CaliforniaHerps.com

A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California



Klamath Black Salamander - Aneides klamathensis

Stebbins, 1951 & Dubois and Raffaelli, 2009

(= Speckled Black Salamander - Aneides flavipunctatus flavipunctatus (Strauch 1870))

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Red
: Range of this species in California
Klamath Black Salamander - Aneides klamathensis

Range of similar species in California:

Purple
: Speckled Black Salamander - Aneides flavipunctatus

Orange: Shasta Black Salamander - Aneides iecanus

Dark Blue: Santa Cruz Black Salamander - Aneides niger

Gray: Species not yet assigned


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Map with California County Names










observation link





Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander
Adult, northwest Humboldt County © Mark Gary Fine-spotted adult, Siskiyou County © 2004 Tim Burkhardt
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander
Fine-spotted adult, Siskiyou County Adult, northwest Humboldt County
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander
Sub-adult, Del Norte County
© Alan Barron
Adult, Del Norte County
© Alan Barron
Underside of adult, Del Norte County
© Alan Barron
Juvenile, Del Norte County
© Alan Barron
Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander Speckled Black Salamander  
Adults, northern Humboldt County
© Grayson Sandy
Adult, in an apparent "unken reflex" defensive pose, northern Humboldt County © Grayson Sandy Adult, Humboldt County
© Noah Morales
 
       
Habitat
Speckled Black Salamander Habitat Speckled Black Salamander Habitat Speckled Black Salamander Habitat  
Rock talus habitat, Siskiyou County Habitat, northern Humboldt 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 of Similar Species
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
Much of the following description is taken from descriptions of Aneides flavipuntatus, with which this species was formerly classified. Specific details of this species may differ somewhat.

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 large robust plethodontid salamander with two nasolabial grooves and 14 - 16 well-defined costal grooves.
Color and Pattern
Dorsal coloring is black, frosted with green or gray. The undersides are a lighter greyish black.

Coloration consists of "...heavy frosting of greenish gray pigment overlying black ground color on the dorsal surfaces and especially on the flanks of the trunk, where there is a sharp boundary with the generally black ventral coloration. Whitish to cream-colored or faint yellow spots of small to moderate size are evident on the dorsal surfaces of the limbs but are widely scattered and few in number on other dorsal surfaces." (Reilly and Wake 2019)
Male/Female Differences
Males have a broader head than females and especially large jaws.
Young
Young with brassy or greenish coloration and yellow at the base of the limbs.
Comparison With Other Black Salamanders
"...distinguished from other members of the Aneides flavipunctatus complex as follows:
from A. flavipunctatus by geographic range and DNA sequences,
from A. iecanus by having only relatively few small dorsal iridophores and in averaging 17 rather than 16 trunk vertebrae,
from A. niger by coloration (A. niger is typically solid black with no whitish or gray markings).
(Reilly and Wake 2019)

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.

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 north coast of California in Humboldt and Del Norte counties and east in the North Coast range in Trinity and Siskiyou counties. Also occurs just north of the California border in southwest Oregon in Jackson and Josephine counties.


"This is the northernmost member of the A. flavipunctatus complex. It ranges southward from the upper reaches of the Applegate river drainage in Jackson Co., extreme southern Oregon and the southern bank of the Smith River in Del Norte Co., CA, south through Del Norte and Humboldt counties to the Van Duzen River and its tributaries, and east along the Klamath and Trinity rivers into Trinity and western Siskiyou counties, CA. ... The species is distributed mainly at elevations below
500 m elevation but is known to occur as high as about 1,000 m near Hilt, Siskiyou Co., CA, at the extreme northeastern extent of it range. " (Reilly and Wake 2019)

Taxonomic Notes
Aneides flavipunctatus was split into four species in 2019. Aneides klamathensis was raised from synonymy and recognized as 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 and probably through logging of forests.
Taxonomy
Family Plethodontidae Lungless Salamanders Gray, 1850
Genus Aneides Climbing Salamanders Baird, 1851
Species

klamathensis Klamath Black Salamander Stebbins, 1951 & Dubois and Raffaelli, 2009
Original Description
Aneides klamathensis - Stebbins, 1951 & Dubois and Raffaelli, 2009

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Aneides: Greek - lacking form or shape.
from Scientific and Common Names of the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America - Explained © Ellin Beltz

klamathensis - refers to the Klamath mountains, which make up a large part of the species range

Related or Similar California Salamanders
Aneides ferreus - Clouded Salamander
Aneides flavipunctatus - Speckled Black Salamander
Aneides iecanus - Shasta 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 recognized yet by the Special Animals List. It is recognized as Aneides flavipunctatus, which 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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