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A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California




Speckled Black Salamander - Aneides flavipunctatus

(Strauch, 1870)

(= Speckled Black Salamander - Aneides flavipunctatus flavipunctatus)

Click on a picture for a larger view



Purple: Range of this species in California
Aneides flavipunctatus - Speckled Black Salamander

Range of similar species in California:

Orange: Shasta Black Salamander - Aneides iecanus

Red: Klamath Black Salamander - Aneides klamathensis

Dark Blue: Santa Cruz Black Salamander - Aneides niger

Gray: Species not yet assigned


Click on the map for a topographical view

Map with California County Names








observation link





Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander
Large-spotted adult, Mendocino County Adult, frosted form, southern Humboldt County
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander
Large-spotted adult, Mendocino County Large-spotted adult, Mendocino County Large-spotted adult, Mendocino County Juvenile, Large-spotted form,
Mendocino County 
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander
Large-spotted adult, Mendocino County Large-spotted sub-adult,
Mendocino County
Underside of large-spotted adult, Mendocino County Juvenile, Large-spotted form,
Mendocino County 
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander
Large-spotted adult, Mendocino County Large-spotted adult from Lake County.
© Mike Spencer
Large-spotted adult from the inner Coast Range, Lake County
© John Stephenson
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander
Three views of the same tiny juvenile from Mendocino County (with a sympatric adult in the third picture.) Large-spotted sub-adult,
Mendocino County
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander
Large-spotted adult, Mendocino County © Ryan Sikola Small-spotted adult, Sonoma County
© Zachary Lim
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander
Solid black adult, Mendocino County Lightly spotted adult and juvenile,
coastal Mendocino County
Juvenile, solid black form,
Mendocino County 
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander
Adult at southern edge of range,
eastern Sonoma County
© egret.org / Audubon Canyon Ranch
Adult with small spots, Sonoma County
© Zach Lim
Adult with small spots, Sonoma County
© Zach Lim
Sub-adult, frosted form, southern Humboldt County
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander
Adult, frosted form, southern
Humboldt County
Adult, frosted form, southern
Humboldt County
Adult and juvenile, frosted form, southern Humboldt County Adult, frosted form, southern
Humboldt County
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander
Adult, frosted form, southern Humboldt County Juvenile, Mendocino County
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander
Juvenile, frosted form, southern Humboldt County Juvenile, southern Humboldt County Juvenile, southern Humboldt County, with juvenile Ensatina for comparison.
Very dark adult, southern Humboldt County © Grayson Sandy
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander  
Albino juvenile found in Mendocino County © Isaac Krone  
       
Aneides flavipunctatus - Speckled Black Salamander Habitat
Wandering Salamander Habitat Speckled Black Salamander Habitat Speckled Black Salamander Habitat  
Streamside habitat, southern
Humboldt county
Redwood forest habitat,
southern Humboldt County
Creekside talus habitat,
Mendocino County
 
Speckled Black Salamander Habitat Speckled Black Salamander Habitat    
Habitat, forest clearing,
Mendocino county
Habitat, Mendocino County
   
       
Identification Help
Speckled Black Salamander foot      
Black Salamanders have toes with rounded tips.
Compare with Aneides vagrans, Wandering Salamander, and
Aneides ferreus, Clouded Salamander,
which have toes with squared-off tips.
     
 
Short Videos
Speckled Black Salamander
Speckled Black Salamander
Speckled Black Salamander  
A Black salamander is discovered under a rock on a sunny late November afternoon in Mendocino County. Several adults and a juvenile move slowly and with amazing bursts of speed. Sprinting Black salamanders from southern Humboldt County.

A black salamander in
Mendocino 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) total length.

Appearance
A medium-sized salamander with two nasolabial grooves and 14 - 16 well-defined costal grooves.
Color and Pattern
Dorsal coloring varies depending on the locality - it can be solid black, black with fine white specks, black with large white spots, black with pale yellow spots, black frosted with green or gray, or black with many small white spots. The venter is greyish black.
Male/Female Differences
Males have a broader head than females.
Young
Young are black with a brassy or greenish coloration and yellow at the base of the limbs.

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
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.
Reproduction
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.

Comparison With Other Black Salamanders
"This species is distinguished from other members of the Aneides flavipunctatus as follows:
from A. klamathensis in having variable coloration but generally lacking the frosted dorsal coloration, especially in the southern parts of its range, and only a few populations have 17 trunk vertebrae;
from A. iecanus in it more variable coloration and habitat preferences;
from A. niger in its more variable coloration but rarely with so few iridophores."
(Reilly and Wake 2019)

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

Geographical Range
Occurs near the coast north of the San Francisco Bay Area from Sonoma county north along the coast and coast ranges to Humboldt and Trinity counties and east into Lake, Napa, Yolo and Colusa, counties and possibly north into Glen and Tehama counties.


"Geographical Distribution: From northern Sonoma and Napa counties north into southern Humboldt County near Cape Mendocino and Larabee Creek, east to the interior edge of the coast ranges. As mentioned above, populations along the inner margins of the Coast Ranges in western Tehama and Glenn Counties ... are of unknown status, and further surveys including morphological and genetic analyses of these populations are needed to confirm their taxonomic designation."
(Reilly and Wake 2019)

Taxonomic Notes
Aneides flavipunctatus was split into four species in August, 2019. The subspecies Aneides flavipunctatus flavipunctatus was elevated in rank to a full species.


