AmphibiaWeb - Lyciasalamandra helverseni


(Translations may not be accurate.)

Lyciasalamandra helverseni (Pieper, 1963)
Karpathos salamander, Helversen’s Salamander, Karpathos Lycian Salamander
family: Salamandridae
subfamily: Salamandrinae
genus: Lyciasalamandra
Species Description: Pieper, H. (1963). Eine neue Mertensiella-Form von der griechischen Insel Karpathos (Amphibia, Salamandridae). Senckenbergiana Biologica 44: 441–446.
Taxonomic Notes: Elevated from subspecies to full species by Veith M, Steinfartz S (2004). "When non-monopyly results in taxonomic consequences - the case of Mertensiella within the Salamandridae (Amphibia:Urodela)." Salamandra 40:67-80.
Lyciasalamandra helverseni
© 2022 David C. Broek (1 of 4)
Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN Red List Status Account Vulnerable (VU)
National Status None
Regional Status None


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Lyciasalamandra helverseni is a medium-sized salamander that has an average male total length of about 14 cm, while females have an average of 15 cm. The tail length is slightly shorter than the snout-vent length (Valakos et al. 2008). The head is longer than it is wide and flat, and there are two large parotoid glands behind the eyes (Valakos et al. 2008; Speybroeck et al. 2016). Its eyes are described as protruding and its limbs are delicate (Sparreboom 2014). There are 11 - 13 weakly defined costal grooves on either side of the body. The males have a prominent dorsal tubercle and in the breeding season, they have nuptial pads on their forelegs (Valakos et al. 2008).

Lyciasalamandra helverseni can be differentiated from other species in its genus by geography, size, and coloration. The Lyciasalamandra genus is spread over the southwest of Turkey and some Greek islands, however L. helverseni is the only one of the genus on the islands of Karpathos, Kassos, and Saria, which is the entirety of its range. It can also be differentiated from the other species in its genus by its large size, and uniform brown color with yellow dots (Sparreboom 2014).

In life, L. helverseni is brown on its dorsal surface and there is sometimes a purplish sheen. The parotoid glands are dark or sometimes yellow, and the limbs and tail are lighter than the dorsum, with the flanks being yellow. Its ventral side is translucent and ranges from a light tan color to an orange-red and is marbled with a white and light blue color. The throat is a yellowish-pink color and the underside of the tail is an orange-yellow (Sparreboom 2014).

Females are slightly larger than males, about 15 cm instead of 14 cm, and they have a relatively longer tail. There is variation in the coloration of the ventral side of the body and parotoid glands, and the dorsum sometimes has a purplish sheen (Sparreboom 2014).

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Greece

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Lyciasalamandra helverseni inhabits the Greek islands of Karpathos, Kassos, and Saria (Sparreboom 2014). They are in areas with limestone, such as pine forests, maquis shrubland, and rocky areas. In the summer, they can be found in limestone caves, and they are often near human settlements in loose rock walls and ruins (Valakos et al. 2008).

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors

Lyciasalamandra helverseni is nocturnal and is active on the surface during or after rainfall or when it’s cool, humid, and windless. Usually, it is underground in burrows or rocky cracks in groups to avoid dehydration. It’s active during the months of October or November to March, which is when mating occurs (Valakos et al. 2008).

They reproduce viviparously and independently of water. The dorsal tail tubercle that males have is used to rub against the female’s cloaca during ventral amplexus and its exact purpose is unknown. After a one year gestation period, the female usually gives birth to two fully developed young and sexual maturity is reached after three years (Valakos et al. 2008).

They are estimated to live about 14 years. Their main diet is crawling invertebrates (Valakos et al. 2008).


This species reproduces using live birth (Valakos et al. 2008).

Trends and Threats

Within its range, it is quite common, however its range is small, which makes it vulnerable to any changes in its environment. There is national legislation that protects it (Sparreboom et al. 2014).

There is no current outbreak of Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, a closely related pathogenic fungus to B. dendrobatidis, which is most virulent in salamanders instead of frogs. However, L. helverseni is highly susceptible and laboratory trials have reported a 100% mortality rate (IUCN 2022).

Possible reasons for amphibian decline

General habitat alteration and loss
Loss of genetic diversity from small population phenomena


Lyciasalamandra helverseni was previously classified as one of nine subspecies of Lyciasalamandra luschani. Based on Maximum Likelihood and Bayesian analyses of 4500 base pairs of mitochondrial DNA, there are seven recognized species in the Lyciasalamandra genus, L. helverseni being one of them. From this same analysis, it is unclear which species is sister to L. helverseni because of a proposed polytomy in the genus due to speciation occurring when the islands in the Mediterranean separated from the mainland (Veith et al. 2016).

The genus name “Lyciasalamandra” is drawn from the ancient Roman name “Lycia” for the southern area of Turkey, and “Salamandra” comes from its closely related sister genus (Veith and Stenifartz 2004).


IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group. (2022). “Lyciasalamandra helverseni”. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2022: e.T61918A89698165. Accessed on 01 March 2023.

Pieper, H. (1963). "Eine neue Mertensiella-Form von der griechischen Insel Karpathos (Amphibia, Salamandridae)." Senckenbergiana Biologica, 44, 441 - 446.

Sparreboom, M. (2014). Salamanders of the Old World: The Salamanders of Europe, Asia and Northern Africa. Zeist, Brill, The Netherlands.

Speybroeck, J., Beukema, W., Bok, B., and Van Der Voort, J. (2016). Field Guide to the Amphibians & Reptiles of Britain and Europe. Bloomsbury, New York.

Valakos E. D. et al. (2008). The Amphibians and Reptiles of Greece. Edition Chimaira, Frankfurt.

Veith, M., Göçmen, B., Sotiropoulos, K., Kieren, S., Godmann, O., Steinfartz, S. (2016). ''Seven at one blow: the origin of major lineages of the viviparous Lycian salamanders (Lyciasalamandra Veith and Steinfartz, 2004) was triggered by a single paleo-historic event.'' Amphibia-Reptilia , 37, 373-387.

Veith, M., Steinfartz, S. (2004). ''When non-monophyly results in taxonomic consequences – the case of Mertensiella within the Salamandridae (Amphibia: Urodela).'' Salamandra, 40(1), 67-80.

Originally submitted by: Nessa Kmetec (2023-03-08)
Description by: Nessa Kmetec (updated 2023-03-08)
Distribution by: Nessa Kmetec (updated 2023-03-08)
Life history by: Nessa Kmetec (updated 2023-03-08)
Larva by: Nessa Kmetec (updated 2023-03-08)
Trends and threats by: Nessa Kmetec (updated 2023-03-08)
Comments by: Nessa Kmetec (updated 2023-03-08)

Edited by: Ann T. Chang (2023-03-08)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2023 Lyciasalamandra helverseni: Karpathos salamander <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Jul 21, 2024.

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

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