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Long-toed Salamander Ambystoma macrodactylum


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Long-toed Salamander, Southern subspecies, southwestern Oregon
credit: Thompsma

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Family: Ambystomidae, Mole Salamanders view all from this family

Description Long and slender with mottled black/brown color with yellow spots that form a stripe. Fourth outer toe on hind legs characteristically long. Underside is dark brown with flecks. Occasionally has blueish spots on the side.

Dimensions Length: 10-17cm (4-6.5")

Endangered Status The Santa Cruz Long-toed Salamander, a subspecies of the Long-toed Salamander, is on the U.S. Endangered Species List. It is classified as endangered in California. This salamander was discovered in 1954, and its populations were probably already low at that time. It lives in only a few small ponds in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties, and residential and agricultural development has adversely affected its habitat. Currently the Santa Cruz Long-toed Salamander lives in protected lands set aside as the Ellicot Slough National Wildlife Refuge, and is closely monitored by biologists.

Subspecies 5 classified subspecies. Western has dull green/yellowish color with black stripes. Eastern is bright yellow with blotches that form a black stripe. Santa Cruz is black with orange markings on its back. Northern has a yellow back stripe. Southern has yellow blotches and small spots on head. Subspecies overlaps in places.

Breeding Breeds as early as mid-February to May/June. Characteristic breeding dance performed which releases pheromones to attract females. Males group together under rocks & logs near ponds and breed for a few days. Males directly approach females and grab on. Egg surrounded by a gelatinous capsule. Embryo is visible. Eggs 2mm in diameter. Larvae, once hatched, have balancers to support their heads. With maturity these fall off and gills grow larger.

Habitat Variety of habitats including rainforest, coniferous forests, sagebrush plains and alpine meadows. Normally under woody debris, rocks and burrows.

Range Widely spread across North America. From Monterey bay to Santa Cruz through northeastern California along the pacific coast.

Discussion Hibernates in winter. Groups of 10-14 individuals. Stores protein in its skin and along its tail for hibernation. This doubles as a defence mechanism. When threatened it excretes a milky substance which is potentially poisonous. If tail is severed it will regrow.