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Torrent Salamanders: Rhyacotritonidae

Habitat, Behavior And Reproduction, Cascade Torrent Salamander (rhyacotriton Cascadae): Species AccountPHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS, GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, DIET, TORRENT SALAMANDERS AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS


Torrent salamanders are small, short-tailed, greenish yellow, large-eyed salamanders. They are 3 to 4.5 inches (8 to 11 centimeters) long with a stocky body, a broad head, eyes that stick out, and a short snout. The legs are small but sturdy. The tail is short, is flat from side to side, and has a small ridge along the top. These salamanders have lungs that do not function.

Torrent salamanders live in the northwestern part of the United States from the Olympic Peninsula in northwestern Washington in the coast ranges to southern Mendocino County in northern California. They live in the Cascade range from the vicinity of Mount Saint Helens, Washington, south to central Oregon.

Scientists believe torrent salamanders eat insects, especially larvae, and other invertebrates (in-VER-teh-brehts), or animals without backbones. 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.

Torrent salamanders help scientists understand the biological characteristics of the Pacific Northwest region.


The scientific name for the torrent salamander family, Rhyacotritonidae, comes from the Greek rhyakos, meaning "stream," and Triton, the Greek god of the sea. Despite the common name, a torrent being a violent, rushing stream, these salamanders rarely live in such water, although they may be found nearby.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) lists one species of torrent salamanders as Vulnerable and two species as Low Risk/Near Threatened. Vulnerable means facing high risk of extinction in the wild. Low Risk/Near Threatened means at risk of becoming threatened with extinction in the future. Clearing of forests is the greatest risk to torrent salamanders, because it damages their habitat.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceAmphibians