AmphibiaWeb - Oedipina gracilis


(Translations may not be accurate.)

Oedipina gracilis Taylor, 1952
Long-tailed Worm Salamander
Subgenus: Oedipina
family: Plethodontidae
subfamily: Hemidactyliinae
genus: Oedipina

© 2005 William Leonard (1 of 2)
Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN Red List Status Account Endangered (EN)
National Status None
Regional Status None
Access Conservation Needs Assessment Report .



View distribution map in BerkeleyMapper.
View Bd and Bsal data (1 records).


Oedipina gracilis has an elongated body and tail, and its appendages are minuscule, giving it the appearance of an earthworm. Typically it can reach up to 75 mm SVL, or 210 mm including the tail. (Guyer and Donnelly 2005; Leenders 2001). When the tail is fully grown and not broken off, it can be up to three times the length of its body. All Oedipina have 17 to 22 costal grooves and 18 to 23 trunk vertebrae (Leenders 2001; García-París and Wake 2000). There is no difference in size between the Oedipina sexes (Bruce 2000). The body is uniformly dark brown, black or gray in color (Guyer and Donnelly 2005). If the tail breaks off and regrows, the regenerated part may be lighter (Guyer and Donnelly 2005).

It is difficult to distinguish O. gracilis from the other members in its genus, because differences in limb length and number of teeth can be problematic to ascertain in the field. Oedipina gracilis is particularly similar to O. uniformis and the two species were previously synonymous, but significant genetic differences were found by Good and Wake (1997). When compared side by side, Oedipina gracilis is not as robust; it has a narrower head, a less rounded snout, and shorter, more slender hind legs than O. uniformis (Guyer and Donnelly 2005).

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Costa Rica


View distribution map in BerkeleyMapper.
View Bd and Bsal data (1 records).
These salamanders are distributed from low to high elevation (3-710 m) in Costa Rica along the Caribbean coast and in to Panama (Guyer and Donnelly 2005; Savage 2002). They are terrestrial and inhabit predominantly moist, hidden environments, such as leaf litter, burrows made by insects, and underneath or near rotting logs (Leenders 2001).

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors

These salamanders are quite elusive and individuals are usually seen as a quick disappearing flash. They are nocturnal and fossorial. Not much is known about the reproductive cycle. The eggs are typically laid where adults frequent: under leaf litter or decaying logs. The amount of care devoted to offspring can only be speculated; however, other members of the genus Oedipina are not associated with parental care (Bruce 2003).

When males become reproductive, it is thought that their maxillary teeth go through an enlarging period. This is a trait of other members of the lungless salamander family, Plethodontidae (Guyer and Donnelly 2005). Many species in the genus Oedipina have long glands on their chins called mental glands (mental is derived from the Latin word mentum, meaning chin), which develop at the same time the maxillary teeth enlarge. These glands secrete pheromones that are thought to make the female more receptive for mating. The maxillary teeth enlarge to better scrape the skin of the female. Pheromones from the male's mental gland, underneath his chin, are thought to be transferred more directly into the female bloodstream as a result of the scraping (Sever 2003).


This species was considered no longer synonymous with Oedipina uniformis by Good and Wake (1997).

Of plethodontid salamanders, Oedipina have the most highly derived karyotypes. Including the X chromosome, Oedipina have two telocentric pairs of chromosomes, which are derived from biarmed ancestral chromosomes (Sessions and Wiktorowski 2000).

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


Bruce, R. C. (2000). ''Sexual size dimorphism in the Plethodontidae.'' The Biology of Plethodontid Salamanders. R. C. Bruce, R.G. Jaeger, and L.D. Houck , eds., Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, New York, New York, 243-260.

Bruce, R. C. (2003). ''Life Histories.'' Reproductive Biology and Phylogeny of Urodela (Amphibia). D. M. Sever, eds., Science Publishers, Inc., Enfield, New Hampshire, 477-525.

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. (1997). ''Phylogenetic and taxonomic implications of protein variation in the Mesoamerican salamander genus Oedipina (Caudata: Plethodontidae).'' Revista de Biología Tropical, 45(3), 1185-1208.

Guyer, C., and Donnelly, M. A. (2005). Amphibians and Reptiles of La Selva, Costa Rica and the Caribbean Slope: A Comprehensive Guide. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Leenders, T. (2001). A Guide to Amphibians And Reptiles of Costa Rica. Zona Tropical, Miami.

Savage, J. M. (2002). The Amphibians and Reptiles of Costa Rica:a herpetofauna between two continents, between two seas. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois, USA and London.

Sessions, S. K. and Wiktorowski, J. L. (2000). ''Population cytogenetics of the plethodontid salamander Eurycea wilderae.'' The Biology of Plethodontid Salamanders. R.C. Bruce, R.G. Jaeger, and L.D. Houck, eds., Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, New York, New York.

Sever, D. M. (2003). ''Courtship and mating glands.'' Reproductive Biology and Phylogeny of Urodela (Amphibia). D. M. Sever, eds., Science Publishers, Incorporated, Enfield, New Hampshire.

Originally submitted by: Vanessa Lovenburg (first posted 2008-01-16)
Edited by: Kellie Whittaker (2009-11-04)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2009 Oedipina gracilis: Long-tailed Worm Salamander <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Apr 20, 2024.

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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2024. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 20 Apr 2024.

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