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Pacific Giant Salamanders: Dicamptodontidae

Physical Characteristics

Pacific giant salamanders are large, strong salamanders that live as larvae for several years. Larvae (LAR-vee) are animals in an early stage that change body form in a process called metamorphosis (MEH-tuh-MORE-feh-sis) before becoming adults. After metamorphosis Pacific giant salamanders live on land. These salamanders are 7 to 14 inches (17 to 35 centimeters) long. There are only four species: the Idaho giant salamander, Cope's giant salamander, the California giant salamander, and the coastal giant salamander.

Pacific giant salamanders have a large head, a stout body, well-developed eyes, and large, thick legs. They have strong jaws and many small but well developed teeth. The tail is short for a salamander tail—about an inch (2.5 centimeters) shorter than the length of the head plus the body. The tail is flat from side to side and has a ridge along the top and the bottom. Adult Pacific giant salamanders are dark brown and often have blotches of different shades of gray. The belly is light brown or yellowish white.

The larvae of Pacific giant salamanders are somewhat flat from back to belly and are dark in color. The short, strong tail is flat from side to side and has a small fin. Larvae that live in small, rapidly flowing streams have short, bushy red gills, but those that live in lakes and large streams have large, filmy gills. Gills are organs for obtaining oxygen from water.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceAmphibiansPacific Giant Salamanders: Dicamptodontidae - Physical Characteristics, Geographic Range, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, Coastal Giant Salamander (dicamptodon Tenebrosus): Species Account - HABITAT, PACIFIC GIANT SALAMANDERS AND PEO