Overview

Comprehensive Description

Description

A small, terrestrial salamander. Adults are 40-50 mm snout to vent length (70-115 mm total length) (Brodie 1970; Petranka 1998). A dorsal stripe with even edges extends to the tip of the tail. Coloration of the stripe ranges from yellow or red to olive green or tan. The red variant is most common. The sides are gray to black, and the venter is gray with white speckling (Leonard et al. 1993; Petranka 1998). Females tend to be larger than males. Hatchlings are 13-15 mm snout to vent length, and juvenile coloration is brighter than adults (Peacock and Nussbaum 1973; Leonard et al. 1993).

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Corn, P. S. and Bury, R. B. (1991). ''Terrestrial amphibian communities in the Oregon Coast Range.'' Wildlife and Vegetation of Unmanaged Douglas-fir Forests. L. F. Ruggiero, K. B. Aubry, A. B. Carey, and M. H. Huff, eds., USDA Forest Service General Technical Report PNW-GTR-285, 304-317.
  • Jockusch, E. L., and Mahoney, M. J. (1997). ''Communal oviposition and lack of parental care in Batrachoseps nigriventris (Caudata: Plethodontidae) with a discussion of the evolution of breeding behavior in plethodontid salamanders.'' Copeia, 1997, 1966-1982.
  • Duellman, W. E., and Trueb, L. (1986). Biology of Amphibians. McGraw-Hill, New York.
  • Leonard, W.P., Brown, H.A., Jones, L.L.C., McAllister, K.R., and Storm, R.M. (1993). Amphibians of Washington and Oregon. Seattle Audubon, Seattle.
  • Brodie, E. D., Jr. (1970). "Western salamanders of the genus Plethodon: Systematics and geographic variation." Herpetologica, 26(4), 468-516.
  • Ovaska, K., and Gregory, P. T. (1989). ''Population structure, growth, and reproduction in a Vancouver Island population of the salamander Plethodon vehiculum.'' Herpetologica, 45(2), 133-143.
  • Peacock, R. L., and Nussbaum, R. A. (1973). ''Reproductive biology and population structure of the Western Red-backed Salamander, Plethodon vehiculum (Cooper).'' Journal of Herpetology, 7, 215-224.
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Distribution

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: (20,000-200,000 square km (about 8000-80,000 square miles)) Southwestern British Columbia, including Vancouver Island, south through western Washington to southwestern Oregon (Petranka 1998). Sea level to about 4100 ft (1250 m) (Stebbins 1985).

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Range Description

This species can be found in Western North America from southwestern British Columbia, including Vancouver Island, south through western Washington to southwestern Oregon (Petranka 1998). It occurs from sea level to about 1,250m asl (Stebbins 1985).
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Distribution and Habitat

Vancouver Island and adjacent areas of mainland British Columbia, Canada, south through Washington, west of the Cascade Mountains crest, and in the Coast Ranges of Oregon. An inhabitant of moist, coniferous forests. Populations are frequently found associated with talus slopes but also on forest floors where there are plenty of cover objects such as logs, bark, or rocks (Petranka 1998).

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Corn, P. S. and Bury, R. B. (1991). ''Terrestrial amphibian communities in the Oregon Coast Range.'' Wildlife and Vegetation of Unmanaged Douglas-fir Forests. L. F. Ruggiero, K. B. Aubry, A. B. Carey, and M. H. Huff, eds., USDA Forest Service General Technical Report PNW-GTR-285, 304-317.
  • Jockusch, E. L., and Mahoney, M. J. (1997). ''Communal oviposition and lack of parental care in Batrachoseps nigriventris (Caudata: Plethodontidae) with a discussion of the evolution of breeding behavior in plethodontid salamanders.'' Copeia, 1997, 1966-1982.
  • Duellman, W. E., and Trueb, L. (1986). Biology of Amphibians. McGraw-Hill, New York.
  • Leonard, W.P., Brown, H.A., Jones, L.L.C., McAllister, K.R., and Storm, R.M. (1993). Amphibians of Washington and Oregon. Seattle Audubon, Seattle.
  • Brodie, E. D., Jr. (1970). "Western salamanders of the genus Plethodon: Systematics and geographic variation." Herpetologica, 26(4), 468-516.
  • Ovaska, K., and Gregory, P. T. (1989). ''Population structure, growth, and reproduction in a Vancouver Island population of the salamander Plethodon vehiculum.'' Herpetologica, 45(2), 133-143.
  • Peacock, R. L., and Nussbaum, R. A. (1973). ''Reproductive biology and population structure of the Western Red-backed Salamander, Plethodon vehiculum (Cooper).'' Journal of Herpetology, 7, 215-224.
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Physical Description

Size

Length: 12 cm

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Type Information

Paratype for Plethodon vehiculum
Catalog Number: USNM 6635
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: 209.
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Holotype for Plethodon vehiculum
Catalog Number: USNM 4732
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Preparation: Ethanol
Locality: Fort Tejon, Kern, California, United States, North America
  • Holotype: Baird, S. F. 1868. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia. 19: 209.
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Ecology

Habitat

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: Humid coniferous forests; damp talus slopes and shaded ravines. Found under rocks, logs, leaf litter, and other forest debris. On Vancouver Island, small individuals were found under small rocks and away from discrete cover objects in leaf litter and under moss more frequently than were larger individuals (Ovaska and Gregory 1989). Lays eggs on land in moist retreats.

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
It can be found in humid coniferous forests; damp talus slopes and shaded ravines. Found under rocks, logs, leaf-litter, and other forest debris. On Vancouver Island, small individuals were found under small rocks and away from discrete cover objects in leaf-litter and under moss more frequently than were larger individuals (Ovaska and Gregory 1989). Lays eggs on land in moist retreats, where they develop directly without a larval stage.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Migration

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.

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Trophic Strategy

Comments: Feeds on a wide variety of terrestrial invertebrates including mites, collembolans, spiders and isopods (Nussbaum et al. 1983).

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Population Biology

Global Abundance

100,000 - 1,000,000 individuals

Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but likely exceeds 100,000. One of the most commonly encountered terrestrial salamanders throughout its range (Nussbaum et al. 1983).

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General Ecology

In British Columbia, mean distance between the two farthest captures over several months was 2.7 m (range up to 8-9 m) for adult males, which moved greater distances than did adult females and juveniles (Ovaska 1988); captures during the active season ranged from 0.3-1.16 per sq m, highest in spring (Ovaska and Gregory 1989).

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Comments: Inactive in cold temperatures and hot, dry weather. On Vancouver Island, adults active on surface mainly March-June and September-November (also in mild winter weather); juveniles remained above ground in midsummer (Ovaska and Gregory 1989).

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 11.1 years (captivity)
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Reproduction

In Oregon, breeds mainly from November-early March; courtship occurs in autumn on Vancouver Island (Ovaska and Gregory 1989). Female lays a clutch of about 10 eggs in the spring, broods them during the summer. Hatchlings appear in autumn. Female oviposits at intervals of 2 years or more; male produces sperm every year.

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Plethodon vehiculum

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 8
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

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: Common and still well distributed throughout the historical range in western Oregon, western Washington, and southwestern British Columbia.

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable

Environmental Specificity: Broad. Generalist or community with all key requirements common.

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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, tolerance of a degree of habitat modification, 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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Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable to decline of 30%

Comments: Likely stable in extent of occurrence and probably stable to slightly declining in population size, area of occupancy, and number/condition of occurrences.

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

Comments: Likely relatively stable in extent of occurrence, probably less than 25% decline in population size, area of occurrence, and number/condition of occurrences.

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Population

Population
It is one of the most commonly encountered terrestrial salamanders throughout its range (Nussbaum et al. 1983).

Population Trend
Stable
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Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors

Like other members of the genus Plethodon, P. vehiculum is completely terrestrial through all stages of its life history; courtship, mating, and egg deposition occur on land. There is no free living larval stage, and juveniles hatch completely metamorphosed (Stebbins 1985; Petranka 1998). Courtship behavior has not been described, but general facts are known based on closely related species. Fertilization occurs by means of a spermatophore deposited on the substrate by the male and picked up in the cloaca by the female (Duellman and Trueb 1986).Mating occurs from September through January, depending on location (Peacock and Nussbaum 1973; Ovaska and Gregory 1989). Eggs are deposited during spring or early summer, although nests have not been found (Peacock and Nussbaum 1973). The female likely attends the eggs throughout development, as in other plethodontid salamanders (Jockusch and Mahoney 1997). Clutch size is 6-19 (average 10). Hatching occurs in late summer (August to early September) (Peacock and Nussbaum 1973; Nussbaum et al. 1983).

