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Monday, March 26, 2012

Silver and gold

Wet weather ahead (and this past weekend) had us thinking about salamanders again.  This time we encountered a different species (past posts have covered Arboreal Salamanders and Ensatinas).  

The species below is the more common of the three.  It prefers moist forests, but has been seen on Bodega Head.  (These photographs were taken in Sebastopol.)  They are almost California endemics, most common in north central California with the range barely extending into southwest Oregon. 

California Slender Salamanders (Batrachoseps attenuatus) are sometimes mistaken for worms or small snakes because their bodies and tails are very elongate and their limbs are so short (it can be difficult to see the legs at first but see photo below).  Coloration is variable, with grays, browns, reds, and oranges predominant.

Slender Salamanders are plethodontids, or lungless salamanders.  Their entire existence is terrestrial, with eggs being laid in underground tunnels or beneath objects resting on the forest floor.  Eggs are deposited when the rains begin in the fall and tiny salamanders hatch out approximately 80 days later.

This salamander displays a variety of anti-predator behaviors: coiling (see below), thrashing or springing away, crypsis, sticky skin secretions, and tail autotomy [this info from amphibiaweb.org].

Check out these beautiful silvery "eyebrows" and the hint of gold in the eyes!

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