Projecting upper-jaw teeth and triangular head distinguish the Black Salamander as a climbing salamander of the genus Aneides (Dunn 1926). Aneides flavipunctatus has a characteristic black or slaty ventral coloration. Dorsal coloration varies greatly depending upon locality. The dorsum may be uniformly black, or black with very small white flecks in the extreme southern part of its range; black with large white spots in the interior Coast Range (from Alder Springs, Glenn Co., and Lucerne, Lake Co., CA south); black with pale yellow or whitish spots in the outer Coast Range (from Sonoma Co. to middle Mendocino Co.); black frosted with gray, olive, or green, with few or no light spots, in the Redwood country of Mendocino Co. and Humboldt Co.; and black with many small white spots from the Klamath Mts. to Mt. Shasta (Stebbins 1985).
endemic to a single nation
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Global Range: (20,000-200,000 square km (about 8000-80,000 square miles)) Extreme southwestern Oregon south through northwestern California (as far south as central Santa Cruz and western Santa Clara Counties). Sea level to elevations over 5,500 ft (1700 m) (Stebbins 1985).
Distribution and Habitat
Black salamanders (Aneides flavipunctatus) occur in western lowland forests and meadows in northern California and extreme southern Oregon where annual precipitation is > 75 cm (Lynch 1974). Populations are generally found at elevations below 600 m, but occur as high as 1700 m (Lynch 1974, 1981; Nussbaum et al. 1983). The distribution of black salamanders is disjunct; the southernmost populations (Santa Cruz Mountains) are separated from more northern populations by a gap that includes the northern part of the San Francisco Peninsula, the Marin peninsula, and the nearly treeless area in southern Sonoma County, California. Populations south of Mt. Shasta and east of the Trinity Mountains appear to be separated from populations to the west (Larson 1980; Lynch 1981), although this may represent a collecting artifact. Analysis of protein variation (Larson 1980) and mitochondrial sequence variation (Rissler and Apodaca 2007) among populations indicates a high level of genetic subdivision, with climatic factors apparently affecting the distributions of cryptic sister lineages (Rissler and Apodaca 2007). Populations have been isolated from one another since the late Pliocene. Northern populations are paedomorphic in color pattern: adults retain the typical juvenile green-gray color pattern. Interestingly, in this part of the range, the salamanders coloration matches the greenish-grey talus substrate. In other parts of the range, animals are found on dark soil (Larson 1980; Lynch 1981).
Habitat Requirements. Black salamanders occur in areas that receive > 75 cm annual precipitation (Lynch, 1974). Specific habitats include lowland forests, under rocks and logs or in wet soil along streams, under logs and rocks in grassy meadow pastures, and burned areas, and in talus slopes (Wood, 1936; Myers and Maslin, 1948; Stebbins, 1951; Lynch, 1974, 1981; Staub, 1993). The populations in the Santa Cruz Mountains appear to prefer moister microhabitats than more northern populations. Unlike their more arboreal congeners, black salamanders are primarily ground-dwellers (Myers and Maslin, 1948). Despite their ground-dwelling habits, black salamanders have a prehensile tail (Van Denburgh, 1895).
Length: 17 cm
Habitat and Ecology
Comments: Forests, woodlands, grasslands. Southern populations prefer moist woodlands along streams and seepages; northern populations, grassy areas; in far north, moss-covered rockslides (Behler and King 1979). Primarily terrestrial, under surface cover. A nest found in Santa Clara County, California, was located about 380 mm below the surface of the ground in a soil cavity (Nussbaum et al. 1983).
Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.
Locally Migrant: No. No 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.
Comments: Feeds on terrestrial arthropods, gastropods, and worms (Nussbaum et al. 1983). In northwestern California, diet dominated by Coleoptera, Isoptera, Hymenoptera, Diptera, and Collembola; diet varies seasonally and ontogenetically.
Number of Occurrences
Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.
Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 - 300
Comments: Many occurrences.
10,000 - 100,000 individuals
Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but likely exceeds 10,000.
