolitoglossa mexicana can be differentiated from many other species in its genus by coloration. Additionally, B. mexicana is significantly larger than B. rufescens (Anderson and Mathis 1999) and can be differentiated from B. leandrae by B. leandrea having significantly more extensive webbing (Acevedo et al. 2013). From B. alberchi, the focal species can be differentiated having a narrower head and shorter limbs (García-París et al. 2002).

Bolitoglossa mexicana is also known as the “Black- and-Gold” salamander due to its black body, patterned with orange to pale yellow in life. Such markings include three irregular longitudinal stripes with the center being reddish-brown and the lateral strips being cream colored. The upper boarder of lateral stripe is conspicuously defined in irregular serrate pattern. The strips can merge together, but the medial strip typically continues onto the tail where it becomes more reticulated. Ventrally, Bolitoglossa mexicana’s coloration generally ranges from black to a lighter shade of brown. White flecks or streaks are also common on venter in varying abundance. Some individuals of the species may also exhibit light colored spots on their front legs (Schmidt and Köhler 1996).

At hatching, the dorsums of the animals were dark reddish brown, the sides were black, and the legs were light beige. After 52 days post-hatching, the brownish marbling began to appear on the back and the head darkened, giving the juveniles a more adult appearance (Schmidt and Köhler 1996).

Adult males are most often smaller and possess a smaller build than the adult females. There are no gender specific coloration differences (Schmidt and Köhler 1996).

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico


View distribution map using BerkeleyMapper.
Bolitoglossa mexicana’s distribution extends from Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and the following states of southern Mexico: Quintana Roo, Yucatan, Campeche, Tabasco and Chiapas (Smith 1945, Walker et al. 2008, Hernández-Gúzman et al. 2012, Morán et al. 2015, Frost 2018). Bolitoglossa mexicana inhabits Atlantic slopes of tropical lowland forests and montane forests with the presence of bromeliads and can occupy terrestrial or arboreal habitats mainly in large forest areas with high percentages of surrounding forest cover (Anderson and Mathis 1999, Morán et al. 2015, Russildi et al. 2016, Smith 1945). Altitudinal range spans from sea level to 2054 m above sea level (Morán et al. 2015). As an arboreal salamander, water can be a very limiting resource. Bolitoglossa mexicana relies heavily upon epiphytes and bromeliads for moisture during the dry seasons (Kubicki and Arias 2016).

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Like all Bolitoglossa, this salamander is highly arboreal and has nocturnal tendencies (Anderson and Mathis, 1999). Their webbed digits are used for quick, efficient movement through trees while hunting (Wake and Brame 1963). The salamanders have been collected in bushes and on fallen tree trunks near creeks (Schmidt and Köhler 1996).

While, little is known about their reproductive habits, there have been some records of successful reproduction in captivity. In 1987 and 1989, one clutch for each year was successfully reared, but the observations for these events were not reported until 1998 (Bille and Bringsøe 1998). In 1995, two clutches of eggs were found laid in terrariums. The first clutch was found in March, after adults had been in captivity for four months, on sphagnum moss and consisted of 40 eggs. The eggs were isolated and hatched by direct development after 63 days. The total length of the hatchlings was 14 -16 mm, the snout-vent length was 9 -10 mm, and the average mass was 0.05 g. At 10 days post-hatching, the juveniles had a total length of 18 – 20 mm and a snout-vent length of 11 – 13 mm. At the age of 80 days they had a total length of 26 - 28 mm and a snout-vent length of 15 - 17 mm. A second clutch was laid in May 1995 and consisted of 26 eggs (Schmidt and Köhler 1996).

There is one recorded instance of parental attendance of eggs observed in 1989. However, given the location of the clutch, the sex of the attending parent could not be determined. It was hypothesized that parental care was not observed in the 1995 clutches because of stresses to the adults by the small space and frequent cleanings. It was also hypothesized that the sphagnum moss protected the eggs from fungal infections (Bille and Bringsøe 1998).

