Overview

Comprehensive Description

Description

Ambystoma gracile adults may be either metamorphosed terrestrial salamanders or neotenic water-dwellers.

Metamorphosed adults measure 14-22 cm in total length (Boundy and Balgooyen 1988). They are dark brown, gray, or black above and a lighter brown below. A glandular ridge forms a rounded top edge on the tail; the lower edge of the tail is sharp (Petranka 1998; Snyder 1963). Conspicuous oval parotoid glands sit immediately behind the eyes. The tail ridge appears rough due to concentrations of granular glands (Brodie and Gibson 1969). Both the parotoid and tail ridge glandular areas are pitted with openings of poison glands. Broad head, relatively small eyes. No tubercles on the underside of the feet (Stebbins 1985). Sometimes terrestrial individuals have small, irregular, whitish or yellowish spots and blotches on their dorsum (see Comments section below).

Neotenic adults are strictly aquatic and retain gills. They may grow as large as 13 cm in snout-vent length and 26 cm in total length (Boundy and Balgooyen 1988). They are brownish to olive green in color, mottled with yellow and black. Distinct yellow spots sometimes sometimes dot the sides and tail. Ventral color varies from cream to pale or dark gray (Petranka 1998). The parotoid glands of untransformed adults are less prominent than those of transformed adults (Licht and Sever 1993).

Both terrestrial and neotenic males become darker than females during the breeding season. Unmetamorphosed adult males have hypertrophied hindlimbs and feet, are less spotted, and have an enlarged glandular ridge on the tail (Snyder 1956).

Larvae belong to the pond type, having long gills, long toes, and a long dorsal fin (Stebbins 1985). Hatchlings average about 8 mm in snout-vent length (Licht 1975). They have concentrated dark pigment along the base of the dorsal fin. Older larvae vary in color from dark brown to olive green or light yellow. They often have sooty blotches on the dorsum and may have yellow flecks or spots along the sides (Stebbins 1985).

No morphological differences have been found to distinguish neotenic larvae from those that will transform (Snyder 1963).

The spotted and unspotted varieties were originally designated as separate subspecies, with Ambystoma gracile decorticatum (British Columbia Salamander) possessing spots and Ambystoma gracile gracile (Brown Salamander) lacking spots. The spotted form occurs in the northern part of the range for A. gracile. A dividing line of 51 degrees north latitude was recognized between the two subspecies, with A. g. decorticatum occurring north of the line and A. g. gracile living to the south (Snyder 1963). Morphological characters such as the presence of 3 instead of 4 phalanges on the fourth toe, more prominent parotoid glands, and rows of 4 rather than 2 teeth on the prevomers have been used to differentiate between the unspotted A. g. gracile and the spotted A. g. decorticatum (Dunn 1944). However, Titus (1991) found that these distinctions do not always hold true and that genetic variation does not always correlate well with subspecies, and he suggested that A. gracile should not be split into subspecies.

The specific epithet gracile is derived from the Latin term gracilis which means "slender" or "delicate." The subspecific name decorticatum istaken from the Latin de ("from") and cortex ("bark" or "cork"), meaning "like bark" (Snyder 1963).

See another account at californiaherps.com.

  • Stebbins, R. C. (1985). A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.
  • Petranka, J. W. (1998). Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington and London.
  • Aubry, K. B., and Hall, P. A. (1991). ''Terrestrial amphibian communities in the southern Washington Cascade Range.'' Wildlife and Vegetation of Unmanaged Douglas-fir Forests, General Technical Report PNW-GTR-285. Ruggiero, L. F., Aubry, K. B., Carey, A. B., and Huff, M. H., technical coordinators, eds., USDA Forest Service, Northwest Research Station, Olympia, Washington., 326-338.
  • Blair, A. P. (1951). "Notes on the herpetology of the Elk mountains, Colorado." Copeia, 1951, 239-240.
  • Blaustein, A. R., Edmond, B., Kiesecker, J. M., Beatty, J. J., and Hokit, D. G. (1995). "Ambient ultraviolet radiation causes mortality in salamander eggs." Ecological Applications, 5(3), 740-743.
  • Blaustein, A. R., Wake, D. B., and Sousa, W. P. (1994). "Amphibian declines: Judging stability, persistence, and susceptibility of populations to local and global extinctions." Conservation Biology, 8(1), 60-71.
  • Boundy, J. and Balgooyen, T. G. (1988). "Record lengths of some amphibians and reptiles from the western United States." Herpetological Review, 19, 27.
  • Brodie, E. D., Jr. and Gibson, L. S. (1969). ''Defensive behavior and skin glands of the Northwestern Salamander.'' Herpetologica, 25, 187-194.
  • Brown, H. A. (1976). ''The time-temperature relation of embryonic development in the Northwestern Salamander, Ambystoma gracile.'' Canadian Journal of Zoology, 54, 552-558.
  • Burger, W. L. (1950). ''Novel aspects of the life history of two Ambystomas.'' Journal of the Tennessee Academy of Sciences, 25, 252-257.
  • Corn, P. S. and Bury, R. B. (1991). ''Terrestrial amphibian communities in the Oregon Coast Range.'' Wildlife and Vegetation of Unmanaged Douglas-fir Forests, General Technical Report PNW-GTR-285. K. Ruggiero, B. Aubry, A. B. Carey, and M. H. Huff, technical coordinators, eds., USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Olympia, Washington., 304-317.
  • Dunn, E. R. (1944). ''Notes on the salamanders of the Ambystoma gracile group.'' Copeia, 1944, 129-130.
  • Dunn, E. R. (1954). ''The status of Siredon gracilis Baird.'' Copeia, 1954, 135-136.
  • Dyrkacz, S. (1981). "Recent instances of albinism in North American amphibians and reptiles." Herpetological Circular of the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, 11, 1-31.
  • Eagleson, G. W. (1976). ''A comparison of the life histories and growth patterns of populations of the salamander Ambystoma gracile (Baird) from permanent low-altitude and montane lakes.'' Canadian Journal of Zoology, 54, 2098-2111.
  • Efford, I. E. and Mathias, J. A. (1969). "A comparison of two salamander populations in Marion Lake, British Columbia." Copeia, 1969, 723-736.
  • Efford, I. E. and Tsumura, K. (1973). ''A comparison of the food of salamanders and fish in Marion Lake, British Columbia.'' Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 1, 33-47.
  • Henry, W. V., and Twitty, V. C. (1940). "Contributions to the life histories of Dicamptodon tenebrosus and Ambystoma gracile." Copeia, 1940, 247-250.
  • Knudsen, J. W. (1960). ''The courtship and egg mass of Ambystoma gracile and Ambystoma macrodactylum.'' Copeia, 1960, 44-46.
  • Licht, L. E. (1969). "Observations on the courtship behavior of Ambystoma gracile." Herpetologica, 25, 49-52.
  • Licht, L. E. (1973). "Behavior and sound production by the northwestern salamander Ambystoma gracile." Canadian Journal of Zoology, 51, 1055-1056.
  • Licht, L. E. (1975). "Growth and food of larval Ambystoma gracile from a lowland population in southwestern British Columbia." Canadian Journal of Zoology, 70, 87-93.
  • Licht, L. E., and Sever, D. M. (1993). "Structure and development of the paratoid gland in metamorphosed and neotenic Ambystoma gracile." Copeia, 1993, 116-123.
  • Nebeker, A. V., Schuytema, G. S, Griffis, W. L., and Cataldo, A. (1998). ''Impact of guthion on survival and growth of the frog Pseudacris regilla and the salamanders Ambystoma gracile and Ambystoma macrodactylum.'' Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 35(1), 48-51.
  • Nebeker, A. V., Schuytema, G. S., and Ott, S. L. (1995). ''Effects of cadmium on growth and bioaccumulation in the Northwestern Salamander Ambystoma gracile.'' Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 29(4), 492-499.
  • Nebeker, A. V., Shuytema, G. S., and Ott, S. L. (1994). "Effects of cadmium on limb regeneration in the Northwestern salamander." Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 27(3), 318-322.
  • 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. (1997). ''Vulnerability of amphibians in Canada to global warming and increased solar ultraviolet radiation.'' Amphibians in Decline: Canadian Studies of a Global Problem. Green, D. M., eds., Herpetological Conservation, 206-225.
  • Richardson, J. P. M. and Adamson, M. L. (1988). ''Megalobatrachonema (Chabaudgolvania) waldeni n. sp. (Nematoda: Kathlaniidae) from the intestine of the Northwestern Salamander, Ambystoma gracile (Baird).'' Canadian Journal of Zoology, 66, 1505.
  • Slater, J. R. (1936). ''Notes on Ambystoma gracile Baird and Ambystoma macrodactylum Baird.'' Copeia, 1936, 234-236.
  • Snyder, R. C. (1956). ''Comparative features of the life histories of Ambystoma gracile (Baird) from populations at low and high altitudes.'' Copeia, 1956, 187-194.
  • Snyder, R. C. (1963). ''Ambystoma gracile.'' Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles. American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, 6.1-6.2.
  • Sprules, W. G. (1974). ''The adaptive significance of paedogenesis in North American species of Ambystoma (Amphibia: Caudata): an hypothesis.'' Canadian Journal of Zoology, 52, 393-400.
  • Taylor, J. (1983). ''Orientation and flight behavior of a neotenic salamander (Ambystoma gracile) in Oregon.'' American Midland Naturalist, 109, 40-49.
  • Titus, T. A. and Gaines, M. S. (1991). ''Genetic variation in coastal and montane populations of Ambystoma gracile (Caudata: Ambystomatidae).'' Occasional Paper of the Museum of Natural History, University of Kansas, 141, 1-12.
  • Tyler, T. J., Liss, W. J., Hoffman, R. L., and Ganio, L. M. (1998). "Experimental analysis of trout effects on survival, growth, and habitat use of two species of ambystomatid salamanders." Journal of Herpetology, 32(3), 345-349.
  • Walls, S. C., Conrad, C. S. Murillo, M. L., and Blaustein, A. R. (1996). ''Agonistic behaviour in larvae of the Northwestern salamander (Ambystoma gracile): The effect of kinship, familiarity, and population source.'' Behaviour, 133(13-14), 965-984.
  • Watney, G. M. S. (1941). ''Notes on the life history of Ambystoma gracile Baird.'' Copeia, 1941, 14-17.
  • Weller, W. and Green, D. M. (1997). ''Checklist and current status of Canadian amphibians.'' Amphibians in Decline: Canadian Studies of a Global Problem. D. M. Green, eds., Herpetological Conservation, 309-328.
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Distribution

