AmphibiaWeb - Bolitoglossa rufescens


(Translations may not be accurate.)

Bolitoglossa rufescens (Cope, 1869)
Northern banana salamander
Subgenus: Nanotriton
family: Plethodontidae
subfamily: Hemidactyliinae
genus: Bolitoglossa
Species Description: Cope, E. D. (1869). A review of the species of Plethodontidae and Desmognathidae. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, 21, 93–118.

© 2017 Wouter Beukema (1 of 40)
Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN Red List Status Account Least Concern (LC)
National Status None
Regional Status None
Access Conservation Needs Assessment Report .



View distribution map in BerkeleyMapper.
View Bd and Bsal data (4 records).

Bolitoglossa rufescens is a small plethodontid salamander with a snout-vent length of 35 - 36 mm. The snout-vent length is over five times longer than the head width. The nasal region is inflated (Cope 1869). The body is short and stout with 11 costal grooves (Campbell 1998). The tail is short and cylindrical (Cope 1869). The limbs are short with 3 costal grooves between them when the limbs are appressed (Campbell 1998). The hands and feet are lobed (Taylor 1941). The fingers and toes are all fully webbed (Campbell 1998).

Bolitoglossa rufescens is similar to B. platydactyla but is shorter in length and has a different coloration. Bolitoglossa rufescens is mainly brown while B. platydactyla has a yellow dorsum with black spots and a black ventrum (Cope 1869).

The dorsum is white with reddish-brown on the top of the head, while the ventrum is brown and speckled (Cope 1869). There is often a dark brown streak behind the eyes that extends posteriorly to half of the body length or further (Campbell 1998). It is unclear whether this coloration occurs in life or preservative.

Weak sexual dimorphism is observed in B. rufescens, with females being larger than males (Anderson and Mathis 1999). Additionally there is variation in coloration. Body coloration may be uniform, or the ventrum may be lighter than the dorsum (Campbell 1998). One case of melanism in B. rufescens has been observed (Vasquez-Cruz et al. 2020).

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Guatemala, Mexico


View distribution map in BerkeleyMapper.
View Bd and Bsal data (4 records).
The species habitat ranges from San Luis Potosi, Mexico, to Guatemala, which makes up part of the South American Atlantic drainage basin. The type locality is Orizaba, Veracruz, Mexico (Smith and Taylor 1948). Specimens are often found on banana plants in moist subtropical or tropical forests (Campbell 1998).

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Data suggest that reproduction is asynchronous in the species. It is hypothesized that reproduction may occur biennially or at different times over an extended season. Eggs are 1.7 mm in diameter on average and clutches have an average of 13.5 eggs (Anderson and Mathis 1999).

Bolitoglossa rufescens feeds on a variety of prey taxa, with a large portion of its diet consisting of ants (Anderson and Mathis 1999).

As a plethodontid salamander, this species is a direct developer.

Trends and Threats
Threats to B. rufescens include agriculture, logging, fire, and invasive species (IUCN 2022).

Relation to Humans

From Bayesian, Maximum Likelihood, and Maximum Parsimony analyses of 16S and cyt B, B. rufescens is sister to B. occidentalis (Parra-Olea 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


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. [link]

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

Cope, E. D. (1869). ''A review of the species of Plethodontidae and Desmognathidae.'' Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, 21, 93-118.

IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group (2020). "Bolitoglossa rufescens." The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020: e.T50928774A50928633. Accessed on 23 January 2023.

Parra-Olea, G., Garcia-Paris, 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 Linnaean Society, 81, 325-346. [link]

Smith, H.M. and Taylor, E.H. (1948). ''An annotated checklist and key to the Amphibia of Mexico.'' United States National Museum Bulletin, 194, iv + 118.

Taylor, E. H. (1941). ''New amphibians from the Hobart M. Smith Mexican collections.'' University of Kansas Science Bulletin, 27, 141-167.

Vasquez-Cruz, V., Fuentes-Moreno, A., Compos-Ceron, M. (2020). "First report of melanism in the salamander Bolitoglossa rufescens (Caudata: Plethodontidae) in Veracruz, México." Cuadernos de Herpetología, 34(1), 99-101. [link]

Originally submitted by: Arie van der Meijden (first posted 2001-02-22)
Description by: Madeline Ahn (updated 2023-02-28)
Distribution by: Madeline Ahn (updated 2023-01-26)
Life history by: Madeline Ahn (updated 2023-01-26)
Larva by: Madeline Ahn (updated 2023-01-26)
Trends and threats by: Madeline Ahn (updated 2023-01-26)
Relation to humans by: Madeline Ahn (updated 2023-01-26)

Edited by: Ann T. Chang (2023-02-28)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2023 Bolitoglossa rufescens: Northern banana salamander <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Apr 22, 2024.

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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2024. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 22 Apr 2024.

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