Billie and Bringsøe (1998) noted that B. mexicana have high growth rates of 30.62 mm in their first year, almost twice that of Pseudoeurycea brunnata. The authors hypothesized that this may be the result of constant temperatures and high quality food options from their lowland habitat range, however, they may also have experienced an aberration due to captive breeding conditions.

Although B. mexicana was collected in rainforests with daytime air temperatures of 30 – 33 degrees Celsius and humidity ranging from 60 - 70% and nighttime temperatures of 25 degree Celsius and humidity at 100%, in captivity they began to die at 30 degrees Celsius. This is especially true of young individuals (Schmidt and Köhler 1996). They have been successfully kept and bred at temperatures of 22 - 24 degrees Celsius with 80 - 90% humidity (Billie and Bringøe 1998, Schmidt and Köhler 1996).

The salamanders feed primarily on Orthopterans but are also known to eat species of Diplopoda, Arachnida, Gastropoda, Isopoda, Hymenoptera, and Coleoptera such as ants, beetles, springtails, crickets, and non-ant Hymenoptrans as generalist predators (Anderson and Mathis 1999, Morán et al. 2015). Compared to B. rufescens, B. mexicana ate larger prey and had a lower dietary diversity (Anderson and Mathis 1999).

Trends and Threats
While currently listed by the IUCN as “Least Concern,” Bolitoglossa mexicana is under special observation in Mexico due to declining numbers (Walker et al. 2008; Frías-Alvarez et al. 2010). The most prevalent threats to this species include habitat loss and fragmentation due to deforestation and repurposing of land into fields and open space, creating an unsuitable forest environment. They are less abundant in smaller forest patches with less surrounding forest cover. Disease, such as chytridiomycosis, proves to be a significant problem among most amphibians including Bolitoglossa mexicana (Frías-Alvarez et al. 2010, Russildi et al. 2016, Walker et al. 2008, Ward 2012).

Relation to Humans
Captive breeding has been successful under specific conditions of high humidity after a stimulation of dry temperatures. There is no evidence of this species in the pet trade (Walker et al. 2008).

Possible reasons for amphibian decline

General habitat alteration and loss
Habitat modification from deforestation, or logging related activities
Habitat fragmentation

The species authority is: Duméril, A. M., Bibron, G., Dumeril, A. H. (1854). Herpétologie Générale, ou Historie Naturelle Compléte des Reptiles. Librairie Encyclopedique de Roret, Paris, Francia.

Bolitoglossa mexicana is a member of the subgenus Bolitoglossa, a clade distributed from San Luis Potosi, eastern Mexico, to western Panama. Other members of the subgenus include B. alberchi, B. flaviventris, B. jacksoni, B. lignicolor, B. mombachoensis, B. mulleri, B. odonnelli, B. platydactyla, B. striatula, and B. yucatana (Parra-Olea et al. 2004).

The genera name, “Bolitoglossa”, is from Latin “bolito” meaning unusual and “glossa” meaning tongue. The species epithet, “mexicana” referrers to the species being found in Mexico (Smith 1945).

This species is the earliest member of present-day Bolitoglossa to be named (1854) and is the generotype. Some confusion about the status of types led Smith (1954) to name a new species Bolitoglossa moreleti for what was, and remains, B. mexicana. This action was rescinded in 1966 and since then the biological entity has been known as B. mexicana (taxonomic history summarized in Garcia-Paris et al. 2002). In Honduras two close relatives, B. mexicana and B. odonnelli, are so similar in morphology that they can only be distinguished by molecules, although they are morphologically distinct in Guatemala.

Bolitoglossa mexicana is a highly arboreal neotropical salamander native to parts of Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and Guatemala. Due to its arboreal nature this salamander is commonly known as the Mexican Climbing Salamander. Other common names include the Mexican Mushroomtongue Salamander, Galliwasp and the Black-and-Gold Salamander (Schmidt and Köhler 1996; Walker et al. 2008).


Acevedo, A., Wake, D., 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.

Anderson, M.T., Mathis, A (1999). ''Diets of two sympatric neotropical salamanders, Bolitoglossa mexicana and B. rufescens, with notes on reproduction for B. rufescens.'' Journal of Herpetology, 33(4), 601-607.