Diet consists of small, terrestrial invertebrates. Likely predators are small mammals, birds, and carabid beetles (on juveniles). See Petranka (1998) for references.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Corn, P. S. and Bury, R. B. (1991). ''Terrestrial amphibian communities in the Oregon Coast Range.'' Wildlife and Vegetation of Unmanaged Douglas-fir Forests. L. F. Ruggiero, K. B. Aubry, A. B. Carey, and M. H. Huff, eds., USDA Forest Service General Technical Report PNW-GTR-285, 304-317.
  • Jockusch, E. L., and Mahoney, M. J. (1997). ''Communal oviposition and lack of parental care in Batrachoseps nigriventris (Caudata: Plethodontidae) with a discussion of the evolution of breeding behavior in plethodontid salamanders.'' Copeia, 1997, 1966-1982.
  • Duellman, W. E., and Trueb, L. (1986). Biology of Amphibians. McGraw-Hill, New York.
  • Leonard, W.P., Brown, H.A., Jones, L.L.C., McAllister, K.R., and Storm, R.M. (1993). Amphibians of Washington and Oregon. Seattle Audubon, Seattle.
  • Brodie, E. D., Jr. (1970). "Western salamanders of the genus Plethodon: Systematics and geographic variation." Herpetologica, 26(4), 468-516.
  • Ovaska, K., and Gregory, P. T. (1989). ''Population structure, growth, and reproduction in a Vancouver Island population of the salamander Plethodon vehiculum.'' Herpetologica, 45(2), 133-143.
  • Peacock, R. L., and Nussbaum, R. A. (1973). ''Reproductive biology and population structure of the Western Red-backed Salamander, Plethodon vehiculum (Cooper).'' Journal of Herpetology, 7, 215-224.
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Threats

Degree of Threat: Low

Comments: Logging is not a major threat because this species maintains thriving populations in young forests.

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Major Threats
There are no major threats to this species. Logging is not a major threat because this species maintains thriving populations in young forests.
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Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors

Plethodon vehiculum are found in forests of all ages and may be abundant in young forests (Corn and Bury 1991; Petranka 1998). Long term studies to compare the effect of logging on this and other woodland species would be very interesting.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Corn, P. S. and Bury, R. B. (1991). ''Terrestrial amphibian communities in the Oregon Coast Range.'' Wildlife and Vegetation of Unmanaged Douglas-fir Forests. L. F. Ruggiero, K. B. Aubry, A. B. Carey, and M. H. Huff, eds., USDA Forest Service General Technical Report PNW-GTR-285, 304-317.
  • Jockusch, E. L., and Mahoney, M. J. (1997). ''Communal oviposition and lack of parental care in Batrachoseps nigriventris (Caudata: Plethodontidae) with a discussion of the evolution of breeding behavior in plethodontid salamanders.'' Copeia, 1997, 1966-1982.
  • Duellman, W. E., and Trueb, L. (1986). Biology of Amphibians. McGraw-Hill, New York.
  • Leonard, W.P., Brown, H.A., Jones, L.L.C., McAllister, K.R., and Storm, R.M. (1993). Amphibians of Washington and Oregon. Seattle Audubon, Seattle.
  • Brodie, E. D., Jr. (1970). "Western salamanders of the genus Plethodon: Systematics and geographic variation." Herpetologica, 26(4), 468-516.
  • Ovaska, K., and Gregory, P. T. (1989). ''Population structure, growth, and reproduction in a Vancouver Island population of the salamander Plethodon vehiculum.'' Herpetologica, 45(2), 133-143.
  • Peacock, R. L., and Nussbaum, R. A. (1973). ''Reproductive biology and population structure of the Western Red-backed Salamander, Plethodon vehiculum (Cooper).'' Journal of Herpetology, 7, 215-224.
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Management

Global Protection: Many (13-40) occurrences appropriately protected and managed

Comments: Likely many occurrences are adequately protected.

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Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
No conservation measures are needed for this species. It occurs in many protected areas.
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Wikipedia

Western redback salamander

The western redback salamander (Plethodon vehiculum) is a species of salamander in the Plethodontidae family, found in Canada and the United States. Its natural habitats are temperate forests and rocky areas. Colored stripe on back changes from red to yellow

References[edit]


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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: 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.)

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