AmphibiaWeb - Nototriton guanacaste


(Translations may not be accurate.)

Nototriton guanacaste Good & Wake, 1993
Volcan Cacao moss salamander
Subgenus: Nototriton
family: Plethodontidae
subfamily: Hemidactyliinae
genus: Nototriton
Nototriton guanacaste
© 2009 Javier Sunyer (1 of 1)
Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN Red List Status Account Least Concern (LC)
National Status None
Regional Status None
conservation needs Access Conservation Needs Assessment Report .


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Diagnosis: According to Franzen (1999), Nototriton guanacaste is the second largest species in its genus with a maximum SVL of 33.5 mm, which is only smaller than N. major. One distinctive characteristic to help identify N. guanacaste from other Costa Rican species is its robust habitus, which could reach up to 15.2 percent of its SVL, and a broader and longer head (Good and Wake 1993; Franzen 1999). It is differentiated from N. picadoi, N. richardi, N. tapanti, and N. abscondens by its smaller nostrils; N. guanacaste is further distinguished from N. richardi and N. tapanti by its well-developed front and back limbs. It is distinguished from N. abscondens by its more prominent paratoid glands (Good & Wake 1993).

Description: N. guanacaste has a snout-vent length of approximately 29.7 mm. It has a slender body and narrow head, with a significantly long tail which can reach up to 1.3 times greater than the SVL. The skin is rugose and slightly granular. N. guanacaste has a relatively large and long head, which is well separated from the trunk. Their eyes are moderately sized, and slightly extend beyond the margin of their head. The paratoid glands are prominent. Adults have 25 to 49 maxillary teeth (mean of 32), and 10 to 18 vomerine teeth. N. guanacaste has well developed front and hind limbs with fully differentiable digits (Good and Wake 1993).

Coloration in Preservation: N. guanacaste is medium brown, with highlighted and small non-uniform dark brown markings. The flanks are yellow dorsally and brown ventrally. The venter is dark brown. White spots are widely distributed on the abdominal area of the body and are most noticeable on the ventral surface of the limbs. However, the color is lighter in the gular region and on the tail. The tips of the snout and jaw margin are covered in large cream to yellow dots. The tail is darker in color with lighter lateral markings. They have bright yellow parotoid glands around the dorsal medial area. Behind the hind limbs and in the area around cloaca, are yellow markings (Good and Wake 1993).

Variation: There is great variation in coloration among specimens, ranging from dark flanks to bright overall coloration (Good and Wake 1993). The coloration variation has no correspondence to the different microhabitats (Franzen 1999). There are also variations in body proportion, including tail length and snout-gular length. However, the differences in body proportions have no association with variation in coloration.

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Costa Rica

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N. guanacaste is known from Volcan Orosi and Volcan Cacao, the two northwestern-most mountains of the Cordillera Guanacaste in Province of Guanacaste in Costa Rica at 1,400-1,580 m elevation (Stuart et al. 2008). The species lives in moss mats, growing on the trunks and branches of lower montane cloud forest trees. Different success in collection was shown in two different microhabitats: moss mats hanging from air roots or vertical branches and moss mats among the roots of epiphytic ferns and bromeliads on horizontal branches. More specimens were discovered in moss mats among epiphytic ferns than in those on vertical branches (Good and Wake 1993; Franzen 1999).

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Reproductive Biology: N. guanacaste lays eggs with observed clutch sizes ranging from 4-11 eggs. The clutches are believed to be unguarded, like those of other species of Nototriton. N. guanacaste breeds by direct development, and is thus not dependent on water. (Good and Wake 1993; Stuart et al. 2008).

Special Behavior: This species displays coil-uncoil flip and running flip defensive behaviors when grasped. Flips went as far as 50 cm (Franzen 1999).

Trends and Threats
This species is listed as vulnerable because it is endemic to two isolated peaks in northwestern Costa Rica, and therefore subject to stochastic events (Franzen 1999; Stuart et al. 2008). N. guanacaste is an uncommon but stable species. There are currently no major threats known and its habitat is well protected as it falls within Costa Rica's Parque National Guanacaste.

Possible reasons for amphibian decline

Loss of genetic diversity from small population phenomena

Species Authority: The species was first described by Good and Wake (1993).

Phylogenetic relationships: N. guanacaste is most closely related to N. picadoi, N. abscondens and N. gamezi (Garcia-Paris et al. 2000).

Etymology: The species name is taken from the Costa Rican province of Guanacaste, to which the species is restricted. More specifically, the name is in celebration of the establishment of Guanacaste National Park, which contains the entire known range of the species (Good and Wake 1993).

A Spanish-language species account can be found at the website of the Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INBio).


Franzen, M. (1999). ''Notes on morphological variation and the biology of Nototriton guanacaste Good & Wake, 1993 (Caudata, Plethodontidae).'' Alytes, 16(3-4), 123-129.

García-París, M., Wake, D. B., and Price, A. H. (2000). ''Molecular phylogenetic analysis of relationships of the tropical salamander genera Oedipina and Nototriton, with descriptions of a new genus and three new species.'' Copeia, 2000(1), 42-70.

Good, D. A., and Wake, D. B. (1993). ''Systematic studies of the Costa Rican moss salamanders, genus Nototriton, with descriptions of three new species.'' Herpetological Monographs, 7, 131-159.

Stuart, S., Hoffmann, M., Chanson, J., Cox, N., Berridge, R., Ramani, P., Young, B. (eds) (2008). Threatened Amphibians of the World. Lynx Edicions, IUCN, and Conservation International, Barcelona, Spain; Gland, Switzerland; and Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Originally submitted by: Rachel Ferris, Phung Nguyen, and Alexander Taylor (first posted 2009-11-02)
Edited by: Mingna (Vicky) Zhuang (2012-02-25)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2012 Nototriton guanacaste: Volcan Cacao moss salamander <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Jul 14, 2024.

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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2024. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 14 Jul 2024.

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