Range Description

This species can be found from the Pacific coast of North America from extreme southeastern Alaska south through western Canada and northwestern U.S. to the Gualala River, California. It occurs from sea level to about 3,110m asl (Stebbins 1985).
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occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: (200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)) Range includes the Pacific coast of North America from extreme southeastern Alaska south through western Canada and the northwestern United States (mainly west of the Cascades) to the Gualala River, California, at elevations from sea level to about 10,200 feet (3,110 meters) (Stebbins 2003).

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Distribution and Habitat

Inhabits the northwest Pacific coast of North America. Found from southeastern Alaska on May Island south to the mouth of the Gualala River, Sonoma County, California. Occurs from sea level to timberline, but not east of the Cascade Divide. Range includes Vancouver Island in British Columbia and Cypress, Whidbey, Bainbridge, and Vashon Islands in Washington (Snyder 1963).

The spotted forms occur in the northern portion of A. gracile's range (Petranka 1998; Snyder 1963; see Comments section below).

Populations with neotenic adults are widespread, but the frequency of gilled adults increases with altitude such that adults at low and intermediate altitudes are almost all terrestrial, while adults at very high elevations are mostly neotenic (Eagleson 1976).

Terrestrial adults live in mesic habitats ranging from grasslands to mesophytic forests. Terrestrial adults are mostly fossorial, and are usually active on the surface only during fall rains and spring migrations to their aquatic breeding sites. However, they can sometimes be found under logs and other surface debris outside of the breeding season (Petranka 1998; Efford and Mathias 1969).

  • Stebbins, R. C. (1985). A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.
  • Petranka, J. W. (1998). Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington and London.
  • Aubry, K. B., and Hall, P. A. (1991). ''Terrestrial amphibian communities in the southern Washington Cascade Range.'' Wildlife and Vegetation of Unmanaged Douglas-fir Forests, General Technical Report PNW-GTR-285. Ruggiero, L. F., Aubry, K. B., Carey, A. B., and Huff, M. H., technical coordinators, eds., USDA Forest Service, Northwest Research Station, Olympia, Washington., 326-338.
  • Blair, A. P. (1951). "Notes on the herpetology of the Elk mountains, Colorado." Copeia, 1951, 239-240.
  • Blaustein, A. R., Edmond, B., Kiesecker, J. M., Beatty, J. J., and Hokit, D. G. (1995). "Ambient ultraviolet radiation causes mortality in salamander eggs." Ecological Applications, 5(3), 740-743.
  • Blaustein, A. R., Wake, D. B., and Sousa, W. P. (1994). "Amphibian declines: Judging stability, persistence, and susceptibility of populations to local and global extinctions." Conservation Biology, 8(1), 60-71.
  • Boundy, J. and Balgooyen, T. G. (1988). "Record lengths of some amphibians and reptiles from the western United States." Herpetological Review, 19, 27.
  • Brodie, E. D., Jr. and Gibson, L. S. (1969). ''Defensive behavior and skin glands of the Northwestern Salamander.'' Herpetologica, 25, 187-194.
  • Brown, H. A. (1976). ''The time-temperature relation of embryonic development in the Northwestern Salamander, Ambystoma gracile.'' Canadian Journal of Zoology, 54, 552-558.
  • Burger, W. L. (1950). ''Novel aspects of the life history of two Ambystomas.'' Journal of the Tennessee Academy of Sciences, 25, 252-257.
  • Corn, P. S. and Bury, R. B. (1991). ''Terrestrial amphibian communities in the Oregon Coast Range.'' Wildlife and Vegetation of Unmanaged Douglas-fir Forests, General Technical Report PNW-GTR-285. K. Ruggiero, B. Aubry, A. B. Carey, and M. H. Huff, technical coordinators, eds., USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Olympia, Washington., 304-317.
  • Dunn, E. R. (1944). ''Notes on the salamanders of the Ambystoma gracile group.'' Copeia, 1944, 129-130.
  • Dunn, E. R. (1954). ''The status of Siredon gracilis Baird.'' Copeia, 1954, 135-136.
  • Dyrkacz, S. (1981). "Recent instances of albinism in North American amphibians and reptiles." Herpetological Circular of the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, 11, 1-31.
  • Eagleson, G. W. (1976). ''A comparison of the life histories and growth patterns of populations of the salamander Ambystoma gracile (Baird) from permanent low-altitude and montane lakes.'' Canadian Journal of Zoology, 54, 2098-2111.
  • Efford, I. E. and Mathias, J. A. (1969). "A comparison of two salamander populations in Marion Lake, British Columbia." Copeia, 1969, 723-736.
  • Efford, I. E. and Tsumura, K. (1973). ''A comparison of the food of salamanders and fish in Marion Lake, British Columbia.'' Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 1, 33-47.
  • Henry, W. V., and Twitty, V. C. (1940). "Contributions to the life histories of Dicamptodon tenebrosus and Ambystoma gracile." Copeia, 1940, 247-250.
  • Knudsen, J. W. (1960). ''The courtship and egg mass of Ambystoma gracile and Ambystoma macrodactylum.'' Copeia, 1960, 44-46.
  • Licht, L. E. (1969). "Observations on the courtship behavior of Ambystoma gracile." Herpetologica, 25, 49-52.
  • Licht, L. E. (1973). "Behavior and sound production by the northwestern salamander Ambystoma gracile." Canadian Journal of Zoology, 51, 1055-1056.
  • Licht, L. E. (1975). "Growth and food of larval Ambystoma gracile from a lowland population in southwestern British Columbia." Canadian Journal of Zoology, 70, 87-93.
  • Licht, L. E., and Sever, D. M. (1993). "Structure and development of the paratoid gland in metamorphosed and neotenic Ambystoma gracile." Copeia, 1993, 116-123.
  • Nebeker, A. V., Schuytema, G. S, Griffis, W. L., and Cataldo, A. (1998). ''Impact of guthion on survival and growth of the frog Pseudacris regilla and the salamanders Ambystoma gracile and Ambystoma macrodactylum.'' Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 35(1), 48-51.
  • Nebeker, A. V., Schuytema, G. S., and Ott, S. L. (1995). ''Effects of cadmium on growth and bioaccumulation in the Northwestern Salamander Ambystoma gracile.'' Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 29(4), 492-499.
  • Nebeker, A. V., Shuytema, G. S., and Ott, S. L. (1994). "Effects of cadmium on limb regeneration in the Northwestern salamander." Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 27(3), 318-322.
  • 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. (1997). ''Vulnerability of amphibians in Canada to global warming and increased solar ultraviolet radiation.'' Amphibians in Decline: Canadian Studies of a Global Problem. Green, D. M., eds., Herpetological Conservation, 206-225.
  • Richardson, J. P. M. and Adamson, M. L. (1988). ''Megalobatrachonema (Chabaudgolvania) waldeni n. sp. (Nematoda: Kathlaniidae) from the intestine of the Northwestern Salamander, Ambystoma gracile (Baird).'' Canadian Journal of Zoology, 66, 1505.
  • Slater, J. R. (1936). ''Notes on Ambystoma gracile Baird and Ambystoma macrodactylum Baird.'' Copeia, 1936, 234-236.
  • Snyder, R. C. (1956). ''Comparative features of the life histories of Ambystoma gracile (Baird) from populations at low and high altitudes.'' Copeia, 1956, 187-194.
  • Snyder, R. C. (1963). ''Ambystoma gracile.'' Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles. American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, 6.1-6.2.
  • Sprules, W. G. (1974). ''The adaptive significance of paedogenesis in North American species of Ambystoma (Amphibia: Caudata): an hypothesis.'' Canadian Journal of Zoology, 52, 393-400.
  • Taylor, J. (1983). ''Orientation and flight behavior of a neotenic salamander (Ambystoma gracile) in Oregon.'' American Midland Naturalist, 109, 40-49.
  • Titus, T. A. and Gaines, M. S. (1991). ''Genetic variation in coastal and montane populations of Ambystoma gracile (Caudata: Ambystomatidae).'' Occasional Paper of the Museum of Natural History, University of Kansas, 141, 1-12.
  • Tyler, T. J., Liss, W. J., Hoffman, R. L., and Ganio, L. M. (1998). "Experimental analysis of trout effects on survival, growth, and habitat use of two species of ambystomatid salamanders." Journal of Herpetology, 32(3), 345-349.
  • Walls, S. C., Conrad, C. S. Murillo, M. L., and Blaustein, A. R. (1996). ''Agonistic behaviour in larvae of the Northwestern salamander (Ambystoma gracile): The effect of kinship, familiarity, and population source.'' Behaviour, 133(13-14), 965-984.
  • Watney, G. M. S. (1941). ''Notes on the life history of Ambystoma gracile Baird.'' Copeia, 1941, 14-17.
  • Weller, W. and Green, D. M. (1997). ''Checklist and current status of Canadian amphibians.'' Amphibians in Decline: Canadian Studies of a Global Problem. D. M. Green, eds., Herpetological Conservation, 309-328.
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Geographic Range

