AmphibiaWeb - Hydromantes shastae


(Translations may not be accurate.)

Hydromantes shastae Gorman & Camp, 1953
Shasta Salamander
Subgenus: Hydromantes
family: Plethodontidae
subfamily: Plethodontinae
genus: Hydromantes
Taxonomic Notes: This species was divided into three species by Bingham et al. 2018 Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology 161:403-427 ( See accounts of Hydromantes samweli and Hydromantes wintu.

© 2016 Daniel Portik (1 of 60)
Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN Red List Status Account Vulnerable (VU)
NatureServe Use NatureServe Explorer to see status.
National Status Category 2 Candidate for listing as an endangered species by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
Regional Status Listed as threatened by the California Department of Fish and Game.
Access Conservation Needs Assessment Report .



View distribution map in BerkeleyMapper.

Like other Hydromantes(web-toed salamanders), the Shasta salamander has webbed toes and very long projectile tongue. It reaches a maximum size of about 87 mm snout-vent length, or 110 mm total length. Gray-green, beige, tan, or reddish on back, tail yellow to yellow-orange. White blotches on chest, abdomen.

Also like all Hydromantes, the upper teeth of males project outside of mouth and mental gland of males is oval (Stebbins 1985). Tail short (Gorman and Camp 1953). Juveniles resemble adults (Gorman 1956).

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: United States

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


View distribution map in BerkeleyMapper.
Endemic to limestone habitats south of Mt. Shasta in headwaters of Shasta Reservoir in Northern California. Specimens attributed to shastae have been recorded at Backbone Ridge, Mammoth Butte, Hirz Mountain, Potter and Low Pass Creeks, McCloud River, Brock Mountain, Samwell Cave, and near Ingot. Inhabits moist limestone fissures and caves in mixed forest of Douglas fir, Gray Pine, black, and canyon oak. Found under rocks in wet weather (Stebbins 1985). Discontinuous distribution within range (Hansen and Papenfuss 1994).

With the description of two more species of Hydromantes in its previous range (see H. samweli and H. wintu), Hydromantes shastae is restricted to the south and east of the Shasta Reservoir. To illustrate the distributions of the H. shastae group, the map shows Hydromantes shastae in green, H. samweli in orange, and H. wintu in pink (after Bingham et al 2018); the previous range map for H. shastae is outlined in black. (click image to enlarge)
Hydromantes shastae group ranges

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Excellent climbers, their webbed toes allow them to climb sheer, slippery rock surfaces (Gorman and Camp 1953). On steep slopes, to aid climbing, they curl the tail tip forward and place it on the ground as the hind foot is lifted, a behavior unique to North America's western salamanders.

Lays and broods eggs in moist caves during summer (Stebbins 1985). Crawls out in open at night during rains of fall, winter, and spring. Egg clutch size is 9-12. (Hansen and Papenfuss 1994). Hatchlings reach 15-17 mm in snout-vent length. Juveniles are 22-24 mm in snout-vent length and resemble adults (Gorman 1956).

Common on surface during moist periods, where it is found mainly under limestone boulders and logs. Lives in caves and is less specialized for climbing than Hydromantes platycephalus (Mount Lyell Salamander). Like all Hydromantes species, the Shasta salamander can shoot its tongue out its mouth 1/3 the length of its body to catch prey (Stebbins 1985).

Trends and Threats
Originally listed as "Rare" by state in 1971. By 1975, thought to survive in only 2 limestone areas. Surveys conducted from 1975-78 found populations in at least 11 more localities. Threatened by habitat disturbance. Most of range within Shasta-Trinity National Forest (Hansen and Papenfuss 1994). Since 1979, under special management plan of the U. S. Forest Service, which protects habitat from disturbance and revegetates exposed habitat to keep ground temperatures cool enough to support the salamander (Papenfuss and Brouha 1979). Threatened by habitat disturbance. A 300 ft. buffer zone around limestone deposits has been proposed to protect habitat (Hansen and Papenfuss 1994).

Relation to Humans
Filling of Shasta Lake in 1949 submerged some of the salamander's historical range. Human activities such as the proposed raising of Shasta Dam, which would flood salamander habitat, increased recreation around Shasta Lake, and future limestone quarrying threaten survival (Hansen and Papenfuss 1994).

Possible reasons for amphibian decline

General habitat alteration and loss
Habitat modification from deforestation, or logging related activities
Dams changing river flow and/or covering habitat

Distribution discontinuous because the limestone areas it inhabits are separated and the salamander apparently does not migrate between localities. Some populations have thereby been isolated for many thousands of years. These populations may be genetically distinct to a degree that warrants conservation measures of each distinct population in order to preserve genetic diversity of the species (Hansen and Papenfuss 1994).

If held in your hand, the Shasta salamander will cling to your skin with its webbed toes, even if you turn your hand upside-down (J. Romansic, pers. obs.).

Along with the Shasta salamander, two other species of Hydromantes are unique to California, while other Hydromantes species inhabit Europe. Hydromantes shastae is named for Mount Shasta, the volcanic mountain that towers over the salamander's range. "Shasta" comes from the name of a Native American, "Sustika", who lived in the area around the year 1840 (Gorman 1964).

See another account at


Bingham, R. E., Papenfuss, T. J., Lindstrand III, L., Wake, D. B. (2018). ''Phylogeography and species boundaries in the Hydromantes shastae complex, with description of two new species (Amphibia: Caudata: Plethodontidae).'' Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, 161(10), 403-427.

Brodie, E. D., Jr. (1977). "Salamander antipredator postures." Copeia, 1977, 523-535.

Dunn, E. R. (1926). ''Hydromantes.'' The Salamanders of the Family Plethodontidae. Smith College, Northhampton, Massachusetts, 344-354.

Gorman, J. (1956). ''Reproduction in plethodontid salamanders of the genus Hydromantes.'' Herpetologica, 12, 249-259.

Gorman, J. (1964). ''Hydromantes shastae.'' Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles. American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, 11.1-11.2.

Gorman, J. and Camp, C. L. (1953). ''A new cave species of salamander of the genus Hydromantes from California, with notes on habits and habitats.'' Copeia, 1953, 39-43.

Hansen, R. W. and Papenfuss, T. J. (1994). ''Shasta Salamander.'' Life on the Edge: A Guide to California's Endangered Natural Resources Volume I: Wildlife. C. G. Thelander, eds., Biosystems Books, Santa Cruz, California., 256-257.

Papenfuss, T. and Brouha, P. (1979). The status of the Shasta salamander (Hydromantes shastae): Shasta-Trinity National Forest comprehensive species management plan and a species status report. United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Berkeley, California.

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

Stebbins, R. C. (1985). A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.

Wake, D. B., Maxon, L. R., and Wurst G. Z. (1978). "Genetic differentiation, albumin evolution, and their biogeographic implications in plethodontid salamanders of California." Evolution, 32(3), 529-539.

Originally submitted by: John Romansic (first posted 1999-02-16)
Edited by: David B. Wake (Jan 2000), Michelle S. Koo (2022-07-09)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2022 Hydromantes shastae: Shasta Salamander <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Feb 21, 2024.

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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2024. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 21 Feb 2024.

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