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A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


Greenhorn Mountains Slender Salamander -
Batrachoseps altasierrae

Jockush, Martinez-Solano, Hansen, and Wake, 2012
Click on a picture for a larger view



Greenhorn Mountains Slender Salamander Range Map
Range in California
: Red

Range Map of all Slender Salamanders in California



observation link





Greenhorn Mountains Slender Salamander Greenhorn Mountains Slender Salamander Greenhorn Mountains Slender Salamander
  Adult, Kern County  
Greenhorn Mountains Slender Salamander Greenhorn Mountains Slender Salamander Greenhorn Mountains Slender Salamander
Adult, Kern County Adult, Kern County Adult, Kern County
Greenhorn Mountains Slender Salamander Greenhorn Mountains Slender Salamander Greenhorn Mountains Slender Salamander
Adult, Kern County Adult, Kern County Adult, Kern County
Greenhorn Mountains Slender Salamander Greenhorn Mountains Slender Salamander Greenhorn Mountains Slender Salamander
Adult, Kern County Underside of adult, Kern County Adult, Kern County
© Brad Alexander
  Greenhorn Mountains Slender Salamander comp  
  Comparison of B. altasierrae (bottom) and B. gregarius (top). Note the larger, more robust body and limbs on B. altasierrae. © Brad Alexander  
Greenhorn Mountains Slender Salamander Greenhorn Mountains Slender Salamander Greenhorn Mountains Slender Salamander
Greenhorn Mountains Slender Salamander Greenhorn Mountains Slender Salamander Greenhorn Mountains Slender Salamander
When a salamander is feeling threatened, it will sometimes drop its tail. This is referred to as caudal autotomy. Once removed from the body, the tail will wiggle frantically for several minutes, distracting a predator long enough for the salamander to crawl away slowly, or to remain still enough that it is no longer visible to the enemy.

In the first four pictures of the series above, an adult Greenhorn Mountains Slender Salamander in Kern County was photographed as it was writhing about, shaking its tail rapidly, until it finally broke off and continued wiggling on its own. The end of the detached tail is also shown above.

This tail detachment does not harm the salamander. It will survive and grow a new tail, but the salamander is at a disadvantage since it has lost an important defense mechanism, as well as energy stored in the tail, and any perceived size advantage it may have had in protecting its territory or attracting a mate. Always handle salamanders (and lizards) carefully and avoid stressing an animal unnecessarily to prevent the tail from breaking off.
 
Habitat
Greenhorn Mountains Slender Salamander Habitat Greenhorn Mountains Slender Salamander Habitat Greenhorn Mountains Slender Salamander Habitat
Habitat, small trickle in evergreen forest, 5,900 ft., Kern County Habitat, 5,900 ft., Greenhorn
Mountains, Kern County
Habitat, 5,900 ft., Greenhorn
Mountains, Kern County
Greenhorn Mountains Slender Salamander Habitat Greenhorn Mountains Slender Salamander Habitat Greenhorn Mountains Slender Salamander Habitat
Habitat, 5,900 ft., Greenhorn
Mountains, Kern County
Habitat, 5,900 ft., Greenhorn
Mountains, Kern County
Habitat, 5,600 ft., Greenhorn
Mountains, Kern County
     
Short Video
  Greenhorn Mountains Slender Salamander  
  A Greenhorn Mountains Slender Salamander and its habitat in the Greenhorn Mountains.  
   
Description
 
Size
Adults are 1 3/8 - 1 7/8 inches long (3.5 - 4.7 cm) from snout to vent.

Appearance
A small slim salamander with 16-20 costal grooves.
Short limbs, a narrow head, long slender body, very long tail, and conspicuous costal and caudal grooves give this species the worm-like appearance typical of most Slender Salamanders.
There are four toes on the front and hind feet, which is also typical of Slender Salamanders.
(Other California salamanders have five toes on the hind feet.)
Color and Pattern
Color is blackish brown with a reddish, yellowish, or dark brown dorsal stripe which is often not visible in large animals.

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
Little is known about this species.
Most Slender Salamander species are active on rainy or wet nights when temperatures are moderate, fall through spring, retreating underground when the soil dries or when air temperature drops to near freezing.
At higher elevations, activity may be restricted to spring and early summer and early fall.

Found under rocks, logs, bark, and other surface debris, including large pine cones.
This species is usually associated with seepages and springs and appears to prefer very wet conditions.
Defense
Slender salamanders use several defense tactics, including:
- Coiling and remaining still, relying on cryptic coloring to avoid detection.
- Uncoiling quickly and springing away repeatedly bouncing over the ground, then remaining still again to avoid detection.
- Detaching the tail, which wriggles on the ground to distract a predator from the salamander long enough for it to escape. 
(After its tail is detached or severed, the salamander will grow a new tail.)
Diet and Feeding
Most likely eats a variety of small invertebrates.
Feeding behavior is not well known, but other Batrachoseps species are sit-and-wait predators that use a projectile tongue to catch prey.
Breeding
Little is known about the breeding behavior of this species.
Reproduction is terrestrial.
Breeding and egg-laying probably occurs during the rainy period from November to January.
Eggs
All species of Slender Salamanders lay eggs, typically in moist places on land.
Young
Young hatch fully formed.

