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A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


Gregarious Slender Salamander - Batrachoseps gregarius

Jockusch, Wake & Yanev 1998
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Gregarious Slender Salamander Range Map
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Range Map of all Slender Salamanders in California



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Gregarious Slender Salamander Gregarious Slender Salamander Gregarious Slender Salamander
  Adult, Kern County  
Gregarious Slender Salamander Gregarious Slender Salamander Gregarious Slender Salamander
Adult, Kern County Adult, Kern County Underside of adult, Kern County
Gregarious Slender Salamander Gregarious Slender Salamander Gregarious Slender Salamander
  Adult, Kern County  
Gregarious Slender Salamander Gregarious Slender Salamander Gregarious Slender Salamander
Adult, Madera County Adults, Cottonwood Creek, Kern Canyon  (These salamanders were formerly listed as Kern Canyon Slender Salamanders - B. simatus)
Gregarious Slender Salamander slender salamander foot Gregarious Slender Salamander eggs
Underside of adult, Madera County Slender Salmanders (genus Batrachoseps) have only 4 toes on their hind feet. All other California salamanders have 5 toes on their hind feet. These Gregarius Slender salamanders were found underneath ground debris along with some Gregarius Slender salamander eggs.  As their name indicates, this species often forms communal nests, but the females typically leave the site after laying. Male and sub-adult salamanders will often still be found under the same cover as the eggs, which is probably what is seen here.
© 1998 Duncan Parks
     
Comparisons with some similar sympatric Slender Salamanders
Gregarious Slender Salamander Comparison Gregarious Slender Salamander Comparison Gregarious Slender Salamander Comparison
Comparison of B. diabolicus and B. gregarius Comparison of B. bramei and B. gregarius

B. gregarius has a slimmer body with smaller feet and toes.
Comparison of B. gregarius with B. relictus (bottom.)
Note the larger, more robust body and limbs on B. relictus.
© 2004 Brad Alexander
Gregarious Slender Salamander Comparison Gregarious Slender Salamander Comparison Gregarious Slender Salamander Comparison
Comparison of B. gregarius (top) sympatric B. kawia (bottom) Note the larger, more robust body and limbs on B. kawia
Comparison of B. kawia and B. gregarius

B. gregarius has a slimmer body with smaller feet and toes.
B. gregarius / B. regius

B. gregarius has a slimmer body with smaller feet and toes.
     
Habitat
Gregarious Slender Salamander Habitat Gregarious Slender Salamander Habitat Gregarious Slender Salamander Habitat
Habitat, 1,600 ft., Kern County Habitat, 3,000 ft., Kern County Habitat, 1,200 ft. Mariposa County
Gregarious Slender Salamander Habitat Gregarious Slender Salamander Habitat Gregarious Slender Salamander Habitat
Habitat, Kern County Habitat, 2,300 ft., Kern County Habitat, 4,700 ft. Mariposa County
Gregarious Slender Salamander Habitat Gregarious Slender Salamander Habitat  
Habitat, 650 ft., Kern County Habitat, 3,800 ft. Kern County  
     
Short Videos
Gregarious Slender Salamander Gregarious Slender Salamander  
A look at some Gregarious Slender Salamanders in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Kern County. As I lift a fallen branch with a Gregarious Slender Salamander underneath it, the salamander's tail comes off and begins wriggling on the ground. This is a defensive tactic used to distract a predator towards the moving tail and away from the animal which remains still. The salamander may have intentionally released its tail here, or it could have just been a result of lifting the log. I pick up the tail and you can see an edited version of it slowly wriggling to a stop.  
   
Description
 
Size
Adults are 1 1/5 - 1 4/5 inches long (3 - 4.6 cm) from snout to vent.

Appearance
A small slim salamander with 17-19 costal grooves.
Short limbs, a long slender body with a narrow head and a 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 typical of all Slender Salamanders. (Other California salamanders have five toes on the hind feet.)
Color and Pattern
The ground color is dark blackish-brown with a lighter brownish dorsal stripe with tan highlights and dark flecks.
Many small white spots mark the ground color.
The venter is lighter, dark to pale gray.

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 the tissues lining their mouth. This 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 a short 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
Surface-active from the beginning of the fall rains until the end of the rainy period, which is typically from late October or November to March or April.
It is presumed that they go underground to avoid the extreme temperatures of winter and summer.
Typically found under rocks, logs, bark, and other debris.
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 known, but other Batrachoseps species are sit-and-wait predators that use a projectile tongue to catch prey.
Breeding
Reproduction is terrestrial. 
Breeding and egg laying occurs with the beginning of fall rains, which varies from year to year and with elevation (typically November to early January at lower elevations, and late March to late April at higher elevation locations.)
Eggs
Females lay eggs in communal nests in the spring (fall in southern populations) in moist places under rocks, logs, bark, or leaf litter. Females then abandon the nests.
Nest sites have been found with from 10 - 300 eggs.
Females at the northen end of the range lay more eggs - an average of 15.3 eggs, than those at the southern end of the range who average 7.3 eggs, according to a 1997 study by Jockusch and Mahoney. Young hatch fully formed.
Young
Young develop completely in the egg and hatch fully formed.

Habitat
Mostly found in oak woodlands in the foothills, but they are also found in high-elevation coniferous forests, and grasslands on the floor of the Central Valley, including very hot and dry habitats at the southern end of its range.

Geographical Range
Endemic to California. Occurs along the west slope of the central and southern Sierra Nevada Mountains from the southern boundary of Yosemite National Park almost to the kern River.

Occurs in sympatry with B. kawia, and possibly with B. relictus, B. regius, B. attenuatus, and B. diabolicus.
Elevational Range
Occurs from around 1000 ft. to 5,900 ft. (300 - 1800 m.)

Notes on Taxonomy
Prior to its description in 1998, B. gregarius was recognized as B. nigriventris. Lower elevation southern populations are more slender, live in much drier habitats, lay fewer eggs than those in the north, and lay eggs in the fall. Future studies may establish that these are two different forms.

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


Alternate and Previous Names (Synonyms)

Batrachoseps gregarius - Gregarious Slender Salamander (Jockusch, Wake & Yanev 1998, 2003, 2012)
Batrachoseps nigriventris - Black-bellied 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)
Listed as imperiled by one organization, though there are no apparent issues with this salamander other than some possible loss of habitat at the eastern edge of the Central Valley to development and agriculture.
Taxonomy
Family Plethodontidae Lungless Salamanders Gray, 1850
Genus Batrachoseps Slender Salamanders Bonaparte, 1841
Species

gregarius Gregarious Slender Salamander Jockusch, Wake & Yanev 1998
Original description
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.

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Batrachoseps: Greek - amphibian, frog lizard - describes lizard-like appearance.
gregarius: Latin - flock or herd, referring to the habit of laying eggs communally.

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

Similar Neighboring Salamanders
B. diabolicus
B. regius
B. kawia
B. relictus

More Information and References
California Department of Fish and Wildlife

AmphibiaWeb

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

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 are copied from the 2017 Special Animals List and the 2017 Endangered and Threatened Animals List which are published by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

If no status is listed here, the animal is not included on either CDFW list. This most likely indicates that there are no serious conservation concerns for the animal. To find out more about an animal's status, you can go to the NatureServe and IUCN websites to check their rankings.

Check here to see the most current complete lists.



Organization
Status Listing
NatureServe Global Ranking
NatureServe State Ranking
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
 

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