AmphibiaWeb - Lyciasalamandra luschani
Lyciasalamandra luschani (Steindachner, 1891)
Lycian salamander, Lykischer salamander, kleinasiatischer salamander, Luschan's salamander, Kollane pikksabalik, Salamandra de Licìa, Salamandre de Lycie, Mertensiella di Luschan, Luschani szalamandra, Egeïsche landsalamander, Okasalamanteri, Lykisk salam
family: Salamandridae
subfamily: Salamandrinae
genus: Lyciasalamandra

© 2019 Wouter Beukema (1 of 47)
Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN Red List Status Account Vulnerable (VU)
National Status None
Regional Status Bern Convention (Annex 2), 2002.



View distribution map in BerkeleyMapper.

Total length to 167 mm for males, up to 181 mm for females. Usually between 110 and 140 mm. Tail usually equal to or slightly shorter than snout-vent-length. Head is flat and somewhat longer than wide. 11-13 weakly defined costal grooves present at either side of the long, cylindrical body. There is a distinctive skin fold on the throat. Well-defined parotoid glands are present at the back of the head. Coloration in this species is highly variable and is subspecies specific. Currently, there are nine subspecies recognized, mainly on morphological grounds (see Comments section for a discussion on taxonomy).

L. luschani helverseni (formerly Salamandra): Only a few yellow spots on back, mainly concentrated middorsally. Back otherwise dark brown. Flanks are yellow. Parotoids are dark or with some yellow. Legs and tail are brown or black. Venter translucent, showing the internal organs. The underside of the tail is orange-yellow, the throat is yellowish-pink.

L. luschani flavimembris: Back dark brown with very few, small silvery-white spots. The translucent venter is separated from the back by a lateral white stripe, consisting of a row of iridophore-accumulations. The dorsal side of the tail is brighter than that of the back. Extremities are pale orange or yellow. Gland openings on the parotoids and tail are visible as black spots.

L. luschani fazilae: The dorsal side of the head, back and tail are reddish in this species. The general coloration moves more toward red with age. The pale venter is separated from the back by a white lateral stripe . The back bears brown to black blotches, that can flow together near the white lateral line.

L. luschani luschani: The base color of the back is bright yellow or silver-white. The dark brown or black spots on the back however, can extend to fully cover the bright base color. The extremities are black, reddish or pale brown. The venter is sparsely pigmented and somewhat translucent.

L. luschani basoglui: The base color of the back varies from brown to pale red, and is brighter on the parotoid glands. The brown or black spots that are distributed across the back are more extensive in females than in males. The head, tail and sides of the extremities are bright red-pink and sparsely covered with brown spots. The large yellow ovaria in females can be seen through the skin of the back.

L. luschani finikensis: The base color of the back is very dark, and is covered with silver-white spots that have the tendency to form larger bright areas. The dorsal coloration completely lacks red or yellow. The white lateral band is sometimes dissolved into white blotches. The ventral side is pale, sometimes with white spots.

L. luschani billae: The base color of the dorsal side can vary from salmon to black. The white spots that are distributed across the back are ordered regularly and can form two dorsolateral bands. The white lateral band that sharply separates the dorsal and the ventral side extends anterior to under the eyes. The openings of the dorsal, caudal and parotoid glands are visible as black spots.

L. luschani antalyana: The dorsal side is yellow with dark spots, or vice versa. The lateral band is yellowish and not clearly defined. The ventral side is yellowish. The members of this subspecies are easily recognized by the conspicuous yellow parotoids and eye patch.

L. luschani atifi: The dorsal side is brown to dark brown with very small white spots. Some individuals are wholly unspotted. The continuous bright lateral band that is present in most subspecies consists of white spots in this one. The ventral side is yellow, orange to red. This is the largest subspecies, reaching a total length of over 170 mm.

There is distinct sexual dimorphism in this genus. In contrast to females, the males possess a spike-shaped protuberance on the dorsal surface of the tail base and nuptial pads on the forelegs which are best developed during the breeding season(Boehme et al 1999). The protuberance is thought to have a function in predisposing the females' cloaca for uptake of the spermatophore (Sever et al. 1997) (also see "Life history").

