AmphibiaWeb - Hydromantes brunus


(Translations may not be accurate.)

Hydromantes brunus Gorman, 1954
Limestone Salamander
Subgenus: Hydromantes
family: Plethodontidae
subfamily: Plethodontinae
genus: Hydromantes
Hydromantes brunus
© 2013 Stephen Nyman (1 of 37)

video file [see video here]

Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN Red List Status Account Vulnerable (VU)
NatureServe Use NatureServe Explorer to see status.
National Status None
Regional Status The species is considered threatened and is protected by the California Department of Fish and Game. It cannot be taken or possessed.
conservation needs Access Conservation Needs Assessment Report .


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This is a relatively robust, moderately large species, with males reaching 65 mm snout-vent length and females nearly 70 mm (about 110 mm total length). It is the largest of the American Hydromantes. The body is somewhat flattened and rectangular in cross-section, and the broad, flattened head has large, protuberant eyes. The limbs are long and bear large, relatively webbed hands (with 4 digits) and feet (with 5 digits). There are 13 costal grooves. The tail is much shorter than the head plus body and is relatively blunt-tipped. This is the most uniformly colored member of its genus. The basic color is a rich dark brown, occasionally with some obscure darker patches. Ventrally the animal is a paler gray color.

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: United States

U.S. state distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: California

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This is a local endemic, known only from a small region in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in Mariposa County, California, along a short section (about 16-17 km) of the Merced River, from the vicinity of the type locality at Briceburg,west to Hell Hollow, and a short distance up the North Fork of the Merced River, between elevations of 365-760 m. The vegetation in the region where salamanders are found is mainly chapparal, with a scattering of xeric-adapted trees such as gray pine (Pinus sabinianus), and with California laurel (Umbellularia californica) in more mesic sites.

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Egg depostion has not been observed, nor has development, but its close relatives undergo direct development. Ovarian eggs were enlarged (4.6 mm in diameter) in the holotype, collected in late February (Gorman, 1954). Eggs are probably laid in late spring and develop over the summer.There is a general association with limestone, but salamanders have been found on the surface both under slate slabs and irregularly shaped pieces of limestone. They have been found in small areas of moss-covered talus.

Trends and Threats
The most significant threats to the species appear to be from the construction of dams, which has caused some local flooding, and road-building.

Possible reasons for amphibian decline

General habitat alteration and loss
Dams changing river flow and/or covering habitat


See another account at

The video below shows Hydromantes brunus using its tail as a fifth leg.


Gorman, J. B. (1954). ''A new species of salamander from Central California.'' Herpetologica, 10, 153-158.

Petranka, J. W. (1998). Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C. and London.

Originally submitted by: David B. Wake (first posted 2000-01-17)
Edited by: Kellie Whittaker (2014-05-01)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2014 Hydromantes brunus: Limestone Salamander <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Jul 16, 2024.

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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2024. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 16 Jul 2024.

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