Habitat
Occurs in heavily forested areas of mixed conifers and deciduous oaks.
Associated with seepages and springs which remain moist through the summer.

Geographical Range
Endemic to California. 
B. altasierrae
is the common high elevation Batrachoseps species found on the western slopes of the southern Sierra Nevada. 
Occurs in the Greenhorn Mountains north to the Tule River and Kern River highland drainages.
It is also known from one area on the western edge of the Kern Plateau east of the Kern River.
Elevational Range
Occurs from 3,900 - 8,200 ft. (1200 - 2500 m) in elevation.

Notes on Taxonomy
B. altasierrae was described in February 2012 by Jockusch et al *. They re-named those B. relictus found north of the Kern River, and assigned salamanders south of the river and on Breckenridge Mountain the name B. relictus.

B. relictus was described in 1968, then reduced to a subspecies of B. pacificus in 1980. The species name was reinstated with the description of several new species of Batrachoseps in the Sierra Nevada by Jockush, Wale, and Janev in 1998. B. pacificus relictus was partitioned into four species - B. diabolicus, B. regius, B. kawia and B. relictus.

The 1968 description referred to compound group of animals from a wide range in the Sierras, which includes several of the new animals described in 1998. But since no specimens from the 1968 type locality in the lower Kern River Canyon have been found since 1971, the authors of the 1998 paper described animals from the north and west sides of the Kern River.

Here's a Diagram of the Batrachoseps Complex showing the relationships between species.


Alternate and Previous Names (Synonyms)

Batrachoseps relictus - Relictual Slender Salamander (Stebbins 2003, 2012)
Batrachoseps pacificus - Pacific Slender Salamander (Stebbins 1985)
Batrachoseps attenuatus - California Slender Salamander (Stebbins 1954, 1966)
Batrachoseps attenuatus attenuatus - Worm-salamander (Bishop 1943)
Batrachoseps attenuatus - Slender Salamander (Storer 1925)
Batrachoseps nigriventris (Cope 1869)
Batrachoseps attenuatus (Cooper 1868)
Batrachoseps attenuata (Baird 1850)
Salamandrina attenuata (Eschscholtz 1833)

Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
None
Taxonomy
Family Plethodontidae Lungless Salamanders Gray, 1850
Genus Batrachoseps Slender Salamanders Bonaparte, 1841
Species

altasierrae Greenhorn Mountains Slender Salamander Jockush, Martinez-Solano, Hansen, and Wake, 2012
Original Description
Jokusch et al., 2012, Zootaxa 3190: 1-30.
Brame and Murray, 1968 - B. relictus (part) - Sci. Bull. Nat. Hist. Mus. Los Angeles Co., No. 4, p. 5.

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

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Batrachoseps: Greek - amphibian, frog lizard - describes lizard-like appearance.
altasierrae: Named after the type locality: Alta Sierra

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

Similar Neighboring Salamanders
Batrachoseps kawia
Batrachoseps regius
Batrachoseps robustus
Batrachoseps simatus
Batrachoseps gregarious
Batrachoseps bramei
Batrachoseps relictus
Batrachoseps stebbensi

More Information and References
* Jokusch, Elizabeth L., Inigo Martinez-Solano, Robert W. Hansen, & David B. Wake.
Morphological and molecular diversification of slender salamanders (Caudata: Plethodontidae: Batrachoseps) in the southern Sierra Nevada of California with descriptions of two new species.
©2012 - Magnolia Press     Zootaxa 3190: 1-30 (2012) www.mapress.com/zootaxa/

AmphibiaWeb

Salamander Diversity in the Kern Valley Region

Hansen, Robert W. Kern River Research Area Field Notes Spring 1997 Vol. 6, No. 2

Jockusch, E. L., D. B. Wake, and K. P. Yanev. "New species of slender salamanders, Batrachoseps (Amphibia: Plethodontidae), from the Sierra Nevada of California." Contributions in Science, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, #472 1998.

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.


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 CDFW now lists B. altasierrae as a unique species.
Organization
Status Listing
NatureServe Global Ranking G4 Apparently Secure—Uncommon but not rare; some cause for long-term concern due to declines or other factors.
NatureServe State Ranking S3S4 Vulnerable - Apparently Secure
U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) None
California Endangered Species Act (CESA) None
California Department of Fish and Wildlife None
Bureau of Land Management None
USDA Forest Service None
IUCN Not listed
 

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