In a 2019 paper Reilly & Wake confirmed that Aneides flavipunctatus consists of four species:

Klamath Black Salamander - Aneides klamathensis Stebbins, 1951 & Dubois and Raffaelli, 2009
Speckled Black Salamander - Aneides flavipunctatus (Strauch 1870)
Shasta Black Salamander - Aneides iecanus (Cope 1883)
Santa Cruz Black Salamander - Aneides niger Myers & Maslin 1948

(Reilly and Wake 2019)

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.

(Reilly and Wake 2014)


In a study published in 2007, 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.

(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 )

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

2 Sean B. Reilly, Sharyn B. Marks, W. Bryan Jennings.
Defining evolutionary boundaries across parapatric ecomorphs of Black Salamanders (Aneides flavipunctatus) with conservation implications
Molecular Ecology (2012) 21, 5745–5761

3 Sean B. Reilly, Mitchell F. Mulks, Jason M. Reilly, W. Bryan Jennings, and David B. Wake.
Genetic Diversity of Black Salamanders (Aneides flavipunctatus) across Watersheds in the Klamath Mountains
Diversity 2013, 5, 657-679
www.mdpi.com/journal/diversity

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


Alternate and Previous Names

Aneides flavipunctatus flavipunctatus - Speckled Black Salamander (Stebbins & McGinnis 2012 & 2018)
Aneides flavipunctatus - Black Salamander (Stebbins 1985, 2003)
Aneides flavipunctatus flavipunctatus - Speckled Black Salamander (Stebbins 1966)
Aneides flavipunctatus flavipunctatus - Black Salamander (Stebbins 1954)
Aneides flavipunctatus - Black Salamander (Shasta Salamander) (Bishop 1943)
Autodax iecanus - Shasta Salamander - Black Salamander (Grinnell and Camp 1917)
Autodax iecanus (Cope 1886)
Aneides iecanus (Cope 1886)
Plethodon flavipunctatus (Strauch 1870)

Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
Disappeared from many areas of their range. Much prime habitat has been lost when it has been converted to agricultural use, especially vineyards, and probably through logging of forests.

The population in Shasta County should be given special conservation consideration, as it is the most distinct population genetically, and may represent a species distinct from Aneides flavipunctatus.
Taxonomy
Family Plethodontidae Lungless Salamanders Gray, 1850
Genus Aneides Climbing Salamanders Baird, 1851
Species

flavipunctatus Black Salamander (Strauch, 1870)
Original Description
Aneides flavipunctatus - (Strauch, 1870) - Mem. Acad. Sci. St. Petersburg, Ser. 7, Vol. 16, No. 4, p. 71

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.
flavipunctatus: Latin - yellow spotted - refers to conspicuous white or yellow spots on dark background.

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

Related or Similar California Salamanders
Aneides ferreus - Clouded Salamander
Aneides iecanus - Shasta Black Salamander
Aneides klamathensis - Klamath Black Salamander
Aneides lugubris - Arboreal Salamander
Aneides niger - Santa Cruz Black Salamander
Aneides vagrans - Wandering 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.

Flaxington, William C. Amphibians and Reptiles of California: Field Observations, Distribution, and Natural History. Fieldnotes Press, Anaheim, California, 2021.

Samuel M. McGinnis and Robert C. Stebbins. Peterson Field Guide to Western Reptiles & Amphibians. 4th Edition. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2018.

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.


Corkran, Charlotte & Chris Thoms. Amphibians of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Lone Pine Publishing, 1996.

Jones, Lawrence L. C. , William P. Leonard, Deanna H. Olson, editors. Amphibians of the Pacific Northwest. Seattle Audubon Society, 2005.

Leonard et. al. Amphibians of Washington and Oregon. Seattle Audubon Society, 1993.

Nussbaum, R. A., E. D. Brodie Jr., and R. M. Storm. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Pacific Northwest. Moscow, Idaho: University Press of Idaho, 1983.

Joseph Grinnell and Charles Lewis Camp. A Distributional List of the Amphibians and Reptiles of California. University of California Publications in Zoology Vol. 17, No. 10, pp. 127-208. July 11, 1917.

Reilly SB, Wake DB. 2019. Taxonomic revision of black salamanders of the Aneides flavipunctatus complex (Caudata: Plethodontidae) PeerJ 7:e7370 https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj. 7370

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

Conservation Status

The following conservation status listings for this animal are taken from the July 2022 State of California "Special Animals List" and the July 2022 "State and Federally Listed Endangered and Threatened Animals of California" list, both of which are produced by multiple agencies and can be downloaded here: https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Data/CNDDB/Plants-and-Animals.
You can check this link to see if there are more current lists.

A detailed explanation of the meaning of the status listing symbols can be found on the
Special Animals List. For quick reference, I have copied some of them on my Special Status Information page.

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.

This species is not included on the Special Animals List, meaning there are no significant conservation concerns for it in California according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.


Organization Status Listing  Notes
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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