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Greece, Turkey


View distribution map in BerkeleyMapper.
The distribution of L. luschani is centered around southwestern Turkey. The Turkish distribution contains eight subspecies. Their distribution is scattered and sharply defined. In addition to mainland Turkey, the species is also found on four Turkish islands and one (politically) Greek island off the Turkish coast. The Greek island of Kastellorizon is inhabited by L. luschani basoglui. This subspecies also occurs on Kekova. Tersane and Domuz Adese are both inhabited by L. luschani fazilae. L. luschani flavimembris lives on the island of Bogaz Adasi. The European distribution, from a zoogeographic perspective, consists of the occurrence of L. luschani helverseni on the islands Karpathos, Kassos and Saria.

The main limitations to the distribution of L. luschani seem to be abiotic factors like temperature and precipitation. The greatest part of its currently known distribution lies in an area that receives more than 1000 mm of precipitation annually and where the average temperature in January lies above freezing. The species is highly specialized and seems to be closely associated with the Karst-area. The cave systems in the limestone offer the salamanders a cool and humid retreat during the dry and hot summer. Not only natural caves are inhabited. Various authors report the occurrence of this species near human settlements, inhabiting loose rock walls and ruins. Their natural habitat however ranges from pinewoods at sea-level to dry vegetation with Quercus coccifera. The specialized reproductive biology of L. luschani allows it to inhabit areas devoid of surface water. (see "Life History")

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
L. luschani is mostly active during the cooler winter months, and can then be quite abundant. Mating also takes place during this period. These salamanders are nocturnal and seem to be more active at the surface during and after rainfall and at dropping atmospheric pressure. This species reproduces independent of water. The protuberance on the tail-base is rubbed against the female cloaca during the ventral amplexus, but its precise function is unknown (Sever et al. 1997). One egg develops in each horn of the uterus. The larvae feed through intrauterine oophagy. There is no evidence of a zona trophica and therefore no epithelofagy. The two young emerge fully developed after 5 to 8 months. They can measure as long as 7 cm upon birth, and weigh up to 2 grams. Sexual maturity is reached at an age of three years in captivity. Longevity is estimated at over ten years (Boehme et al 1999).

Trends and Threats
Small island populations of L. luschani encounter the same problems as all other rare species. The population on Kasos island is the most endangered. Main threats to the mainland populations are habitat destruction and compulsive collectors (Gasc 1997). Species with such narrow ecological demands are easily threatened by small changes in their environment. Increasing popularity of the Turkish Mediterranean coast as a tourist destination can pose a serious threat for this species (Boehme et al 1999).

Possible reasons for amphibian decline

General habitat alteration and loss
Habitat modification from deforestation, or logging related activities
Subtle changes to necessary specialized habitat
Loss of genetic diversity from small population phenomena
Intentional mortality (over-harvesting, pet trade or collecting)

This species was previously placed in the genus Mertensialla as sister species to M. caucasica. Weisrock et al (2001), subsequently placed the species within Salamandra based on mitochondrial DNA. They also identified six lineages, diagnosable via color pattern, which may represent distinct species. These are S. flavimembris, S. fazilae, S. luschani (including S. l. finikensis and S. l. basoglui), S. billae, S. anatalyana, and S. atifi.


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.

Sever, D. M., Sparreboom, M., and Schultschik, G. (1997). "The dorsal tail tubercle of Mertensiella caucasica and M. luschani (Amphibia: Salamandridae)." Journal of Morphology, 232, 93-105.

Stumpel-Rieks, S. E. (1992). Nomina Herpetofaunae Europaeae. AULA-Verlag, Wiesbaden.

Titus, T.A., and Larson, A. (1995). ''A molecular phylogenetic perspective on the evolutionary radiation of the salamander family Salamandridae.'' Systematic Biology, 44, 125-151.

Veith, M., Steinfartz, S., Zardoya, R., Seitz, A., and Meyer, A. (1998). ''A molecular phylogeny of 'true' salamanders (family Salamandridae) and the evolution of terrestriality of reproductive modes.'' Journal of Systematics and Evolutionary Research, 36, 7-16.

Weisrock, D. W., Macey, J. R., Ugurtas, I. H., Larson, A. and Papenfuss, T. J. (2001). ''Molecular phylogenetics and historical biogeography among salamandrids of the “true” salamander clade: Rapid branching of numerous highly divergent lineages in Mertensiella luschani associated with the rise of Anatolia.'' Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 18(3), 434-448.

Originally submitted by: Arie van der Meijden, Meredith J. Mahoney (first posted 1999-12-15)
Edited by: Meredith J. Mahoney, Tate Tunstall, Michelle Koo (2021-03-17)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2021 Lyciasalamandra luschani: Lycian salamander <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Feb 1, 2023.

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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2023. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 1 Feb 2023.

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