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
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
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
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 <https://amphibiaweb.org/species/4079> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Sep 24, 2023.
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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2023. <https://amphibiaweb.org> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 24 Sep 2023.
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