Sunday, April 29, 2012

Santa Lucia Mountains slender salamander ~ 04/29/12 ~ at home

Santa Lucia Mountains slender salamander
Batrachoseps luciae
(map of distribution)

I ran out of potting soil, my compost isn't ready, and my favorite commercial soil mix is out of stock for a week. Sigh. So, I decided to pull out some of the prolific Vinca major under the douglas-fir and collect what turned out to be very rich soil. As I was sifting the soil for rocks and debris, I found what I figured was an earthworm. "Oh, good!", I thought, because I've been adding earthworms to my largest container with nasturtiums. Hmm... but hey, this little one has short legs and the cutest toes that put me over the edge of aww!

Oh man, I have had such a difficult time figuring out which species this slender salamander is. According to different sources, in CA there are anywhere from 19, 20, to 21 species of Batrachoseps. AmphibiaWeb shows an old map of relictual slender salamander (B. relictus) as being in this area; whereas California Herps shows both Gabilan Mountains slender salamander (B. gavilanensis with map) and Santa Lucia Mountains slender salamander (B. luciae). However, I wonder if it might be a California slender salamander (B. attenuatus with more information). I'm sending e-mails to some experts to help me, but if you know, please comment. Don Roberson of Creagus has an excellent site on slender salamanders.

ps 05/04/12 - I heard back from Gary at California Herps; he's continually creating the best CA herp site I've found. With his permission, here's what he said, "Fortunately there is only one species of slender salamander in that area [at my home] - the Santa Lucia Mountains Slender Salamander. Since all of the species look the same, you need to go by the range in order to identify most slender salamanders. Old books call it the relictual slender salamander, but that name was changed around 10 years ago. The Gabilan Mountains Slender Salamander does get up to Monterey Bay, but only north of the Monterey peninsula up near the Elkhorn Slough area. The California slender salamander is found north of there. You are welcome to quote me, but I wouldn't call myself an expert." Ha! Thank you very much, Mr. Nafis, aka Mr. Herp King.

Oh, I want to mention that I believe Batrachoseps spp. are the only genus of salamanders with 4 toes on their hind feet; all other salamanders have 5 toes on their hind feet along with the always 4 front toes. Cool!  Right?

pss 05/07/12 - I also heard back from John at Wild Herps. I forgot to provide him specific location information. With his permission, here's what he said, "Your salamander is a Batrachoseps (slender salamander) species. Exactly which Batrachoseps species can probably be determined only by where you found it, as there are a bunch of nearly identical species in California. If it was in Monterey or Pacific Grove then it would be Batrachoseps luciae. Check out the range maps at <>." Thank you, John! Hope your trip was amazing.

pss 06/05/12 - I found another slender salamander in soil I had collected several weeks ago in a bucket and just now got around to sifting through it. It looked different than the one above by not having the reddish back. I wonder if there are loads of slender salamanders hidden among the Vinca major.


John W. Wall said...

Good to know the bit about the number of toes. Makes it easier to know which kind you're tracking. :)

Katie (Nature ID) said...

I finally got the toe count down. Lizards always have 5 toes front and back. Salamanders have 4 toes, with the only exception of Batrachoseps on the back... I believe?

Jeannette said...

I find these critters endearing and just call them all Sally...I guess the guys could be Salvadore...but here you are checking them out down to their little toes...pretty cool.

Erica Lea said...

I haven't seen a salamander in real life in years (since living in Woodside and walking to Salamander Flat). Very cool! I also want to thank you so much for visiting my blog and helping, Katie:-) I apologize for being such a poor visitor here, because I always enjoy it and learn from you. You really are one of my inspirations for making sure I id things properly.

James said...

Congrats on the salamander sighting and ID. My encounters at home usually don't end so well for the salamander because I only find them when I'm digging. Thanks for the tips on the herp site. It'll come in handy for my next encounter in the garden.

Katie (Nature ID) said...

Erg... toe count: lizards have 5 toes front and back. Salamanders have 4 toes in front and 5 in back, except Batrachoseps spp. with 4 toes in back. Right?

Jeannette, do you encounter the Santa Lucia Mountains slender salamanders regularly since you have names for them?

Erica, I really like butterflies, so it was fun trying to figure out the ID of yours. The species name has been reclassified recently, so it's more difficult to search. No worries about visiting blogs - there are more important things in life to do than to spend time on the computer.

James, you probably use a much bigger shovel than my little rounded spade. I wonder if the slender salamanders dig down into the ground to hang out, hence where we've found them.