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Lungless Salamanders: Plethodontidae

Arboreal Salamander (aneides Lugubris): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: Arboreal (ar-BOR-ee-ul) salamanders have a heavily muscled head and body; a long, grasping tail; and long, grasping toes. The toes also have widened, somewhat curved tips. Arboreal salamanders are a little longer than 7 inches (18 centimeters) from tip of snout to tip of tail. Their large eyes bulge from the head in front of large jaw muscles. The head is nearly triangular. The upper and lower jaws have large, saber-like teeth with curved tips that can cause a serious wound. These salamanders are grayish brown to brown with yellow spots and a lighter belly. The spots can be small and scattered or large and close together.

Geographic range: Arboreal salamanders live mainly in California, United States, in the coastal mountains and valleys from the northwestern part of the state to the extreme northwestern part of Baja California Norte, Mexico. Some of these salamanders live on off-shore islands in the Pacific Ocean. Scattered groups live in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.

Despite their large jaws and teeth, arboreal salamanders mainly eat small insects and crustaceans. (Illustration by Gillian Harris. Reproduced by permission.)

Habitat: Arboreal salamanders live mainly in oak woodlands, where they use holes in the trees for nesting sites and for escape from dry conditions. These salamanders also live in sycamore woodlands near creeks in the southern parts of their range. Arboreal salamanders are commonly found under the bark of fallen oak logs, under rocks, and in holes in the ground.

Diet: Despite their large jaws and teeth, arboreal salamanders mainly eat small insects and crustaceans. Sometimes they eat slender salamanders.

Behavior and reproduction: Arboreal salamanders are aggressive. Both males and females have large jaw muscles and teeth that they use in fights over territory and against predators. These salamanders are good climbers, but most of their activity takes place on the ground.

Arboreal salamanders spend their entire lives on land. They do not enter water to breed. The females lay grape-like clusters of large eggs that are suspended from the roofs of underground holes, in large decaying logs, or in trees. The eggs hatch three to four months after they are laid, just before the fall rains. Young salamanders that look like small adults emerge from the eggs.

Arboreal salamanders and people: Arboreal salamanders have no known importance to people.

Conservation status: Arboreal salamanders are not considered threatened or endangered. ∎

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceAmphibiansLungless Salamanders: Plethodontidae - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, Dusky Salamander (desmognathus Fuscus): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, LUNGLESS SALAMANDERS AND PEOPLE