AmphibiaWeb - Hydromantes strinatii


(Translations may not be accurate.)

Hydromantes strinatii (Aellen, 1958)
French Cave Salamander, Französischer Hölensalamander, Spélerpes brun
Subgenus: Speleomantes
family: Plethodontidae
subfamily: Plethodontinae
genus: Hydromantes

© 2015 Dr. Joachim Nerz (1 of 48)
Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN Red List Status Account Near Threatened (NT)
National Status None
Regional Status None



View distribution map in BerkeleyMapper.
View Bd and Bsal data (16 records).

Total length of males to 116 mm for males (average 96 mm), up to 123 mm for females (average 100 mm). Head oval when viewed from above and about 1/8 of the total length. Snout rounded and with a slight overbite, especially in males. Adult males have a mental gland on the chin. Tail oval in cross section and slightly less than half the total length. Trunk on cross section square, with 11 lateral folds. Limbs well developed, hind legs slightly longer than front legs. Front feet with 4, hind feet with 5 flattened digits. Coloration as in other Hydromantes species highly variable. Base color from light brown to black. Often with spotted, blotched, striped or reticulated pattern. Pattern may be in red, yellow, gray or green and these colors can occur on the same animal, often with a metallic sheen (Boehme et al 1999).

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: France, Italy, Monaco


View distribution map in BerkeleyMapper.
View Bd and Bsal data (16 records).
H. ambrosii is a SE French and NW Italian endemic ranging from the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence to NW Tuscany through the Maritime Alps, Ligurian Alps and Ligurian Apennines (Provinces of Imperia, Cuneo, Savona, Genova, Alessandria, Pavia, Piacenza, perhaps Parma; excluding La Spezia and Massa Carrara, where H. ambrosii occurs) H. strinatii occurs in the western part of its range from almost sea level to 2290 m or even 2432 m in the Maritime Alps, and in the eastern part it is found up to 1730 m in the Apuan Alps. H. strinatii is common in most of its range, mainly because it is not dependent on water for reproduction and can escape extreme surface aridity and/or temperatures by penetrating underground cavities to varying depths (caves, crevices, etc.) were it can usually continue an active life. Moreover, contrary to widespread opinion, it also occurs on non-calcareous substrata and in regions devoid of any caverns. Like their congeners, it is basically a nocturnal and rupicole species which can be found in various habitats, from forest to semi barren rocky sites; on the surface and within the caves, it usually occurs with relative humidity of 75-100% and air temperature of 3-18º C (Gasc 1997).

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
There is little data available on the reproduction of H. strinatii in its natural habitat. Sperm transfer takes place through cloacal contact. Most gravid females are found in the fall (Salvidio 1993). Observations in captivity show that H. strinatii hides its ivory white eggs among loose rocks and leaf litter. A clutch contains 6-14 eggs of 5-6 mm in diameter. The females seem to keep in contact with their eggs. The eggs undergo direct development. After 5 months, the egg starts to swell due to increased water uptake. After 8 months, the egg has reached a diameter of 10 mm. The egg then contracts until hatching after 10 months (all at 12ºC). The young are 22-24 mm in length upon hatching. Development to sexual maturity takes 3 to 4 years. Direct observation in captivity has shown that this species may live up to six years. Recapture of a single individual, however, may provide evidence for a life span of over 17 years. H. strinatii seems to be an opportunistic hunter with a wide range of invertebrate prey. Like other Hydromantes, H. strinatii produces a deterring secretion from dorsal skin glands. The bright coloration of some individuals can therefore be considered aposomatic (Boehme et al 1999).

Trends and Threats
The Mediterranean region is subject to increasing human habitation causing pollution, deforestation, fires, loss of surface waters and introduction of exotic species. Despite these factors, H. strinatii is not endangered. This is mainly due to its relatively large distribution and its water-independent biology (Boehme et al 1999). H. strinatii is abundant in its range and should not be considered an endangered species (Gasc 1997). Any conservation measures taken to protect H. strinatii should focus on the conservation of suitable habitats, like forests and cave systems (Noellert and Noellert 1992).

Possible reasons for amphibian decline

General habitat alteration and loss
Habitat modification from deforestation, or logging related activities
Intensified agriculture or grazing
Subtle changes to necessary specialized habitat
Local pesticides, fertilizers, and pollutants
Introduced competitors

This species was featured in News of the Week May 25, 2015:

Cave-dwelling organisms are usually very different than their close epigean (surface-dwelling) relatives. However, cave and epigean forms are often genetically very similar, suggesting that morphological evolution has accelerated. Salvidio et al. (2015) studied foot morphology in Hydromantes strinatii, an Italian cave salamander that seems to be following in Gollum's footsteps. They showed that in a population in a 70 year-old artificial cave, the size and shape of the feet had diverged from that of an epigean population to resemble a the feet of a natural cave population. The larger feet of cave salamanders are thought to be adaptive, supporting a hypothesis of rapid morphological adaptation in response to a new environment. (Written by David Cannatella)


Boehme, W., Grossenbacher, K., and Thiesmeier, B. (1999). Handbuch der Reptilien und Amphibien Europas, band 4/I:Schwanzlurche (Urodela). Aula-Verlag, Wiesbaden.

Gasc, J.-P. (1997). Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles in Europe. Societas Europaea Herpetologica, Bonn, Germany.

Nöllert, A. and Nöllert, C. (1992). Die Amphibien Europas. Franckh-Kosmos Verlags-GmbH and Company, Stuttgart.

Salvidio, S. (1993). ''Life history of the European plethodontid salamander Speleomantes ambrosii (Amphibia, Caudata).'' Herpetological Journal, 3, 55-59.

Originally submitted by: Arie van der Meijden (first posted 1999-10-25)
Edited by: David B. Wake (Jan 2000), Michelle S. Koo (2021-11-05)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2021 Hydromantes strinatii: French Cave Salamander <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Sep 24, 2023.

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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2023. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 24 Sep 2023.

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