Bille, T., Bringsøe, H. (1998). ''Zu Brutpflege und Wachstum bei Bolitoglossa mexicana (Caudata: Plethodontidae).'' Salamandra, 34(3), 219-222.

Frost DR. “Bolitoglossa mexicana.” Amphibian Species of the World: an Online Reference, Version 6.0. Accessed 14 May 2018 from

Frías-Alvarez, P., Zúñiga-Vega, J.J., Flores-Villela, O. (2010). ''A general assessment of the conservation status and decline trends of Mexican amphibians.'' Biodiversity Conservation, 19, 3699-3742.

García-París, M., Parra-Olea, G., Brame Jr., II, A.H., Wake, D.B. (2002). ''Systematic revision of the Bolitoglossa mexicana species group (Amphibia: Plethodontidae) with description of a new species from México .'' Revista Española de Herpetología, 16, 43-71.

Hernández-Gúzman, J., Hernández-de la Cruz, J.L., Hernández-Veláquez, J.A. (2012). ''Occurencia de la salamanquesa Bolitoglossa mexicana (Caudata: Plethodontidae) en la planicie de Tabasco en el sureste de México.'' Acta Zoológica Mexicana, 28(3), 617-620.

Kubicki, B., Arias, E. (2016). ''A beautiful new yellow salamander, genus Bolitoglossa (Caudata: Plethodontidae), from the northeastern slopes of the Cordillera de Talamanca, Costa Rica.'' Zootaxa , 4184(2), 329-346.

Morán, E.S., Ruballo, N.E., Vásquez, R.A. (2015). ''Primer registro de Bolitoglossa mexicana Duméril, Bibron & Duméril, 1854 (Caudata: Plethodontidae) en El Salvador.'' Cuad. Herpetol., 29(2), 161-162.

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.

Russildi, G., Arroyo-Rodríguez, V., Hernández-Ordóñez, O., Pineda, E., Reynoso, V.H. (2016). ''Species-and community-level responses to habitat spatial changes in fragmented rainforests: assessing compensatory dynamics in amphibians and reptiles.'' Biodiversity Conservation, 25, 375-392.

Schmidt, A., Köhler, G. (1996). ''Zur Biologie von Bolitoglossa mexicana: Freilandbeobachtungen, Pflege Und Nachzucht.'' Salamandra , 32(4), 275-284.

Smith, H.M. (1945). ''The salamander name Bolitoglossa mexicana Dumeril, Bibron and Dumeril.'' Herpetologica, 3(1), 14-19.

Wake, D. B., Brame, A. H. (1963). ''The status of the plethodontid salamander genera Bolitoglossa and Magnadigita.'' Copeia, 1963(2), 382-387.

Walker, P., Wilson, L.D., Lee, J., Wake, D., Acevedo, M., Ruanco, G., Vasquez, C., Rovito, S., Papenfuss, T., Castañeda, F. 2008. Bolitoglossa mexicana. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T59180A11881950. Downloaded on 03 May 2016.

Ward, A. M., ''Composition, Distribution, and Conservation of the Herpetofauna of Santa Barbara Mountain, Honduras''(2012). University of Montana: Theses, Dissertations, Professional Papers. Paper 231.

Wiens, J. J. Hoverman, J. T. (2008). ''Digit reduction, body size, and paedomorphosis in salamanders.'' Evolution and Development, 10, 449-463.

Written by Meghan Parsley, Claire Wohlers, Serena Terry, Athena Dupen (Meghan.Parsley803 AT, chwohlers AT, sterry AT, acdupen AT, Western Kentucky University, and University of California, Davis
First submitted 2018-05-16
Edited by Darren Ayoub and Ann T. Chang (2018-05-30)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2018 Bolitoglossa mexicana: Mexican Mushroom tongue Salamander <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Jun 18, 2018.

Feedback or comments about this page.


Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2018. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 18 Jun 2018.

AmphibiaWeb's policy on data use.