Life History and Behavior
Comments: Active throughout much of the year in southern part of range. In north, lives farther from water, active mainly during October-April rainy season (Lynch 1985).
Females have been found brooding their eggs in summer (Stebbins 1985).
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Aneides flavipunctatus
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 8
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G4 - Apparently Secure
Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable
Environmental Specificity: Moderate. Generalist or community with some key requirements scarce.
Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable to decline of 30%
Comments: No quantitative data are available, but this salamander may be uncommon or rare in many areas where formerly it was common (D. B. Wake, cited by Petranka 1998).
Global Long Term Trend: Relatively stable to decline of 50%
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
This is a fully terrestrial salamander. Reproductively mature black salamanders range in size from 60 - 75 mm (Lynch 1974). Females probably lay eggs in July or early August in cavities below ground. Clutches have been found underground at depths of 23 and 38 cm (Van Denburgh 1895; Storer 1925). Eggs are attached by peduncles to moist earth. In the lab, eggs have been attached to the underside of cover objects (broken clay flowerpot pieces) (N .L. Staub, personal observation). Van Denburgh (1895) described a partial clutch of 15 eggs (about twice as many eggs composed the original clutch in the field) found next to a barn in soil with numerous spaces and pieces of rotten wood. Ovarian complements range from 8 - 25 (mean about 12; Van Denburgh 1895; Stebbins 1951).
Typically an egg clutch is found with a female in attendance. In the laboratory, females stayed with their clutches until eggs hatched (N. L. Staub, personal observation).
Abundance. Black salamanders were once considered common in many areas of their range, but have become rare in recent years (D. B. Wake, in Petranka 1998). The proliferation of vineyards in northern California has destroyed much of the black salamanders prime habitat (personal observation). Behavior. In captivity, adults often bite one another (e.g., Myers 1930) and adult males and females show agonistic behavior toward intruders (Staub 1993). Animals captured in the field are frequently scarred; males show a higher frequency of scarring than do females (Staub 1993). This species may be territorial in the field.
Aestivation. In southern populations that are associated with streamside habitats, black salamanders are active year round. In habitats which are not associated with permanent water, salamanders move underground during the dry season (mid-April - mid-October) (Lynch 1974).
Interspecific Associations/Exclusions. Black salamanders occur syntopically with clouded salamanders (Aneides ferreus), wandering salamanders (Aneides vagrans), arboreal salamanders (Aneides lugubris), ensatinas (Ensatina eschscholtzi) and California slender salamanders (Batrachoseps attenuatus) (Lynch 1974, 1985; Myers and Maslin 1948; Wood 1936). Black salamanders also occur extensively with Plethodon elongatus in the Klamath River Valley and Trinity River drainage.
Feeding Behavior. Juveniles and adults feed on a wide variety of prey. The diet of adult salamanders consists primarily of diplopoda (millipedes), coleopterans, formicans (primarily ants), and isopterans (primarily termites) (Lynch 1985). The diet of juveniles includes these prey as well as dipterans and collembolans (Lynch 1985). Larger individuals consume larger prey items; mean and maximum prey size is correlated with body size. This correlation suggests that larger animals are selecting larger prey items and are ignoring smaller prey items. The number of prey items decreases as body size increases (Lynch 1985).
Predators. Predators include western terrestrial garter snakes (Thamnophis elegans; Lynch 1981).
Anti-Predator Mechanisms. When startled, juveniles generally remain immobile and adults flee (Van Denburgh 1895; Jones 1984). Other escape or defense behaviors include jumping (Van Denburgh 1895), the production of sticky skin secretions (Lynch 1981), an agonistic posture, and agonistic behaviors including biting (Lynch 1981; Staub 1993). The agonistic posture of the black salamanders is distinctive. The animal raises its body off the substrate with the legs fully extended, the back is arched, the head elevated with the snout pointed slightly downward, and the tail undulates (Jones 1984; Staub 1993; Stebbins 1954). In the laboratory, A. flavipunctatus will bite western garter snakes which can result in serious injuries (Lynch 1981).