Ambystoma gracile range from southeastern Alaska along the Pacific coasts of British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Vancouver Island, to northern California (Mendocino).

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

  • Petranka, J. 1998. Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Aquatic adult Ambystoma gracile grow to approximately 13 cm in snout-vent length and 26 cm in total length. They typically exhibit olive-green or brownish colorations. The ventral coloration ranges from dark gray to pale white. Larvae have long, thick gills, an extended dorsal fin, and relatively long toes.

Terrestrial adults are about 14-22 cm in total length. Often, they have blotches on the dorsum and may have yellow flecks along the sides. These salamanders have a smooth brown or dark brown dorsal coloration and light brown ventral skin. There is an area of swelling behind each eye due to the parotoid glands. This feature is uncharacteristic of other Ambystomids, and resembles the condition on old world salamanders of the genus Salamandra. A glandular ridge forms a rounded tip on the dorsal tail; the distal portion of the tail is sharply tapered. In some instances, terrestrial individuals have irregular, small, light-colored blotches on the dorsum. Both aquatic and terrestrial males become darker than females during the breeding season. Unmetamophosed adult males have hypertrophied feet and hind limbs, less spots, and an enlarged glandular ridge on the tail.

Range length: 14 to 22 cm.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry ; poisonous

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

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Size

Length: 22 cm

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Type Information

Holotype for Ambystoma gracile
Catalog Number: USNM 4708
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Preparation: Ethanol
Year Collected: 1859
Locality: Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada, North America
  • Holotype: Baird, S. F. 1868. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia. 19: 200.
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Paratype for Ambystoma gracile
Catalog Number: USNM 248869
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Preparation: Ethanol
Locality: Puget Sound, Locality In Multiple Counties, Washington, United States, North America
  • Paratype: Baird, S. F. 1868. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia. 19: 200.
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Paratype for Ambystoma gracile
Catalog Number: USNM 7021
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Preparation: Ethanol
Locality: Puget Sound, Locality In Multiple Counties, Washington, United States, North America
  • Paratype: Baird, S. F. 1868. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia. 19: 200.
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Holotype for Ambystoma gracile
Catalog Number: USNM 14493
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Preparation: Ethanol
Year Collected: 1885
Locality: Port Simpson, British Columbia, Canada, North America
  • Holotype: Cope, E. D. 1886. Proc. Amer. Philos. Soc. 23: 522.
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Syntype for Ambystoma gracile
Catalog Number: USNM 4080
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Sex/Stage: ; Larvae
Preparation: Ethanol
Locality: Cascade Mountains, near latitude 44 degrees N, Locality In Multiple Counties, Oregon, United States, North America
  • Syntype: Baird, S. F. 1859. U.S. and Pacific Railroad Expedition and Survey of California and Oregon. 10 (Part 4, No. 4): 13, Plate 44, Figure 2.
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Paratype for Ambystoma gracile
Catalog Number: USNM 6634
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Preparation: Ethanol
Locality: Vancouver Island, coal mines, British Columbia, Canada, North America
  • Paratype: Baird, S. F. 1868. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia. 19: 200.
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
It occurs in open grassland, woodland, and forest near breeding ponds. Non-paedomorphic adults are underground most of the year. During the breeding season, they often are found under rocks and logs. Larvae have been reported to be restricted to shallow areas in lakes with fishes. Adult and larval northwestern salamanders are distasteful to fishes and bullfrogs, allowing coexistence (Leonard et al. 1993). Eggs are laid in ponds, lakes, and slow-moving streams; usually attached to vegetation in shallows (Blaustein et al. 1995) or deeper water (e.g., 0.5-1.0m below water surface) (Nussbaum et al. 1983).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
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Central Pacific Coastal Forests Habitat

This taxon is found in the Central Pacific Coastal Forests ecoregion, as one of its North American ecoregions of occurrence. These mixed conifer rainforests stretch from stretch from southern Oregon in the USA to the northern tip of Vancouver Island, Canada. These forests are among the most productive in the world, characterized by large trees, substantial woody debris, luxuriant growths of mosses and lichens, and abundant ferns and herbs on the forest floor. The major forest complex consists of Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and Western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla), encompassing seral forests dominated by Douglas-fir and massive old-growth forests of Douglas-fir, Western hemlock, Western red cedar (Thuja plicata), and other species. These forests occur from sea level up to elevations of 700-1000 meters in the Coast Range and Olympic Mountains. Such forests occupy a gamut of environments with variable composition and structure and includes such other species as Grand fir (Abies grandis), Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis), and Western white pine (Pinus monticola).

Characteristic mammalian fauna include Elk (Cervus elaphus), Black-tailed Deer (Odocoileus hemionus), Coyote (Canis latrans), Black Bear (Ursus americanus), Mink (Mustela vison), and Raccoon (Procyon lotor).

The following anuran species occur in the Central Pacific coastal forests: Coastal tailed frog (Ascaphus truei); Oregon spotted frog (Rana pretiosa VU); Northern red-legged frog (Rana pretiosa); Pacific chorus frog (Pseudacris regilla); Cascade frog (Rana cascadae NT), generally restricted to the Cascade Range from northern Washington to the California border; Foothill yellow-legged frog (Rana boylii) and the Western toad (Anaxyrus boreas NT).  A newt found in the ecoregion is the Rough skinned newt (Taricha granulosa).

Salamanders within the ecoregion are: Del Norte salamander (Plethodon elongatus NT);  Van Dyke's salamander (Plethodon vandykei); Western redback salamander (Plethodon vehiculum); Northwestern salamander (Ambystoma gracile);  Olympic torrent salamander (Rhyacotriton olympicus VU), whose preferred habitat is along richly leafed stream edges; Long-toed salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum), whose adults are always subterranean except during the breeding season; Dunn's salamander (Plethodon dunni), usually found in seeps and stream splash zones; Clouded salamander (Aneides ferreus NT), an aggressive insectivore; Monterey ensatina (Ensatina eschscholtzii), usually found in thermally insulated micro-habitats such as under logs and rocks; Pacific giant salamander (Dicamptodon tenebrosus), found in damp, dense forests near streams; and Cope's giant salamander (Dicamptodon copei), usually found in rapidly flowing waters on the Olympic Peninsula and Cascade Range.

There are a small number of reptilian taxa that are observed within this forested ecoregion, including: Pacific pond turtle (Emys marmorata); Common garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis), an adaptable snake most often found near water; Northern alligator lizard (Elgaria coerulea); and the Western fence lizard.

Numerous avian species are found in the ecoregion, both resident and migratory. Example taxa occurring here are the Belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon); Wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo); and the White-headed woodpecker (Picoides albolarvatus) and the Trumpeter swan (Cygnus buccinator), the largest of the North American waterfowl.

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Comments: Open grassland, woodland, and forest near breeding ponds. Nonpaedomorphic adults are underground most of the year. During the breeding season, they often are found under rocks and logs. Larvae have been reported to be restricted to shallows in lakes with fishes, but adult and larval northwestern salamanders are distasteful to fishes and bullfrogs, allowing coexistence (Leonard et al. 1993). Eggs are laid in ponds, lakes, and slow-moving streams; usually attached to vegetation in shallows (Blaustein et al. 1995) or deeper water (e.g., 0.5-1.0 m below water surface) (Nussbaum et al. 1983).

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These salamanders inhabit humid sites within dense forests and open grasslands. Adults are often found beneath rotting logs, leaf litter, and debris along stream banks. As members of the "mole salamander" genus Ambystoma, most of their time is spent underground. They are most frequently seen during fall rains and spring migrations to their aquatic breeding sites, which are usually temporary ponds with no fish presence. The larvae also reside in these ponds until metamorphosing.

Range elevation: 0 to 3110 m.

Habitat Regions: temperate

Terrestrial Biomes: forest

Aquatic Biomes: lakes and ponds

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Migration

Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

Nonpaedomorphic populations migrate between breeding and nonbreeding habitats; usually migrates on rainy nights.

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Trophic Strategy

Comments: Larvae feed on zooplankton as well as many other aquatic invertebrates. Diet of terrestrial adults is not well documented, but they apparently feed on a wide variety of terrestrial invertebrates (Nussbaum et al. 1983).

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Food Habits

In lowland populations of British Columbia, these salamanders catch and consume soft-bodied invertebrates such as annelids, mollusks, cladocerans, ostracods, amphipods, anostracans, isopods, copepods, mites, dipterans, and a variety of other insect larvae.

Larval salamanders consume aquatic annelids, aquatic arthropods, and small mollusks.

Animal Foods: eggs; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods; mollusks; terrestrial worms; aquatic or marine worms; aquatic crustaceans; zooplankton

Primary Diet: carnivore (Insectivore , Eats non-insect arthropods, Molluscivore , Vermivore); planktivore

  • Licth, L. E., 1973. Behavior and Sound Production by the Northwestern Salamanders.
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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

In some areas, juvenile A. gracile provide food to aquatic predators. On land, they also function as important members of the trophic pyramid by consuming invertebrates and in turn are preyed upon by larger organisms.

This species can also serve as an indicator of environmental degradation. Salamander eggs can only hatch in clean, fresh water with little UV radiation. A drastic decrease in salamander numbers can signal a change has occurred within the ecosystem.

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Predation

Studies have shown that predation on larval salanders can drive a population towards extirpation. It was found that predatory trout in breeding locations has reduced both average snout-vent length and recruitment, which has caused a narrowing of local population densities. The presence of trout has also correlated with a decrease in total body mass of the larvae by driving them into sub-optimal habitats to forage.

Known Predators:

  • Nussbaum, R., E. Brodie, R. Storm. 1983. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Pacific Northwest. Moscow, Idaho: University Press of Idaho.
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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 - 300

Comments: This species is represented by many occurrences (subpopulations).

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Global Abundance

10,000 - 1,000,000 individuals

Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but surely exceeds 10,000 and possibly exceeds 100,000.

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General Ecology

Preyed on by introduced trout, which reduce salamander abundance.

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

When molested these salamanders may give off a ticking sound and assume a defensive posture. As nocturnal hunters, much of the salamanders' perception of the world relies on smell. Airborne scents are picked up with the olfactory system. After a general direction is identified, the vomeronasal system tracks minute scents on the ground, leading the animal towards its target.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; chemical

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Cyclicity

Comments: Nonpaedomorphic adults seldom seen except when breeding. Active day and night in deep water where fish absent; strictly nocturnal where fish present (Taylor 1984).

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Life Cycle

Development

Embryonic periods typically last 2-9 weeks, depending on ambient temperatures. After emerging, hatchlings experience rapid growth due to an abundance of accumulated food items in the pond. Larvae in lowland populations tend to grow faster than those at higher elevations. Young A. gracile measure 50-90 mm after 1 year. These salamanders transform the following spring at the ages of 12-14 months. Metamorphosis generally begins at 50 mm total length. Some A. gracile reproduce while still exhibiting larval features, such as gills. These salamanders are known as neotenic. The majority of salamanders, however, does not stay in water and becomes sexually mature during their second year of life on land.

Development - Life Cycle: neotenic/paedomorphic; metamorphosis

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Ambystoma gracile generally live five years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
5 years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
10.2 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 10.2 years (captivity)
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Reproduction

Breeding season is variable; begins as early as January in south, extends as late as July in north or at higher elevations. Lays masses of 15-35 eggs or 100-200 eggs, which hatch in 2-4 weeks. Larval period lasts 1-2 years. Montane populations often paedomorphic, some obligately so; incidence of paedomorphosis is positively correlated with increasing elevation, stability of the aquatic habitat, lack of fishes, and slower larval growth rates. Metamorphic and paedomorphic individuals may coexist in the same population.

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Breeding occurs once yearly. Pairs are always monogamous in that once a female takes a spermatophore inside her body, the eggs are fertilized. However, new mates are selected randomly every year and selection depends on the performance of a mating ritual.

Mating System: monogamous

Breeding takes place in both permanent and semipermanent bodies of water. Migration to these areas occurs during the transition from Winter to Spring (January-April, depending on latitude).

Upon contact with a potential mate, the male salamander dorsally mounts the female and stimulates her with his chin and tail. Afterwards, the male swims a short distance away and deposits a spermatophore package (a solid, airtight conglomeration of sperm). If breeding interest still exists, the female will follow. The male salamander then stimulates the female in a behavior similar to a tickle as she inserts the spermataphore into her cloaca to fertilize her eggs. It should also be noted that other mating rituals have been observed, including stereotyped attempts at insertion of the spermatophore by the male. Always, this behavior fails, and the spermatophore is picked up by the female and inserted into the cloaca.

Eggs are deposited between January and May and are typically attached to rooted aquatic vegetation. The salamander larvae emerge after approximately one month, but may take as many as nine weeks to hatch. Hatchlings measure 8 mm in snout-vent length.

Breeding interval: Once Yearly

Breeding season: January-May (dependent on latitude)

Range number of offspring: 40 to 270.

Average number of offspring: 150.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); oviparous ; delayed fertilization

Eggs are typically deposited in a habitat devoid of predatory fish. All of the salamanders evacuate the pond shortly after the breeding season, leaving the eggs in the water until hatching.

