AmphibiaWeb - Plethodon vehiculum


(Translations may not be accurate.)

Plethodon vehiculum (Cooper, 1860)
Western Red-backed Salamander, Western Redback Salamander
Subgenus: Hightonia
family: Plethodontidae
subfamily: Plethodontinae
genus: Plethodon
Plethodon vehiculum
© 1994 William Leonard (1 of 67)
Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN Red List Status Account Least Concern (LC)
NatureServe Use NatureServe Explorer to see status.
National Status None
Regional Status None
conservation needs Access Conservation Needs Assessment Report .


Berkeley mapper logo

View distribution map in BerkeleyMapper.
amphibiandisease logo View Bd and Bsal data (2 records).

A small, terrestrial salamander. Adults are 40-50 mm snout to vent length (70-115 mm total length) (Brodie 1970; Petranka 1998). A dorsal stripe with even edges extends to the tip of the tail. Coloration of the stripe ranges from yellow or red to olive green or tan. The red variant is most common. The sides are gray to black, and the venter is gray with white speckling (Leonard et al. 1993; Petranka 1998). Females tend to be larger than males. Hatchlings are 13-15 mm snout to vent length, and juvenile coloration is brighter than adults (Peacock and Nussbaum 1973; Leonard et al. 1993).

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Canada, United States

U.S. state distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Oregon, Washington

Canadian province distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: British Columbia

Berkeley mapper logo

View distribution map in BerkeleyMapper.
amphibiandisease logo View Bd and Bsal data (2 records).
Vancouver Island and adjacent areas of mainland British Columbia, Canada, south through Washington, west of the Cascade Mountains crest, and in the Coast Ranges of Oregon. An inhabitant of moist, coniferous forests. Populations are frequently found associated with talus slopes but also on forest floors where there are plenty of cover objects such as logs, bark, or rocks (Petranka 1998).

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Like other members of the genus Plethodon, P. vehiculum is completely terrestrial through all stages of its life history; courtship, mating, and egg deposition occur on land. There is no free living larval stage, and juveniles hatch completely metamorphosed (Stebbins 1985; Petranka 1998). Courtship behavior has not been described, but general facts are known based on closely related species. Fertilization occurs by means of a spermatophore deposited on the substrate by the male and picked up in the cloaca by the female (Duellman and Trueb 1986).Mating occurs from September through January, depending on location (Peacock and Nussbaum 1973; Ovaska and Gregory 1989). Eggs are deposited during spring or early summer, although nests have not been found (Peacock and Nussbaum 1973). The female likely attends the eggs throughout development, as in other plethodontid salamanders (Jockusch and Mahoney 1997). Clutch size is 6-19 (average 10). Hatching occurs in late summer (August to early September) (Peacock and Nussbaum 1973; Nussbaum et al. 1983).

Diet consists of small, terrestrial invertebrates. Likely predators are small mammals, birds, and carabid beetles (on juveniles). See Petranka (1998) for references.

Trends and Threats
Plethodon vehiculum are found in forests of all ages and may be abundant in young forests (Corn and Bury 1991; Petranka 1998). Long term studies to compare the effect of logging on this and other woodland species would be very interesting.


Brodie, E. D., Jr. (1970). "Western salamanders of the genus Plethodon: Systematics and geographic variation." Herpetologica, 26(4), 468-516.

Corn, P. S. and Bury, R. B. (1991). ''Terrestrial amphibian communities in the Oregon Coast Range.'' Wildlife and Vegetation of Unmanaged Douglas-fir Forests. L. F. Ruggiero, K. B. Aubry, A. B. Carey, and M. H. Huff, eds., USDA Forest Service General Technical Report PNW-GTR-285, 304-317.

Duellman, W. E., and Trueb, L. (1986). Biology of Amphibians. McGraw-Hill, New York.

Jockusch, E. L., and Mahoney, M. J. (1997). ''Communal oviposition and lack of parental care in Batrachoseps nigriventris (Caudata: Plethodontidae) with a discussion of the evolution of breeding behavior in plethodontid salamanders.'' Copeia, 1997, 1966-1982.

Leonard, W.P., Brown, H.A., Jones, L.L.C., McAllister, K.R., and Storm, R.M. (1993). Amphibians of Washington and Oregon. Seattle Audubon, Seattle.

Nussbaum, R. A., Brodie, E. D., Jr., and Storm, R. M. (1983). Amphibians and Reptiles of the Pacific Northwest. University of Idaho Press, Moscow, Idaho.

Ovaska, K., and Gregory, P. T. (1989). ''Population structure, growth, and reproduction in a Vancouver Island population of the salamander Plethodon vehiculum.'' Herpetologica, 45(2), 133-143.

Peacock, R. L., and Nussbaum, R. A. (1973). ''Reproductive biology and population structure of the Western Red-backed Salamander, Plethodon vehiculum (Cooper).'' Journal of Herpetology, 7, 215-224.

Petranka, J. W. (1998). Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C. and London.

Stebbins, R. C. (1985). A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.

Originally submitted by: Meredith J. Mahoney (first posted 2000-07-22)
Edited by: M. J. Mahoney, Kevin Gin (12/03) (2003-12-04)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2003 Plethodon vehiculum: Western Red-backed Salamander <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed May 26, 2024.

Feedback or comments about this page.


Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2024. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 26 May 2024.

AmphibiaWeb's policy on data use.