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Torrent Salamanders: Rhyacotritonidae

Cascade Torrent Salamander (rhyacotriton Cascadae): Species Account

Physical characteristics: Cascade torrent salamanders are 3 to
4.5 inches (7.5 to 11 centimeters) long from tip of snout to tip of tail. The body is stout with a broad head, eyes that stick out, and a relatively short snout. The tail is flat from side to side, has a ridge along the top, and is shorter than the head plus the body. Cascade torrent salamanders usually are rich brown on top and yellowish and sometimes greenish yellow on the belly. The back is marked with darker blotches and speckles. There is a sharp difference between the brown of the back and sides and the yellow of the belly. There are white flecks on the sides above the beginning of the yellow belly. The belly has dark spots, but there are fewer spots than on the back. There are fine gray flecks on the throat and chest. Male Cascade torrent salamanders have swellings on the edges of the belly.

Adult Cascade torrent salamanders go onto land but rarely travel more than a few feet from water. The larvae live in the same habitat as adults but stay in the water. (Illustration by Bruce Worden. Reproduced by permission.)

Geographic range: Cascade torrent salamanders live in the United States in the Cascade Mountains. The range extends from near Mount Saint Helens in Washington to central Oregon. These salamanders usually live at a height of less than 2,000 feet (610 meters) above sea level.

Habitat: Cascade torrent salamanders live in streams, usually in heavily forested areas. These salamanders avoid large streams but may be found near them in small, rapidly flowing arms of the streams, where they live under moss-covered rocks, in coarse gravel, in piles of rocks, and in cracks in rocks in areas that are very moist. Water often is flowing through the rocks in thin sheets. Adult Cascade torrent salamanders go onto land but rarely travel more than a few feet (1 meter) from water. The larvae live in the same habitat as adults but stay in the water.

Diet: Scientists believe that Cascade torrent salamanders eat small invertebrates, especially insect larvae and mollusks. Mollusks (MAH-lusks) are animals with a soft, unsegmented body that may or may not have a shell, such as slugs and snails.

Behavior and reproduction: Scientists do not know how Cascade torrent salamanders behave. These salamanders are extremely secretive. They are not seen unless people actively look for them by turning over rocks. Scientists also are not sure how Cascade torrent salamanders reproduce. A related species lays about eight colorless eggs one at a time in cold water flowing through rocks and rock cracks. The eggs probably are slow to hatch in the cold water. Larvae grow slowly, taking three or four years to go through metamorphosis, which they do when they are 1.5 to 1.8 inches (4 to 4.5 centimeters) long.

Cascade torrent salamanders and people: Cascade torrent salamanders have no known importance to people.

Conservation status: The World Conservation Union (IUCN) lists Cascade torrent salamanders as Low Risk/Near Threatened, or at risk of becoming threatened with extinction in the future. The greatest risk to these salamanders is the cutting of forests, which causes the small streams used by these animals to become too hot and to dry up. ∎



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Duellman, William E., and Linda Trueb. Biology of Amphibians. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994.

Gunzi, Christiane. Amphibians and Reptiles of North America. San Diego, CA: Thunder Bay, 1995.

Lawlor, Elizabeth P. Discover Nature in Water and Wetlands. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2000.

Llamas Ruiz, Andres. Reptiles and Amphibians: Birth and Growth. New York: Sterling, 1996.

Petranka, J. W. Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1998.

Web sites:

Heying, H. "Rhyacotritonidae." Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Rhyacotritonidae.html (accessed on April 8, 2005).

"Rhyacotriton (Dunn, 1920) Torrent Salamanders." Livingunderworld.org. http://www.livingunderworld.org/caudata/database/rhyacotritonidae/rhyacotriton (accessed on April 8, 2005).

Wallays, Henk. "Observations on Torrent Salamanders (Rhyacotriton) in Oregon and California." Caudata.org. http://www.caudata.org/cc/articles/Rhyacotriton.shtml (accessed on April 26, 2005).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceAmphibiansTorrent Salamanders: Rhyacotritonidae - Habitat, Behavior And Reproduction, Cascade Torrent Salamander (rhyacotriton Cascadae): Species Account - PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS, GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, DIET, TORRENT SALAMANDERS AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS