Comprehensive DescriptionRead full entry
A large, usually aquatic salamander. Most individuals never metamorphose and retain gills throughout life. Only six metamorphosed individuals have been found in the wild (Nussbaum 1976; Loafman and Jones 1996), and description here applies primarily to the larval form. Adults reach 6.5 - 11.4 cm snout to vent length and can be up to 20.5 cm total length (Nussbaum 1983; Leonard et al. 1993). The dorsum is brown with little mottling, often with yellowish tan patches. The venter of young individuals is white and in older individuals it is bluish gray. The morphology is typical of stream-dwelling larval salamanders with short, bushy gills and a low tail fin that extends onto the body, forward of the hind limb insertion. Eyes are lidless (Petranka 1998).
For a long time, D. copei was not distinguished from D. ensatus (Nussbaum 1970; 1976; 1983).Recent genetic studies (Dougherty et al. 1983; Good 1989) have supported the recognition of these forms as separate species. The genus Dicamptodon was historically included as a subfamily (Dicamptodontinae) in the family Ambystomatidae, and was placed in a separate family, Dicamptodontidae, based on features of the spinal nerves (Edwards 1976).