Kern Plateau Slender Salamanders beside a small seep in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Adults are 1 3/4 - 2 1/4 inches long (4.4 - 5.7 cm) from snout to vent.
A small slim salamander with 16 - 17 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.
Relatively large and robust when compared with most Slender Salamanders, having a fairly broad head, long legs, broad feet, short tail, and large toes.
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 rusty, bronze, gray, reddish, usually with a dorsal stripe and scattered flecks and spots.
The venter is gray or black in color.
The throat has heavy white mottling.
Animals from dryer habitats have lighter coloring of gray or silver, while those from coniferous forest tend to match the darker environment with red and brown coloring.
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.)
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. In areas with perrenial surface moisture, activity may continue through the summer.
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.
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.
All species of Slender Salamanders lay eggs, typically in moist places on land.
Gravid females have been found in early May.
Females in a lab laid three eggs.
Eggs in the lab hatched in 96 - 103 days.
Young develop completely in the egg and hatch fully formed.
Hatchlings were black with gold or silver flecking measuring about a half inch in length from snout to vent (12 - 13 mm).
Found in moist habitats of pine and fir forests, and pinon pine, sagebrush, and oaks in drier habitats.
Found under logs, bark, rocks, and other debris especially near springs, seeps and outflow streams.
Geographical and Elevational Range
Endemic to California.
Occurs on the Kern Plateau of the southeastern Sierra Nevada in Kern County from 5,580 - 9,200 ft. (1,700 - 2,800 m), on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada draining into the Owens Valley and Indian Wells Valley in Inyo County, at elevations of 4,690 to 8,000 ft. (1,430–2,440 m) and the Scodie Mountains in Kern County at elevations of 6,500 - 6,640 ft. (1,980 - 2,025 m).
Notes on Taxonomy
B. robustus was officially described in 2002. Specimens were first collected in 1972, but were misidentified as B. stebbensi.
DNA studies show that the more "robust" forms of Batrachoseps, B. robustus, B wrighti - Oregon Slender Salamander, and B. stebbinsi - Tehachapi Slender Salamander, are phylogenetically distant from other Batrachoseps species.
Listed as imperiled and near threatened. This is probably because its limited forested high-altitude riparian habitat makes it vulnerable to any alteration of the habitat. The populations in the Scodie mountains are small and isolated which makes them more vulnerable to habitat alteration.
Wake, D.B., K.P. Yanev, and R.W. Hansen. - 1/13/2003. "New species of slender salamander, Genus Batrachoseps, from the southern Sierra Nevada of California." 2002 Copeia 4:1016-1028.
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.
Flaxington, William C. Amphibians and Reptiles of California: Field Observations, Distribution, and Natural History. Fieldnotes Press, Anaheim, California, 2021.
Stebbins, Robert C. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians, 3rd Edition. Houghton Mifflin, 2003
The following conservation status listings for this animal are taken from the October 2021 California "Special Animals List" and the October 2021 "State and Federally Listed Endangered and Threatened Animals of California" list, both of which are produced by multiple agencies and available here: https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Data/CNDDB/Plants-and-Animals. You can check the link to see if there are more recent lists.
If no status is listed here, the animal is not included on either 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.
NatureServe Global Ranking
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
Vulnerable in the state due to a restricted range, relatively few populations (often 80 or fewer.