Parental Investment: no parental involvement; pre-fertilization (Provisioning)

  • Petranka, J. 1998. Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Ambystoma gracile

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 16
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2004

Assessor/s
Geoffrey Hammerson

Reviewer/s
Global Amphibian Assessment Coordinating Team (Simon Stuart, Janice Chanson, Neil Cox and Bruce Young)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, presumed large population, and because it is unlikely to be declining fast enough to qualify for listing in a more threatened category.
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National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Many stable populations exist throughout the historical range in the Pacific Northwest; not acutely sensitive to modern timber harvest practices; can coexist with introduced fishes and bullfrogs.

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable

Environmental Specificity: Narrow. Specialist or community with key requirements common.

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Road development is a major threat to the breeding migrations of salamanders. They fragment the habitat and put the animals in danger of car mortality.  Moreover, research suggests that A. gracile prefer to inhabit old-growth forests, which are heavily harvested in many areas. Placing a forest buffer of 200-250 m around breeding sites used by terrestrial adults will help in preserving current populations. Finally, the introduction of trout to a water system previously devoid of large predators can severely weaken the salamander population in the surrounding area.

US Migratory Bird Act: no special status

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Population

Population
Total adult population size is unknown but surely exceeds 10,000 and possibly exceeds 100,000. Its' populations appear to be stable.

Population Trend
Stable
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Global Short Term Trend: Unknown

Global Long Term Trend: Increase of 10-25% to decline of 30%

Comments: Over the long term, extent of occurrence, area of occupancy, number of subpopulations, and population size probably have been relatively stable or have declined by less than 25 percent.

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Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors

Terrestrial adults may defend themselves vigorously. When threatened, they may close their eyes, assume a head-butting position, and elevate the tail. They can secrete a sticky white poison from glands on the head, back, and tail, using head-butts and and tail-lashes to smear the poison onto the attacker (Stebbins 1985; Licht and Sever 1993). A ticking sound may accompany this defense (Licht 1973). Larvae and neotenic adults flee attack from natural predators such as trout and beetle larvae (Nussbaum et al. 1983).

This species breeds in permanent or semi-permanent waters, ranging from small, shallow ponds to large, deep lakes, and sometimes including side pools of slow streams. Breeding takes place in the spring; the exact timing varies with latitude and elevation (Brown 1976; Licht 1969; Licht 1975). Mating pairs of A. gracile enact an elaborate courtship ritual that seems to vary between different regions. Fertilization is internal; the female picks up a spermatophore deposited by the male (Licht 1969; Knudsen 1960). Length of embryonic development is positively correlated with water temperature and varies from 2-9 weeks (Petranka 1998). Most larvae in lowland populations transform when 12-14 months old, in the spring following hatching (Eagleson 1976; Licht 1975). Larvae at high elevations transform in their third year (Eagleson 1976). Hatchlings feed on zooplankton; older larvae eat a variety of prey, including annelids, mollusks, insect larvae, copepods, ostracods, and flatworms (Licht 1975; Efford and Tsumura 1973).

  • Stebbins, R. C. (1985). A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.
  • Petranka, J. W. (1998). Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington and London.
  • Aubry, K. B., and Hall, P. A. (1991). ''Terrestrial amphibian communities in the southern Washington Cascade Range.'' Wildlife and Vegetation of Unmanaged Douglas-fir Forests, General Technical Report PNW-GTR-285. Ruggiero, L. F., Aubry, K. B., Carey, A. B., and Huff, M. H., technical coordinators, eds., USDA Forest Service, Northwest Research Station, Olympia, Washington., 326-338.
  • Blair, A. P. (1951). "Notes on the herpetology of the Elk mountains, Colorado." Copeia, 1951, 239-240.
  • Blaustein, A. R., Edmond, B., Kiesecker, J. M., Beatty, J. J., and Hokit, D. G. (1995). "Ambient ultraviolet radiation causes mortality in salamander eggs." Ecological Applications, 5(3), 740-743.
  • Blaustein, A. R., Wake, D. B., and Sousa, W. P. (1994). "Amphibian declines: Judging stability, persistence, and susceptibility of populations to local and global extinctions." Conservation Biology, 8(1), 60-71.
  • Boundy, J. and Balgooyen, T. G. (1988). "Record lengths of some amphibians and reptiles from the western United States." Herpetological Review, 19, 27.
  • Brodie, E. D., Jr. and Gibson, L. S. (1969). ''Defensive behavior and skin glands of the Northwestern Salamander.'' Herpetologica, 25, 187-194.
  • Brown, H. A. (1976). ''The time-temperature relation of embryonic development in the Northwestern Salamander, Ambystoma gracile.'' Canadian Journal of Zoology, 54, 552-558.
  • Burger, W. L. (1950). ''Novel aspects of the life history of two Ambystomas.'' Journal of the Tennessee Academy of Sciences, 25, 252-257.
  • Corn, P. S. and Bury, R. B. (1991). ''Terrestrial amphibian communities in the Oregon Coast Range.'' Wildlife and Vegetation of Unmanaged Douglas-fir Forests, General Technical Report PNW-GTR-285. K. Ruggiero, B. Aubry, A. B. Carey, and M. H. Huff, technical coordinators, eds., USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Olympia, Washington., 304-317.
  • Dunn, E. R. (1944). ''Notes on the salamanders of the Ambystoma gracile group.'' Copeia, 1944, 129-130.
  • Dunn, E. R. (1954). ''The status of Siredon gracilis Baird.'' Copeia, 1954, 135-136.
  • Dyrkacz, S. (1981). "Recent instances of albinism in North American amphibians and reptiles." Herpetological Circular of the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, 11, 1-31.
  • Eagleson, G. W. (1976). ''A comparison of the life histories and growth patterns of populations of the salamander Ambystoma gracile (Baird) from permanent low-altitude and montane lakes.'' Canadian Journal of Zoology, 54, 2098-2111.
  • Efford, I. E. and Mathias, J. A. (1969). "A comparison of two salamander populations in Marion Lake, British Columbia." Copeia, 1969, 723-736.
  • Efford, I. E. and Tsumura, K. (1973). ''A comparison of the food of salamanders and fish in Marion Lake, British Columbia.'' Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 1, 33-47.
  • Henry, W. V., and Twitty, V. C. (1940). "Contributions to the life histories of Dicamptodon tenebrosus and Ambystoma gracile." Copeia, 1940, 247-250.
  • Knudsen, J. W. (1960). ''The courtship and egg mass of Ambystoma gracile and Ambystoma macrodactylum.'' Copeia, 1960, 44-46.
  • Licht, L. E. (1969). "Observations on the courtship behavior of Ambystoma gracile." Herpetologica, 25, 49-52.
  • Licht, L. E. (1973). "Behavior and sound production by the northwestern salamander Ambystoma gracile." Canadian Journal of Zoology, 51, 1055-1056.
  • Licht, L. E. (1975). "Growth and food of larval Ambystoma gracile from a lowland population in southwestern British Columbia." Canadian Journal of Zoology, 70, 87-93.
  • Licht, L. E., and Sever, D. M. (1993). "Structure and development of the paratoid gland in metamorphosed and neotenic Ambystoma gracile." Copeia, 1993, 116-123.
  • Nebeker, A. V., Schuytema, G. S, Griffis, W. L., and Cataldo, A. (1998). ''Impact of guthion on survival and growth of the frog Pseudacris regilla and the salamanders Ambystoma gracile and Ambystoma macrodactylum.'' Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 35(1), 48-51.
  • Nebeker, A. V., Schuytema, G. S., and Ott, S. L. (1995). ''Effects of cadmium on growth and bioaccumulation in the Northwestern Salamander Ambystoma gracile.'' Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 29(4), 492-499.
  • Nebeker, A. V., Shuytema, G. S., and Ott, S. L. (1994). "Effects of cadmium on limb regeneration in the Northwestern salamander." Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 27(3), 318-322.
  • 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. (1997). ''Vulnerability of amphibians in Canada to global warming and increased solar ultraviolet radiation.'' Amphibians in Decline: Canadian Studies of a Global Problem. Green, D. M., eds., Herpetological Conservation, 206-225.
  • Richardson, J. P. M. and Adamson, M. L. (1988). ''Megalobatrachonema (Chabaudgolvania) waldeni n. sp. (Nematoda: Kathlaniidae) from the intestine of the Northwestern Salamander, Ambystoma gracile (Baird).'' Canadian Journal of Zoology, 66, 1505.
  • Slater, J. R. (1936). ''Notes on Ambystoma gracile Baird and Ambystoma macrodactylum Baird.'' Copeia, 1936, 234-236.
  • Snyder, R. C. (1956). ''Comparative features of the life histories of Ambystoma gracile (Baird) from populations at low and high altitudes.'' Copeia, 1956, 187-194.
  • Snyder, R. C. (1963). ''Ambystoma gracile.'' Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles. American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, 6.1-6.2.
  • Sprules, W. G. (1974). ''The adaptive significance of paedogenesis in North American species of Ambystoma (Amphibia: Caudata): an hypothesis.'' Canadian Journal of Zoology, 52, 393-400.
  • Taylor, J. (1983). ''Orientation and flight behavior of a neotenic salamander (Ambystoma gracile) in Oregon.'' American Midland Naturalist, 109, 40-49.
  • Titus, T. A. and Gaines, M. S. (1991). ''Genetic variation in coastal and montane populations of Ambystoma gracile (Caudata: Ambystomatidae).'' Occasional Paper of the Museum of Natural History, University of Kansas, 141, 1-12.
  • Tyler, T. J., Liss, W. J., Hoffman, R. L., and Ganio, L. M. (1998). "Experimental analysis of trout effects on survival, growth, and habitat use of two species of ambystomatid salamanders." Journal of Herpetology, 32(3), 345-349.
  • Walls, S. C., Conrad, C. S. Murillo, M. L., and Blaustein, A. R. (1996). ''Agonistic behaviour in larvae of the Northwestern salamander (Ambystoma gracile): The effect of kinship, familiarity, and population source.'' Behaviour, 133(13-14), 965-984.
  • Watney, G. M. S. (1941). ''Notes on the life history of Ambystoma gracile Baird.'' Copeia, 1941, 14-17.
  • Weller, W. and Green, D. M. (1997). ''Checklist and current status of Canadian amphibians.'' Amphibians in Decline: Canadian Studies of a Global Problem. D. M. Green, eds., Herpetological Conservation, 309-328.
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Threats

