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Sizing-up Salamanders

North American salamanders are plentiful, and come in a wide variety of colours and sizes. About 50 different species are known to occur in California alone, and today I found several whilst searching an ancient redwood forest and also a stream bed within a beautiful canyon. The first species I came across was an Ensatina (above right), found within an incredible forest that contained what must be the tallest trees I have ever seen, giant redwoods, some measuring up to 300 ft tall!

Continuing north, driving to a place I had been told was great for herps, I arrived to a scene that took my breath away even more than the giant trees had. It was a tall but narrow canyon off the beaten track, completely covered in ferns. Water dripped down all sides and a clear steam flowed through. I started searching immediately, turning flat stones within the shallow stream bed. Unusual salamander larvae were hiding beneath – I was in heaven!

Unfortunately salamander larvae are notoriously difficult to identify and I didn’t have my books with me today for keying out specimens. I am not so familiar with some of the larvae of species in this area, but I think I now know what these salamanders were.

The sound is not great because of the running stream, but my question still stands in the following video – can you identify what salamanders these are? Clue’s in the title!


More pictures of the specimen HERE

4 Responses

  1. Looks most likely to be Ambystoma gracile (Northwestern Salamander) which North California is there most southern range.

  2. The photos are much better! Yeh definately not A. gracile. Agree a larval Dicamptodon tenebrosus (Coastal giant salamander). The other similar looking species D. ensatus (California giant salamander) occurs further south from Redwood National Park, though its range does overlap very slightly with D. tenebrosus. Check out here for ranges of both species.

    See you soon!

    • Cool, thanks for the confirmation Darren, much appreciated – and for the link to the great website!

      See you soon bud, Andrew

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