North American Ecology (US and Canada)
endemic to a single state or province
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Global Range: (<100-250 square km (less than about 40-100 square miles)) Restricted to the Sierra Nevada at high altitudes, mainly above 9000', between Tuolumne and Tulare Counties, California (Ferris, 1988; Opler, 1999). Northernmost point of distribution is near Tower Peak at the northern boundary of Yosemite National Park (Opler, personal observation).
Sierra Nevada Forests
The Limestone salamander is a highly localized endemic of the Sierra Nevada forests foothills conifned to a limited reach of the Merced River. The Sierra Nevada forests are the forested areas of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, which run northwest to southwest and are approximately 650 kilometers long and 80 km wide. The range achieves its greatest height towards the south, with a number of peaks reaching heights of over 4000 meters. Several large river valleys dissect the western slope with dramatic canyons. The eastern escarpment is much steeper than the western slope, in general.
The Sierra Nevada forests ecoregion harbors one of the most diverse temperate conifer forests on Earth displaying an extraordinary range of habitat types and supporting many unusual species. Fifty percent of California's estimated 7000 species of vascular plants occur in the Sierra Nevada, with 400 Sierra endemics and 200 rare species. The southern section has the highest concentration of species and rare and endemic species, but pockets of rare plants occur throughout the range.
Sierra Nevada amphibian endemics are the Yosemite toad, Mount Lyell salamander (Hydromantes platycephalus), the Vulnerable Limestone salamander (Hydromantes brunus), Kern salamander and the Endangered Inyo Mountains salamander (Batrachoseps campi). The non endemic amphibians are: the Endangered Southern mountain yellow-legged frog (Rana muscosa); the Near Threatened Cascades frog (Rana cascadae); Northern red-legged frog (Rana aurora); Pacific chorus frog (Pseudacris regilia); Foothill Yellow-legged frog (Rana boylii); Long-toed salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum); and the Monterey ensatina (Ensatina eschscholtzii).
A considerable number of mammalian taxa are found in the ecoregion, including the Long-eared chipmunk, Alpine chipmunk, Western heather vole, Walker Pass pocket mouse, and the Yellow-eared pocket-mouse. A diverse vertebrate predator assemblage once occurred in the ecoregion including Grizzly bear (Ursus arctos), Black bear (Ursus americanus), Coyote (Canis latrans), Mountain lion (Puma concolor), Ringtail (Bassariscus astutus), Fisher (Martes pennanti), Pine marten (Martes americana) and Wolverine (Gulo gulo).
There are a small number of reptilian taxa present in the Sierra Nevada forests: sagebrush lizard (Sceloporus graciosus); Northern alligator lizard (Elgaria coerulea); Southern alligator lizard (Elgaria multicarinata); Sharp-tailed snake (Contia tenuis); California mountain kingsnake (Molothrus ater); Common garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis); Couch's garter snake (Thamnophis couchii); Western gopher snake (Pituophis catenifer); Longnose snake (Rhinocheilus lecontei); and the Common kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula).
A number of bird species are found in the ecoreion including high level predators that include several large owls, hawks and eagles. Other representative avifauna species present are the Blue-headed vireo (Vireo solitarius); Brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater); and the Near Threatened Cassin's finch (Carpodacus cassinii).
Comments: Moist alpine and subalpine meadows surrounded by low shrubs including those of the caterpillar host plants shrub willow or dwarf billberry (VACCINIUM CESPITOSUM)(Garth and Tilden, 1963; Scott, 1986; Opler, 1999).
Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.
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: Caterpillars eat the leaves of shrub willow or dwarf billberry (VACCINIUM CESPITOSUM)(Garth and Tilden, 1963; Scott, 1986; Opler, 1999). Adults nectar at various low flowers.
Number of Occurrences
Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.
Estimated Number of Occurrences: 21 - 80
10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals
Life History and Behavior
Comments: Adults have a single flight in July and August (Ferris, 1988). Winter is passed by young caterpillars. The possibility exists that as for many alpine and subalpine species, two years may be necessary to complete the life cycle.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Colias behrii
Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Colias behrii
Public Records: 5
Specimens with Barcodes: 15
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N2 - Imperiled
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G2 - Imperiled
Reasons: Restricted to high alpine meadows of California's Sierra Nevada. Thus a very limited range. . In general common at high enough altitudes within this tiny range. Some occurrences are protected. Likely to be vulnerable to climate change given shortage of higher refugia and limited range.
Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable (=10% change)
Global Long Term Trend: Unknown
Degree of Threat: Medium
Comments: Summer cattle grazing of US Forest Service lands may be a threat, but usually not so high in elevation. Trampling of meadows by domestic livestock and hikers. Introduction of alien weeds is a less serious threat. Climate change probably is the greatest current threat. This butterfly is already confined to high altitudes.
Global Protection: Few to several (1-12) occurrences appropriately protected and managed
Comments: National Park in part, USFS other parts.
The wingspan is 35–42 mm (1.4–1.7 in). The upper surface of the males is dull green with a dark border and with a pale hindwing cell spot. Females are greenish-yellow with a dark diffuse border. The underside of both sexes is green. Adults are on wing from July to August. They feed on flower nectar.
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