Major Threats
A major threat is probably the removal of forest surrounding ponds and small lakes. Ambient ultraviolet radiation causes increased mortality of eggs (compared to UV-B-shielded eggs) (Blaustein et al. 1995), but natural oviposition sites often might not be subject to damaging levels of UV. Experimental data indicate that larvae are negatively impacted by the presence of trout (Tyler et al. 1998), yet salamanders and trout coexist in some areas (Leonard et al. 1993).
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Degree of Threat: Unknown

Comments: Ambient ultraviolet radiation causes increased mortality of eggs (compared to UV-B-shielded eggs) (Blaustein et al. 1995), but natural oviposition sites often may not be subject to damaging levels of UV.
Experimental data indicate that larvae are negatively impacted by the presence of trout (Tyler et al. 1998), yet salamanders and trout coexist in some areas (Leonard et al. 1993). Embryos in egg masses easily survive several weeks of prolonged exposure to air as may occur with recession of water level in breeding ponds (Marco 2001).

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Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors

The status of Ambystoma gracile populations is unknown (Blaustein et al. 1994). No declines are apparent in Canada (Weller and Green 1997). In the Cascade Mountains of Washington, Aubry and Hall (1991) found A. gracile to be far less abundant in young forests than in old-growth forests. However, Corn and Bury (1991) surveyed Western Oregon and found little correlation between salamander abundance and stand age, so it remains unclear whether A. gracile requires old growth forest to thrive. Clear-cutting, however, seems to render the habitat unsuitable; Corn and Bury found no salamanders on recent clear-cuts. Petranka (1998) suggests leaving a forest buffer of 200-250 m surrounding breeding sites used by terrestrial adults to preserve optimal environmental conditions for local populations.

At an elevation of 183 m in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon, Blaustein et al. (1995) found A. gracile embryos to hatch with less mortality when shielded from UV-B radiation than when allowed to develop exposed to direct sunlight. This experiment was conducted in pond water 5-10 cm deep, which they claim is a common oviposition site for A. gracile in the Oregon Cascades. However, females often lay their eggs at greater depths and often in murky water, where they would be protected from UV-B, so the ecological relevance of Blaustein et al.'s experiment is controversial. Whether UV-B actually harms A. gracile populations is unknown (Petranka 1998).

Because A. gracile breeds in relatively permanent bodies of water, Canadian populations may be unaffected by the increase in aridity predicted to occur in Canada due to global warming. However, decreased survival due to drying of breeding habitat may still occur (Ovaska 1997).

A. gracile populations may be negatively affected by introduced predatory fish, such as trout and char. These fish can reduce or eliminate montane populations of ambystomatid salamanders (Burger 1950; Blair 1951; Sprules 1974; Taylor 1983). Tyler et al. (1998) tested the effects of trout on larvae of A. gracile and A. macrodactylum in artificial ponds and found that trout reduced both survivorship and average snout-vent length, and also narrowed the range of habitat use for larvae of both species. Trout also reduced average body mass of A. gracile larvae.

