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A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California



Santa Cruz Black Salamander - Aneides niger

Myers and Maslin, 1948

(= Santa Cruz Black Salamander - Aneides flavipunctatus niger)
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Dark Blue: Range of this species in California
Santa Cruz Black Salamander - Aneides niger

Range of similar species in California:

Purple: Speckled Black Salamander - Aneides flavipunctatus

Orange: Shasta Black Salamander - Aneides iecanus

Red: Klamath Black Salamander - Aneides klamathensis

Gray: Species not yet assigned


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Santa Cruz Black Salamander
Adult, Santa Clara County
Santa Cruz Black Salamander Santa Cruz Black Salamander Santa Cruz Black Salamander
  Adult, Santa Clara County  
Santa Cruz Black Salamander Santa Cruz Black Salamander Santa Cruz Black Salamander
  Adult, Santa Clara County  
Santa Cruz Black Salamander Santa Cruz Black Salamander Santa Cruz Black Salamander
Adult, Santa Clara County Adult, Santa Clara County Adult, Santa Clara County
Santa Cruz Black Salamanders Santa Cruz Black Salamander Santa Cruz Black Salamanders
Adult and juvenile, Santa Clara County Adult, Santa Cruz County
© Zachary Lim
Adult, Santa Cruz County
© Zachary Lim
Santa Cruz Black Salamander Santa Cruz Black Salamander Santa Cruz Black Salamander
Adult, Santa Cruz County
© Zachary Lim
Adult, Santa Clara County
© Mark Gary
Adult, Santa Cruz County
© 2005 Brad Alexander
Santa Cruz Black Salamander Santa Cruz Black Salamander Santa Cruz Black Salamander
Adult, Santa Cruz County
© Spencer Riffle
Adult, Santa Cruz County © Ryan Sikola
Santa Cruz Black Salamander Santa Cruz Black Salamander  
Adult, Santa Clara County © Mark Gary Toes with tips adapted for climbing
© Mark Gary
 
     
Juveniles
Santa Cruz Black Salamander Santa Cruz Black Salamander Santa Cruz Black Salamander
Juvenile, Santa Clara County © Zachary Lim Juvenile, Santa Clara County
Santa Cruz Black Salamander Santa Cruz Black Salamander Santa Cruz Black Salamanders
Juvenile, Santa Cruz County
© Zachary Lim
Juvenile, Santa Cruz County
© Zachary Lim
Adult and juvenile, Santa Clara County
     
Habitat
Santa Cruz Black Salamander Habitat Santa Cruz Black Salamander Habitat Santa Cruz Black Salamander Habitat
Habitat, Santa Cruz County Habitat, San Mateo County Habitat, Santa Cruz County
© Zachary Lim
  Santa Cruz Black Salamander Habitat  
  Habitat, San Mateo 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) in total length.

Appearance
A medium-sized salamander with nasolabial grooves and well-defined costal grooves.
Color and Pattern
Dorsal coloring is solid black, with a few fine white specks.
Male/Female Differences
Males have a broader head than females.
Young
Young are black with white speckles

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.

"This is the most semiaquatic member of the [Aneides flavipunctatus] complex and individuals are commonly encountered in the margins of rapidly flowing streams and in wet, rocky seeps. Individuals are rarely encountered far from water."
(Reilly and Wake 2019)

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 complex by its nearly uniform black coloration in adults; juveniles have numerous tiny white dorsal spots that are lost progressively at larger sizes... it is further distinguished from A. iecanus by having an average number of trunk vertebrae of 17 rather than 16."
(Reilly and Wake 2019)

Habitat
Occurs in mixed deciduous woodland, coniferous forests, coastal grasslands. Found under rocks near streams, in talus, under damp logs, and other objects. Rarely encountered very far from water.

Geographical Range
The Santa Cruz Black Salamander, Aneides niger - is endemic to California, with a limited range west of the San Francisco Bay and south of the San Francisco peninsusla in Santa Cruz County, western Santa Clara County, and southern San Mateo County.


"Aneides niger occurs only in the Santa Cruz Mountains on the lower San Francisco Peninsula in Santa Cruz, western Santa Clara, and extreme southern and eastern San Mateo counties, California.... The southernmost locality is at approximately 37 degrees N. The species occurs from near sea level to elevations of approximately 800 m. [2,624 ft.]"
(Reilly and Wake 2019)

Taxonomic Notes
Aneides flavipunctatus was split into four species in August, 2019. The subspecies Aneides flavipunctatus niger was raised 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 showed 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 )


The California Department of Fish and Wildlife Special Animals List shows this taxa as a full species:
Aneides Niger
- Santa Cruz Black Salamander.
Alternate and Previous Names (Synonyms)

Aneides flavipunctatus niger - Santa Cruz Black Salamander (Stebbins & McGinnis 2012 & 2018)
Aneides flavipunctatus - Black Salamander (Stebbins 1985, 2003)
Aneides flavipunctatus niger - Santa Cruz Black Salamander (Stebbins 1966)
Aneides flavipunctatus niger - 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)
Protected from take with a sport fishing license in 2013 due to a special closure prohibiting the take of Black Salamanders from San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.

"The most vulnerable of the four species of the Aneides flavipunctatus complex are A. niger and A. iecanus. Both have relatively small geographic ranges within which critical habitat has been heavily impacted by humans."
(Reilly and Wake 2019)
Taxonomy
Family Plethodontidae Lungless Salamanders Gray, 1850
Genus Aneides Climbing Salamanders Baird, 1851
Subspecies

niger Santa Cruz Black Salamander Myers and Maslin, 1948
Original Description
Aneides flavipunctatus - (Strauch, 1870) - Mem. Acad. Sci. St. Petersburg, Ser. 7, Vol. 16, No. 4, p. 71
Aneides flavipunctatus niger - Myers and Maslin, 1948 - Proc. Biol. Soc. Washington, Vol. 61, p. 132

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
niger: Latin - black

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 flavipunctatus - Speckled Black Salamander
Aneides iecanus - Shasta Black Salamander
Aneides klamathensis - Klamath Black Salamander
Aneides lugubris - Arboreal 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.

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 taxa has been shown as a full species since the June 2016 Special Animals List.

Organization Status Listing  Notes
NatureServe Global Ranking G3

Vulnerable

NatureServe State Ranking S3

Vulnerable

U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) None
California Endangered Species Act (CESA) None
California Department of Fish and Wildlife SSC Species of Special Concern
Bureau of Land Management None
USDA Forest Service None
IUCN None
 

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