Comprehensive Description

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Slim, long-legged,and agile: an excellent climber. Reaches about 65 mm snout-vent length and about 110 mm total length. Tips of toes of adpressed limbs separated by no more than 1.5 costal folds and sometimes overlapping by as much as 1.5 folds. Usually 16 costal grooves. The toes have slightly broadened and squarish tips. Brown above, clouded with ash, greenish gray, pale gold, or reddish; dusky below. In the dark phase these salamanders may be almost solid brown above. In the light phase, pale gray color may predominate and the brown color may be reduced to a network. Some adults in Oregon and extrme northwest California are almost uniformly dark brown above with a few cream-colored spots. Hatchlings have a copper or brassy dorsal stripe that soon becomes reduced to patches on the snout, shoulders, upper surface of limbs, and tail (Stebbins 1985). As juveniles become older their color pattern become darker and duller (McKenzie and Storm 1971). Male has heart-shaped mental gland, absent in female (Stebbins 1985).

Behavior. In contrast to the wandering salamander, the clouded salamander appears to be relatively aggressive. Thirty-two percent of specimens from an Oregon population had scars, presumably from conspecific attacks, and males had a higher percentage of scars than did females (Staub, 1993). Studies on A. vagrans indirectly suggest that this species may not be as aggressive as is A. ferreusA. vagrans does not use the chemical signals of fecal pellets to delimit territory boundaries, as other plethodontids tend to do (Ovaska and Davis, 1992).

Interspecific Associations/Exclusions. Clouded and wandering salamanders overlap in a zone < 15 km wide in northwestern California. Jackman, (1999(1998)) report slight evidence of introgression, but clear hybrid individuals have never been identified. The range of the clouded salamander also overlaps with its congener, the black salamander (A. flavipunctatus) (Fitch, 1936; Myers and Maslin, 1948; Stebbins, 1985), especially in the Klamath River valley, but the black salamander occurs in hotter, drier regions (for example, further up the Klamath River valley). Mitochondrial, allozyme, and karyotypic data distinguish A. ferreus from A. vagrans (Sessions and Kezer, 1987; Jackman, 1999(1998). Morphologically, these two species are similar (Beatty, 1979).

Feeding Behavior. As with most salamanders, clouded salamanders are generalist feeders. Adults primarily eat isopods (sowbugs), hymenopterans (ants), and coleopterans but their diet also includes an important assortment of other insects (e.g., dipterans, isopterans (termites)), and mites, spiders, pseudoscorpions, centipedes, and millipedes (Fitch, 1936; Storm and Aller, 1947; Bury and Martin, 1973; Whitaker et al., 1986). Whitaker et al. (1986) found no significant differences between the diets of adult males and females. Hatchlings (< 20 mm SVL) eat small prey, primarily mites, springtails, flies, and small beetles (Whitaker, et al., 1986). As juveniles get larger, they switch to eating larger prey items such as sowbugs, larger beetles, and earwigs (Whitaker et al., 1986). Adults occasionally consume shed skin (Whitaker et al., 1986).

Predators. Poorly documented, but Petranka (1998) suggests predators of Aneides sp. include mammals, woodland birds, and snakes.

Anti-Predator Mechanisms. Several anti-predatory behaviors have been observed in the clouded or wandering salamander when individuals are startled or attacked: crawling away rapidly, immobility, a defensive posture (raising the body and undulating the tail), and flipping around followed by immobility (Fitch, 1936; Brodie, 1977). Skin secretions are thought to be noxious (Brodie, 1977).

Parasites. One species of nematode has been identified in the clouded salamander (Lehman, 1954; Goldberg et al., 1998).

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