  • Stebbins, R. C. (1985). A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.
  • Petranka, J. W. (1998). Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington and London.
  • Aubry, K. B., and Hall, P. A. (1991). ''Terrestrial amphibian communities in the southern Washington Cascade Range.'' Wildlife and Vegetation of Unmanaged Douglas-fir Forests, General Technical Report PNW-GTR-285. Ruggiero, L. F., Aubry, K. B., Carey, A. B., and Huff, M. H., technical coordinators, eds., USDA Forest Service, Northwest Research Station, Olympia, Washington., 326-338.
  • Blair, A. P. (1951). "Notes on the herpetology of the Elk mountains, Colorado." Copeia, 1951, 239-240.
  • Blaustein, A. R., Edmond, B., Kiesecker, J. M., Beatty, J. J., and Hokit, D. G. (1995). "Ambient ultraviolet radiation causes mortality in salamander eggs." Ecological Applications, 5(3), 740-743.
  • Blaustein, A. R., Wake, D. B., and Sousa, W. P. (1994). "Amphibian declines: Judging stability, persistence, and susceptibility of populations to local and global extinctions." Conservation Biology, 8(1), 60-71.
  • Boundy, J. and Balgooyen, T. G. (1988). "Record lengths of some amphibians and reptiles from the western United States." Herpetological Review, 19, 27.
  • Brodie, E. D., Jr. and Gibson, L. S. (1969). ''Defensive behavior and skin glands of the Northwestern Salamander.'' Herpetologica, 25, 187-194.
  • Brown, H. A. (1976). ''The time-temperature relation of embryonic development in the Northwestern Salamander, Ambystoma gracile.'' Canadian Journal of Zoology, 54, 552-558.
  • Burger, W. L. (1950). ''Novel aspects of the life history of two Ambystomas.'' Journal of the Tennessee Academy of Sciences, 25, 252-257.
  • Corn, P. S. and Bury, R. B. (1991). ''Terrestrial amphibian communities in the Oregon Coast Range.'' Wildlife and Vegetation of Unmanaged Douglas-fir Forests, General Technical Report PNW-GTR-285. K. Ruggiero, B. Aubry, A. B. Carey, and M. H. Huff, technical coordinators, eds., USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Olympia, Washington., 304-317.
  • Dunn, E. R. (1944). ''Notes on the salamanders of the Ambystoma gracile group.'' Copeia, 1944, 129-130.
  • Dunn, E. R. (1954). ''The status of Siredon gracilis Baird.'' Copeia, 1954, 135-136.
  • Dyrkacz, S. (1981). "Recent instances of albinism in North American amphibians and reptiles." Herpetological Circular of the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, 11, 1-31.
  • Eagleson, G. W. (1976). ''A comparison of the life histories and growth patterns of populations of the salamander Ambystoma gracile (Baird) from permanent low-altitude and montane lakes.'' Canadian Journal of Zoology, 54, 2098-2111.
  • Efford, I. E. and Mathias, J. A. (1969). "A comparison of two salamander populations in Marion Lake, British Columbia." Copeia, 1969, 723-736.
  • Efford, I. E. and Tsumura, K. (1973). ''A comparison of the food of salamanders and fish in Marion Lake, British Columbia.'' Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 1, 33-47.
  • Henry, W. V., and Twitty, V. C. (1940). "Contributions to the life histories of Dicamptodon tenebrosus and Ambystoma gracile." Copeia, 1940, 247-250.
  • Knudsen, J. W. (1960). ''The courtship and egg mass of Ambystoma gracile and Ambystoma macrodactylum.'' Copeia, 1960, 44-46.
  • Licht, L. E. (1969). "Observations on the courtship behavior of Ambystoma gracile." Herpetologica, 25, 49-52.
  • Licht, L. E. (1973). "Behavior and sound production by the northwestern salamander Ambystoma gracile." Canadian Journal of Zoology, 51, 1055-1056.
  • Licht, L. E. (1975). "Growth and food of larval Ambystoma gracile from a lowland population in southwestern British Columbia." Canadian Journal of Zoology, 70, 87-93.
  • Licht, L. E., and Sever, D. M. (1993). "Structure and development of the paratoid gland in metamorphosed and neotenic Ambystoma gracile." Copeia, 1993, 116-123.
  • Nebeker, A. V., Schuytema, G. S, Griffis, W. L., and Cataldo, A. (1998). ''Impact of guthion on survival and growth of the frog Pseudacris regilla and the salamanders Ambystoma gracile and Ambystoma macrodactylum.'' Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 35(1), 48-51.
  • Nebeker, A. V., Schuytema, G. S., and Ott, S. L. (1995). ''Effects of cadmium on growth and bioaccumulation in the Northwestern Salamander Ambystoma gracile.'' Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 29(4), 492-499.
  • Nebeker, A. V., Shuytema, G. S., and Ott, S. L. (1994). "Effects of cadmium on limb regeneration in the Northwestern salamander." Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 27(3), 318-322.
  • 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. (1997). ''Vulnerability of amphibians in Canada to global warming and increased solar ultraviolet radiation.'' Amphibians in Decline: Canadian Studies of a Global Problem. Green, D. M., eds., Herpetological Conservation, 206-225.
  • Richardson, J. P. M. and Adamson, M. L. (1988). ''Megalobatrachonema (Chabaudgolvania) waldeni n. sp. (Nematoda: Kathlaniidae) from the intestine of the Northwestern Salamander, Ambystoma gracile (Baird).'' Canadian Journal of Zoology, 66, 1505.
  • Slater, J. R. (1936). ''Notes on Ambystoma gracile Baird and Ambystoma macrodactylum Baird.'' Copeia, 1936, 234-236.
  • Snyder, R. C. (1956). ''Comparative features of the life histories of Ambystoma gracile (Baird) from populations at low and high altitudes.'' Copeia, 1956, 187-194.
  • Snyder, R. C. (1963). ''Ambystoma gracile.'' Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles. American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, 6.1-6.2.
  • Sprules, W. G. (1974). ''The adaptive significance of paedogenesis in North American species of Ambystoma (Amphibia: Caudata): an hypothesis.'' Canadian Journal of Zoology, 52, 393-400.
  • Taylor, J. (1983). ''Orientation and flight behavior of a neotenic salamander (Ambystoma gracile) in Oregon.'' American Midland Naturalist, 109, 40-49.
  • Titus, T. A. and Gaines, M. S. (1991). ''Genetic variation in coastal and montane populations of Ambystoma gracile (Caudata: Ambystomatidae).'' Occasional Paper of the Museum of Natural History, University of Kansas, 141, 1-12.
  • Tyler, T. J., Liss, W. J., Hoffman, R. L., and Ganio, L. M. (1998). "Experimental analysis of trout effects on survival, growth, and habitat use of two species of ambystomatid salamanders." Journal of Herpetology, 32(3), 345-349.
  • Walls, S. C., Conrad, C. S. Murillo, M. L., and Blaustein, A. R. (1996). ''Agonistic behaviour in larvae of the Northwestern salamander (Ambystoma gracile): The effect of kinship, familiarity, and population source.'' Behaviour, 133(13-14), 965-984.
  • Watney, G. M. S. (1941). ''Notes on the life history of Ambystoma gracile Baird.'' Copeia, 1941, 14-17.
  • Weller, W. and Green, D. M. (1997). ''Checklist and current status of Canadian amphibians.'' Amphibians in Decline: Canadian Studies of a Global Problem. D. M. Green, eds., Herpetological Conservation, 309-328.
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Needed conservation measures include maintaining forested conditions in areas within at least 200-250m of breeding sites. Also, regulatory agencies should attempt to minimize forest fragmentation.
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Management Requirements: In Washington, a lake population increased after removal of non-native fishes (Hoffman et al. 2004).

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Global Protection: Many to very many (13 to >40) occurrences appropriately protected and managed

Comments: Many occurrences are in national parks or other well-proteced areas.

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Ambystoma gracile do not negatively impact humans. If, by chance, an animal was consumed by a person, its poisonous skin secretions would likely cause sickness.

Negative Impacts: injures humans (poisonous )

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Aside from their contribution to the biodiversity of northwest US forests, A. gracile is not a species of economic importance.

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Risks

Relation to Humans

The poison secreted by terrestrial Northwestern Salamanders may irritate the skin of some people (Stebbins 1985).