Parasites. Nematodes have been found in the black salamander (Lehmann 1954; Schad 1960).
Degree of Threat: Medium
Comments: Threats other than outright destruction of habitat are uncertain.
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Little information exists concerning population trends, but those who are familiar with this salamander suggest that they have become increasingly harder to find (D. Wake, pers. comm).
Management Research Needs: Better information is needed concerning threats and population trends.
Global Protection: Several to many (4-40) occurrences appropriately protected and managed
The Black Salamander or speckled black salamander (Aneides flavipunctatus) is a species of salamander in the Plethodontidae family. It is endemic to the United States. Its natural habitats are temperate forests and temperate grassland. It is threatened by habitat loss.
The black salamander can grow to 60 to 75 millimeters (2.4 to 3.0 in) long. The color varies but can be all black, black with coarse or fine white spots, black with yellow spots or black with a greyish or greenish sheen. The underside is paler. Juveniles are greenish-grey or bronze and have yellow at the base of their legs.
Distribution and habitat
The black salamander is found in forested areas and grassland in the coastal ranges of south western United States mostly at elevations below 600 meters (2,000 ft) but occasionally up to 1,700 meters (5,600 ft). It has several disjunct populations. The southernmost population is in the Santa Cruz Mountains. North of this there is a gap where it does not occur and then another population in northern California and southern Oregon. In the southern part of its range it hides under logs and rocks in damp places and stream banks in woodland. Northern populations are found in more open country and in the far north of its range it is found among mossy rocks and scree.
The black salamander is mostly terrestrial but has a prehensile tail so may sometimes climb as does the related arboreal salamander Aneides lugubris. It feeds on small invertebrates such as millipedes, beetles, ants and termites. Juveniles have a similar diet but include flies and springtails. Like other plethodont salamanders, it is mainly nocturnal and hides during the day.
The breeding habits of the black salamander have been little studied. The eggs are laid in July or August in underground chambers, where they are attached by short stalks to the moist soil. The female seems to guard the eggs until they hatch. In captivity, the black salamander is aggressive towards its own species and adults in the wild are often scarred, so the species is probably territorial. In the laboratory it has been known to bite the western garter snake when attacked.
The black salamander is listed as "Near threatened" in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This is because it is threatened by habitat loss and even where its environment remains undergraded, it seems to be declining in numbers. In some areas it has been displaced by the planting of vineyards.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Aneides flavipunctatus.|
- "Aneides flavipunctatus flavipunctatus - Speckled Black Salamander". CaliforniaHerps. Retrieved 2012-08-30.
- Staub, Nancy L.; Wake, David B. "Aneides flavipunctatus". AmphibiaWeb. Retrieved 2012-08-30.
- Hammerson, Geoffrey (2004). "Aneides flavipunctatus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.1. Retrieved 2012-08-30.
- Stebbins, Robert C.; Cohen, Nathan W. (1995). A Natural History of Amphibians. Princeton University Press. pp. 54–55. ISBN 0-691-03281-5.
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: Highton (2000) reviewed allozyme data presented by Larson (1980) and concluded that the three geographical isolates of A. flavipunctatus likely comprise three species. Further evaluation of this hypothesis is needed.
Mahoney (2001) used mtDNA data to examine phylogenetic relationships of western and eastern Plethodon and Aneides. She found strong support for eastern Plethodon as a clade, but monophyly of Aneides was only weakly supported in some analyses, though "the monophyly of this clade is not in doubt." Analyses indicated that Plethodon stormi and P. elongatus are clearly sister taxa, and P. dunni and P. vehiculum also are well-supported sister taxa. Plethodon larselli and P. vandykei appear to be closely related, whereas P. neomexicanus did not group with any other lineage. All analyses yielded a paraphyletic Plethodon but constraint analyses did not allow rejection of a monophyletic Plethodon . Mahoney recommended continued recognition of Aneides as a valid genus and adoption of the metataxon designation for Plethodon *, indicating this status with an asterisk. (A metataxon is a group of lineages for which neither monophyly nor paraphyly can be demonstrated.)