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A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


Santa Cruz Black Salamander -
Aneides flavipunctatus niger

Myers and Maslin, 1948

(Aneides niger)
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Santa Cruz Black Salamander Santa Cruz Black Salamander Santa Cruz Black Salamander
  Adult, Santa Clara County  
Santa Cruz Black Salamander Santa Cruz Black Salamander Santa Cruz Black Salamander
Adult, Santa Clara County Adult, Santa Clara County Adult, Santa Clara County
Santa Cruz Black Salamander Santa Cruz Black Salamanders Santa Cruz Black Salamanders
Juvenile, Santa Clara County Adult and juvenile, Santa Clara County Adult, Santa Cruz County
© Zachary Lim
Santa Cruz Black Salamander Santa Cruz Black Salamander Santa Cruz Black Salamander
Adult, Santa Cruz County
© Zachary Lim
Juvenile, Santa Cruz County
© Zachary Lim
Juvenile, Santa Cruz County
© Zachary Lim
Santa Cruz Black Salamander Santa Cruz Black Salamander Santa Cruz Black Salamander
Adult, Santa Cruz County
© Zachary Lim
Juvenile, Santa Clara County © Zachary Lim
Santa Cruz Black Salamander Santa Cruz Black Salamander Santa Cruz Black Salamander
Adult, Santa Clara County
© Mark Gary
Adult, Santa Cruz County
© 2005 Brad Alexander
Adult, Santa Cruz County
© Spencer Riffle
Santa Cruz Black Salamander Santa Cruz Black Salamander  
Adult, Santa Clara County © Mark Gary Toes with tips adapted for climbing
© Mark Gary
 
     
Habitat
Santa Cruz Black Salamander Habitat Santa Cruz Black Salamander Habitat Santa Cruz Black Salamander Habitat
Habitat, Santa Cruz County Habitat, San Mateo County Habitat, Santa Cruz County
© Zachary Lim
  Santa Cruz Black Salamander Habitat  
  Habitat, San Mateo County  
   
Description
 
Size
Adults measure 2 - 3 3/4 inches long (5.1 - 9.5 cm) from snout to vent, and up to 5.5 inches (14 cm) in total length.

Appearance
A medium-sized salamander with nasolabial grooves and well-defined costal grooves.
Color and Pattern
Dorsal coloring is solid black, with a few fine white specks.
Male/Female Differences
Males have a broader head than females.
Young
Young are black with white speckles

Life History and Behavior
A member of family Plethodontidae, the Plethodontid or Lungless Salamanders.

Plethodontid salamanders do not breathe through lungs. They conduct respiration through their skin and their mouth tissues, which requires them to live in damp environments on land and to move about on the ground only during times of high humidity. (Plethodontid salamanders native to California do not inhabit streams or bodies of water but they are capable of surviving for some time if they fall into water.)

Plethodontid salamanders are also distinguished by their naso-labial grooves, which are vertical slits between the nostrils and upper lip that are lined with glands associated with chemoreception.

All Plethodontid Salamanders native to California lay eggs in moist places on land.
The young develop in the egg and hatch directly into a tiny terrestrial salamander with the same body form as an adult.
(They do not hatch in the water and begin their lives as tiny swimming larvae breathing through gills like some other types of salamanders.)
Activity
Adapted for climbing with long toes and rounded prehensile tail, but mostly terrestrial. Adults forage for small invertebrates on the ground at night during wet weather. May be active along streams all year at the southern part of its range, but most stay underground during dry periods.
Territoriality
Adults appear to be agressively territorial.
Longevity
Black Salamanders have lived as long as 20 years in captivity.
Defense
When threatened, juveniles typically remain still while adults attempt to flee. Other defense tactics include defensive posturing - raising the body, lowering the head, and waving the tail, jumping, releasing noxious sticky skin secretions, and biting.
Diet and Feeding
Diet consists of a variety of small invertebrates, including millipedes, ants and termites. As salamanders grow larger, they eat fewer, but larger prey items.
Breeding
Reproduction is terrestrial.
Courtship and breeding behavior is not well known.
Breeding males have a well-developed mental gland.
Eggs
Females probably lay from 8 - 25 eggs in moist cavities belowthe ground in July and August.
Eggs are attached by peduncles.
Females stay with the eggs until they hatch.
Young
Young develop completely in the egg and hatch fully formed.

Geographical Range
This subspecies is endemic to California, with a limited range west of the San Fracisco Bay and south of the San Francisco peninsusla from Santa Cruz County and western Santa Clara County, north to southern San Mateo County.

The species also occurs from Sonoma county north along the coast and coast ranges to southwest Oregon in Jackson and Josephine Counties, and east to near Mt. Shasta.
Full Species Range Map
Elevational Range
Found from near sea level to at least 2,240 ft. (personal communication) possibly higher.

Habitat
Occurs in mixed deciduous woodland, coniferous forests, coastal grasslands. Found under rocks near streams, in talus, under damp logs, and other objects.

Taxonomic Notes
Aneides flavipunctatus occurs in three geographically isolated regions that studies show consist of at least four species:

  • The southern population south of the San Francisco Bay is currently recognized as the subspecies A. f. niger by some    researchers, or as the species A. niger by others.
  • The group south of Mt. Shasta is also isolated from populations to the west.
  • Two distinct groups are separated in Humboldt County along the boundaries of tectonic plates.