  • Stebbins, R. C. (1985). A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.
  • Petranka, J. W. (1998). Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington and London.
  • Aubry, K. B., and Hall, P. A. (1991). ''Terrestrial amphibian communities in the southern Washington Cascade Range.'' Wildlife and Vegetation of Unmanaged Douglas-fir Forests, General Technical Report PNW-GTR-285. Ruggiero, L. F., Aubry, K. B., Carey, A. B., and Huff, M. H., technical coordinators, eds., USDA Forest Service, Northwest Research Station, Olympia, Washington., 326-338.
  • Blair, A. P. (1951). "Notes on the herpetology of the Elk mountains, Colorado." Copeia, 1951, 239-240.
  • Blaustein, A. R., Edmond, B., Kiesecker, J. M., Beatty, J. J., and Hokit, D. G. (1995). "Ambient ultraviolet radiation causes mortality in salamander eggs." Ecological Applications, 5(3), 740-743.
  • Blaustein, A. R., Wake, D. B., and Sousa, W. P. (1994). "Amphibian declines: Judging stability, persistence, and susceptibility of populations to local and global extinctions." Conservation Biology, 8(1), 60-71.
  • Boundy, J. and Balgooyen, T. G. (1988). "Record lengths of some amphibians and reptiles from the western United States." Herpetological Review, 19, 27.
  • Brodie, E. D., Jr. and Gibson, L. S. (1969). ''Defensive behavior and skin glands of the Northwestern Salamander.'' Herpetologica, 25, 187-194.
  • Brown, H. A. (1976). ''The time-temperature relation of embryonic development in the Northwestern Salamander, Ambystoma gracile.'' Canadian Journal of Zoology, 54, 552-558.
  • Burger, W. L. (1950). ''Novel aspects of the life history of two Ambystomas.'' Journal of the Tennessee Academy of Sciences, 25, 252-257.
  • Corn, P. S. and Bury, R. B. (1991). ''Terrestrial amphibian communities in the Oregon Coast Range.'' Wildlife and Vegetation of Unmanaged Douglas-fir Forests, General Technical Report PNW-GTR-285. K. Ruggiero, B. Aubry, A. B. Carey, and M. H. Huff, technical coordinators, eds., USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Olympia, Washington., 304-317.
  • Dunn, E. R. (1944). ''Notes on the salamanders of the Ambystoma gracile group.'' Copeia, 1944, 129-130.
  • Dunn, E. R. (1954). ''The status of Siredon gracilis Baird.'' Copeia, 1954, 135-136.
  • Dyrkacz, S. (1981). "Recent instances of albinism in North American amphibians and reptiles." Herpetological Circular of the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, 11, 1-31.
  • Eagleson, G. W. (1976). ''A comparison of the life histories and growth patterns of populations of the salamander Ambystoma gracile (Baird) from permanent low-altitude and montane lakes.'' Canadian Journal of Zoology, 54, 2098-2111.
  • Efford, I. E. and Mathias, J. A. (1969). "A comparison of two salamander populations in Marion Lake, British Columbia." Copeia, 1969, 723-736.
  • Efford, I. E. and Tsumura, K. (1973). ''A comparison of the food of salamanders and fish in Marion Lake, British Columbia.'' Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 1, 33-47.
  • Henry, W. V., and Twitty, V. C. (1940). "Contributions to the life histories of Dicamptodon tenebrosus and Ambystoma gracile." Copeia, 1940, 247-250.
  • Knudsen, J. W. (1960). ''The courtship and egg mass of Ambystoma gracile and Ambystoma macrodactylum.'' Copeia, 1960, 44-46.
  • Licht, L. E. (1969). "Observations on the courtship behavior of Ambystoma gracile." Herpetologica, 25, 49-52.
  • Licht, L. E. (1973). "Behavior and sound production by the northwestern salamander Ambystoma gracile." Canadian Journal of Zoology, 51, 1055-1056.
  • Licht, L. E. (1975). "Growth and food of larval Ambystoma gracile from a lowland population in southwestern British Columbia." Canadian Journal of Zoology, 70, 87-93.
  • Licht, L. E., and Sever, D. M. (1993). "Structure and development of the paratoid gland in metamorphosed and neotenic Ambystoma gracile." Copeia, 1993, 116-123.
  • Nebeker, A. V., Schuytema, G. S, Griffis, W. L., and Cataldo, A. (1998). ''Impact of guthion on survival and growth of the frog Pseudacris regilla and the salamanders Ambystoma gracile and Ambystoma macrodactylum.'' Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 35(1), 48-51.
  • Nebeker, A. V., Schuytema, G. S., and Ott, S. L. (1995). ''Effects of cadmium on growth and bioaccumulation in the Northwestern Salamander Ambystoma gracile.'' Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 29(4), 492-499.
  • Nebeker, A. V., Shuytema, G. S., and Ott, S. L. (1994). "Effects of cadmium on limb regeneration in the Northwestern salamander." Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 27(3), 318-322.
  • 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. (1997). ''Vulnerability of amphibians in Canada to global warming and increased solar ultraviolet radiation.'' Amphibians in Decline: Canadian Studies of a Global Problem. Green, D. M., eds., Herpetological Conservation, 206-225.
  • Richardson, J. P. M. and Adamson, M. L. (1988). ''Megalobatrachonema (Chabaudgolvania) waldeni n. sp. (Nematoda: Kathlaniidae) from the intestine of the Northwestern Salamander, Ambystoma gracile (Baird).'' Canadian Journal of Zoology, 66, 1505.
  • Slater, J. R. (1936). ''Notes on Ambystoma gracile Baird and Ambystoma macrodactylum Baird.'' Copeia, 1936, 234-236.
  • Snyder, R. C. (1956). ''Comparative features of the life histories of Ambystoma gracile (Baird) from populations at low and high altitudes.'' Copeia, 1956, 187-194.
  • Snyder, R. C. (1963). ''Ambystoma gracile.'' Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles. American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, 6.1-6.2.
  • Sprules, W. G. (1974). ''The adaptive significance of paedogenesis in North American species of Ambystoma (Amphibia: Caudata): an hypothesis.'' Canadian Journal of Zoology, 52, 393-400.
  • Taylor, J. (1983). ''Orientation and flight behavior of a neotenic salamander (Ambystoma gracile) in Oregon.'' American Midland Naturalist, 109, 40-49.
  • Titus, T. A. and Gaines, M. S. (1991). ''Genetic variation in coastal and montane populations of Ambystoma gracile (Caudata: Ambystomatidae).'' Occasional Paper of the Museum of Natural History, University of Kansas, 141, 1-12.
  • Tyler, T. J., Liss, W. J., Hoffman, R. L., and Ganio, L. M. (1998). "Experimental analysis of trout effects on survival, growth, and habitat use of two species of ambystomatid salamanders." Journal of Herpetology, 32(3), 345-349.
  • Walls, S. C., Conrad, C. S. Murillo, M. L., and Blaustein, A. R. (1996). ''Agonistic behaviour in larvae of the Northwestern salamander (Ambystoma gracile): The effect of kinship, familiarity, and population source.'' Behaviour, 133(13-14), 965-984.
  • Watney, G. M. S. (1941). ''Notes on the life history of Ambystoma gracile Baird.'' Copeia, 1941, 14-17.
  • Weller, W. and Green, D. M. (1997). ''Checklist and current status of Canadian amphibians.'' Amphibians in Decline: Canadian Studies of a Global Problem. D. M. Green, eds., Herpetological Conservation, 309-328.
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Wikipedia

Northwestern salamander

The northwestern salamander (Ambystoma gracile) inhabits the northwest Pacific Coast of North America. These fairly large salamanders grow to 8.7 in (220 mm) in length. It is found from southeastern Alaska on May Island, through Washington and Oregon south to the mouth of the Gulala River, Sonoma County, California. It occurs from sea level to the timberline, but not east of the Cascade Divide. Its range includes Vancouver Island in British Columbia and Cypress, Whidbey, Bainbridge, and Vashon Islands in Washington (Snyder 1963).

Occurrence[edit]

A Northwestern salamander found in Langley, BC

The spotted forms occur in the northern portion of its range.[2] A dividing line of 51°N latitude has been recognized between the two subspecies, with A. g. decorticatum occurring north of the line and A. g. gracile living to the south.[3]

Populations with neotenic adults are widespread; the frequency of gilled adults increases with altitude such that adults at low and intermediate altitudes are almost all terrestrial, while adults at very high elevations are mostly neotenic.[4] An example of a paedomorphic population of the northwestern salamander occurs at Crater Lake, Oregon; the population is syntopic with Taricha granulosa.[5]

Terrestrial adults live in mesic habitats ranging from grasslands to mesophytic forests. Terrestrial adults are mostly fossorial, and are usually active on the surface only during fall rains and spring migrations to their aquatic breeding sites. However, they can sometimes be found under logs and other surface debris outside of the breeding season.[6][7]

Description[edit]

The egg mass is very firm, it feels much like a brain with a jelly layer around the entire mass. The individual eggs are 2 mm diameter with the entire egg mass the size of your fist. The egg masses are laid in water about 0.5– 2 meters below the surface.

The hatchlings are 1-35mm long with feathery gills on the side of the body.

The juveniles are 16– 105 mm long from their snout to vent. Adults are 40–107 mm long from their snout to vent.

Conservation[edit]

The conservation status of Ambystoma gracile populations is unknown.[8] No declines are apparent in Canada.[9] In the Cascade Mountains of Washington, A. gracile is far less abundant in young forests than in old-growth forests.[10] However, a survey in western Oregon found little correlation between salamander abundance and stand age, so it remains unclear whether A. gracile requires old growth forest to thrive.[11] Clear-cutting, however, seems to render the habitat unsuitable; no salamanders were found on recent clear-cuts. Leaving a forest buffer of 200–250 m surrounding breeding sites used by terrestrial adults may preserve optimal environmental conditions for local populations.[12]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hammerson, 2006
  2. ^ Petranka 1998; Snyder 1963
  3. ^ Snyder 1963
  4. ^ Eagleson 1976
  5. ^ C.M. Hogan, 2008
  6. ^ Petranka 1998
  7. ^ Efford and Mathias 1969
  8. ^ Blaustein et al. 1994
  9. ^ Weller and Green 1997
  10. ^ Aubry and Hall (1991)
  11. ^ Corn and Bury (1991)
  12. ^ Petranka (1998)
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Titus (1990) concluded that available genetic and morphological information do not support recognition of subspecies; systematics may be complex and warrant further study. Titus and Gaines (1991) studied allozyme variation in coastal metamorphosing and montane nonmetamorphosing populations in Oregon; in both groups of populations, 98-100% of the total genetic variation for each locus was attributable to within-population variation. See Kraus (1988) and Shaffer et al. (1991) for phylogenetic analyses of North American Ambystoma; allozyme data indicate that A. maculatum is the closest relative of A. gracile (Shaffer et al. 1991), a conclusion that is not supported by any morphological data (Kraus 1988).

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