    In a 2014 paper, Reilly and Wake continue to show four species-level units of A. flavipunctatus, including the isolated population south of the San Francisco Bay, but they do not describe any new species.
    In a study published in 2007 1, Rissler and Apodaca determined that even though there is little morphological divergence across the species, the use of mtDNA analyses and ecological modeling indicates that there are four separate main lineages of A. flavipunctatus which eventually should be given full species status: A Southern Disjunct lineage on the San Francisco Peninsula and in the Santa Cruz Mountains; a Shasta lineage in the Mount Shasta region; a Central lineage on the north coast and north coast ranges north of San Francisco Bay; and a Northwest lineage in the northwest corner of the state including Humboldt, Del Norte, and Siskiyou Counties. There is another population within the Central Lineage which is also distinct, but they do not discuss this in detail. They recommended that the Shasta and Southern lineages be elevated to species status, but that more work is needed to determine the southern extent of the Northwest lineage. Once that has been determined, they recommend that the Northwest lineage also be elevated to species status.

    The new names will most likely be:
    Aneides flavipunctatus
    for the Central Lineage,
    Aneides niger
    , for the Southern Disjunct lineage, and
    Aneides iëcanus
    , for the Shasta lineage.
    A new name or names will be given to the other lineage(s).


    The Jue 2016 California Department of Fish and Wildlife Special Animals List shows this taxa as a full species: Aneides Niger - Santa Cruz Black Salamander.

  • Tentative distribution map of the four main lineages of Black Salamanders.
    (Based on Reilly & Wake, 2014)

    Alternate and Previous Names (Synonyms)

    Aneides flavipunctatus niger - Santa Cruz Black Salamander (Stebbins & McGinnis 2012)
    Aneides flavipunctatus - Black Salamander (Stebbins 1985, 2003)
    Aneides flavipunctatus niger - Santa Cruz Black Salamander (Stebbins 1966)
    Aneides flavipunctatus niger - Black Salamander (Stebbins 1954)
    Aneides flavipunctatus - Black Salamander (Shasta Salamander)(Bishop 1943)
    Autodax iecanus (Cope 1886)
    Aneides iecanus (Cope 1886)
    Plethodon flavipunctatus (Strauch 1870)

    Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
    Protected from take with a sport fishing license in 2013 due to a special closure prohibiting the take of Black Salamanders from San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.
    Taxonomy
    Family Plethodontidae Lungless Salamanders Gray, 1850
    Genus Aneides Climbing Salamanders Baird, 1849
    Species flavipunctatus Black Salamander (Strauch, 1870)
    Subspecies

    niger Santa Cruz Black Salamander Myers and Maslin, 1948
    Original Description
    Aneides flavipunctatus - (Strauch, 1870) - Mem. Acad. Sci. St. Petersburg, Ser. 7, Vol. 16, No. 4, p. 71
    Aneides flavipunctatus niger - Myers and Maslin, 1948 - Proc. Biol. Soc. Washington, Vol. 61, p. 132

    from Original Description Citations for the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America © Ellin Beltz

    Meaning of the Scientific Name
    Aneides: Greek - lacking form or shape
    niger: Latin - black

    from Scientific and Common Names of the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America - Explained © Ellin Beltz

    Alternate Names
    Aneides flavipunctatus - Black Salamander

    Aneides niger (full species)

    Related or Similar California Salamanders
    Aneides flavipunctatus flavipunctatus - Speckled Black Salamander
    Aneides lugubris - Arboreal Salamander
    Aneides vagrans - Wandering Salamander
    Aneides ferreus - Clouded Salamander

    More Information and References
    California Department of Fish and Wildlife

    AmphibiaWeb

    Stebbins, Robert C., and McGinnis, Samuel M.  Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of California: Revised Edition (California Natural History Guides) University of California Press, 2012.

    Stebbins, Robert C. California Amphibians and Reptiles. The University of California Press, 1972.

    Stebbins, Robert C. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. 3rd Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003.

    Behler, John L., and F. Wayne King. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.

    Powell, Robert., Joseph T. Collins, and Errol D. Hooper Jr. A Key to Amphibians and Reptiles of the Continental United States and Canada. The University Press of Kansas, 1998.

    Bartlett, R. D. & Patricia P. Bartlett. Guide and Reference to the Amphibians of Western North America (North of Mexico) and Hawaii. University Press of Florida, 2009.

    Bishop, Sherman C. Handbook of Salamanders. Cornell University Press, 1943.

    Lannoo, Michael (Editor). Amphibian Declines: The Conservation Status of United States Species. University of California Press, June 2005.

    Petranka, James W. Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution, 1998.


    1 Rissler, Leslie J., and Joseph J. Apodaca. Adding More Ecology into Species Delimitation: Ecological Niche Models and Phylogeography Help Define Cryptic Species in the Black Salamander (Aneides flavipunctatus). Syst. Biol. 56(6):924–942, 2007

    Sean B. Reilly and David B. Wake. Cryptic diversity and biogeographical patterns within the black salamander (Aneides flavipunctatus) complex.
    Journal of Biogeography, 2014.

    Conservation Status

    The following status listings come from the Special Animals List and the Endangered and Threatened Animals List which are published by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.


    The June 2016 Special Animals List shows this taxa as a full species: Aneides Niger - Santa Cruz Black Salamander.

    Organization
    Status Listing
    NatureServe Global Ranking G3

    Vulnerable—At moderate risk of extinction due to a restricted range, relatively few populations (often 80 or fewer), recent and widespread declines, or other factors.

    NatureServe State Ranking S3

    Vulnerable—Vulnerable in the state due to a restricted range, relatively few populations (often 80 or fewer), recent and widespread declines, or other factors making it vulnerable to extirpation from the state.

    U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) None
    California Endangered Species Act (CESA) None
    California Department of Fish and Wildlife SSC Species of Special Concern
    Bureau of Land Management None
    USDA Forest Service None
    IUCN Not shown
     

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