A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California

Kern Canyon Slender Salamander - Batrachoseps simatus

Brame & Murray, 1968
Click on a picture for a larger view
Kern Canyon Slender Salamander Range Map
Red: Range in California
observation link

Kern Canyon Slender Salamander Kern Canyon Slender Salamander
Adult, Kern County Adult, Kern County
Kern Canyon Slender Salamander Kern Canyon Slender Salamander Kern Canyon Slender Salamander
Adult, Kern County Adult, Kern County Adult, Kern County
Kern Canyon Slender Salamander Kern Canyon Slender Salamander Kern Canyon Slender Salamander
Adult, Kern County Adult, Kern County Adult, Kern County
Kern Canyon Slender Salamander Kern Canyon Slender Salamander Kern Canyon Slender Salamander
Adult, Kern County, 2,400 ft. Adult, Kern County © Ryan Sikola Adult, Kern County © Ryan Sikola
Kern Canyon Slender Salamander Kern Canyon Slender Salamander Kern Canyon Slender Salamander
Adult, Kern County Hatchling on U.S. dime,
Kern County, 2,400 ft.
Adult, Kern County © Noah Morales
Kern Canyon Slender Salamander Habitat Kern Canyon Slender Salamander Habitat Kern Canyon Slender Salamander Habitat
Habitat, 2,400 ft., Kern County
Habitat, 2,400 ft., Kern County Habitat, 1,500 ft., Kern County
  Kern Canyon Slender Salamander Habitat  
  Habitat, Kern County  
Short Video
  Kern Canyon Slender Salamander  
  An adult under a rock.  
Adults are 1 5/8 - 2 1/5 inches long (4-5.5 cm) from snout to vent.

A small slim salamander, with 20-21 costal grooves (with 7-9 costal folds between adpressed limbs.)
Short limbs, a narrow head, long slender body, very long tail, and conspicuous costal and caudal grooves give this species the worm-like appearance typical of most Slender Salamanders.

This species is relatively large and robust when compared with most Slender Salamanders, having a comparitively broader head, longer legs, broader feet, and larger 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
The sides and ventral surfaces are dark, and flecked with a lighter color.
There may be a dorsal stripe.

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.
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
Probably 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.
Reproduction is terrestrial.
Nothing is known of the reproduction of B. simatus within Kern Canyon.
Like other low to mid-elevation Batrachoseps, it is assumed that this species lays eggs on land between December and February, depending on stimulation by rainfall, which varies year to year.
Young develop completely in the egg and hatch fully formed, presumbably in early spring.
A single hatchling was found on March 4th.

Favored habitat is north-facing riparian zones in narrow canyons shaded with willows and cottonwoods and wooded hillsides supporting oaks and pines, including wet creek margins, seeps, talus, and exposed chaparral. These areas typically do not get sun in winter and remain moist and cool into the spring.

Individuals are usually found beneath rocks, logs, bark and leaf-litter during periods of high moisture, typically November to March or April, but often only February and March.
One B. simatus (found by T. Burkhardt and S.Winegarner) came from within the spray-zone of a waterfall.

Available habitat is in small disjunct patches, suggesting that population sizes are small.

Robert Hansen, 1988, determined that salamanders were found in only about 2 per cent of the available habitat (only about 17 acres.) Substantial genetic differences have been found between adjacent populations. This suggests that these populations have been isolated for a long time, and that the failure to find salamanders in areas between populations is not due to inadequate surveys.

Geographical Range
Endemic to California. Batrachoseps simatus is found in the lower Kern River Canyon from Stork Creek, 1,476 ft. (450 m) to Erskine Creek, 3,937 ft. (1200 m).
All known locality records appear to be from the south side (north face) of the canyon.

Notes on Taxonomy
In February 2012, Jockusch et al * split B. simatus into two species - B. bramei - Fairview Slender Salamander, found in the Upper Kern River Canyon, and B. simatus found only in Lower Kern River Canyon.

Jockusch et al * also assigned slender salamanders found on Cottonwood Creek outside of Kern Canyon, formerly recognized as B. simatus, to B. gregarius.

There has been no question as to the validity of this taxon since it was originally described. B. simatus is genetically and morphologically distinct from other members of the nigriventris-group.

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

Names History

Batrachoseps simatus - Kern Canyon Slender Salamander (Brame & Murray 1968, Stebbins 1985, 2003, 2012)

Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
Protected by California law.  Long periods of drought in the area have made it difficult to find salamanders and to monitor their status, but it appears that salamander populations still exist at all known localities. Highway construction and cattle grazing have degraded salamander habitat. The development of water storage facilities in Kern Canyon could pose an additional threat.
Family Plethodontidae Lungless Salamanders Gray, 1850
Genus Batrachoseps Slender Salamanders Bonaparte, 1841

simatus Kern Canyon Slender Salamander Brame & Murray, 1968
Original Description
Brame and Murray, 1968 - Sci. Bull. Nat. Hist. Mus. Los Angeles Co., No. 4, p. 15

from Original Description Citations for the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America © Ellin Beltz

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Batrachoseps: Greek - amphibian, frog lizard - describes lizard-like appearance.
simatus: Latin - having the nature of a pug-nose, referring to the facial appearance.

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

Similar Neighboring Salamanders
Batrachoseps kawia
Batrachoseps regius
Batrachoseps robustus
Batrachoseps gregarious
Batrachoseps bramei
Batrachoseps altasierrae
Batrachoseps relictus
Batrachoseps stebbensi

More Information and References
* Jokusch, Elizabeth L., Inigo Martinez-Solano, Robert W. Hansen, & David B. Wake.
Morphological and molecular diversification of slender salamanders (Caudata: Plethodontidae: Batrachoseps) in the southern Sierra Nevada of California with descriptions of two new species.
©2012 - Magnolia Press     Zootaxa 3190: 1-30 (2012)

California Department of Fish and Wildlife


Salamander Diversity in the Kern Valley Region

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.

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.

Thelander, C. G., ed.   Life on the Edge: A Guide to California's Endangered Natural Resources Volume I: Wildlife.
Biosystems Books, Santa Cruz, California. 1994.

Conservation Status

The following conservation status listings for this animal are taken from the January 2024 State of California Special Animals List and the January 2024 Federally Listed Endangered and Threatened Animals of California list (unless indicated otherwise below.) Both lists are produced by multiple agencies every year, and sometimes more than once per year, so the conservation status listing information found below might not be from the most recent lists. To make sure you are seeing the most recent listings, go to this California Department of Fish and Wildlife web page where you can search for and download both lists:

A detailed explanation of the meaning of the status listing symbols can be found at the beginning of the two lists. For quick reference, I have included 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 also go to the NatureServe and IUCN websites to check their rankings.

The 7/03/2023 Special Animals lists this species as "Proposed Threatened" by the ESA, but the 7/03/23 Federally Listed Endangered and Threatened Animals of California List shows it as listed as endangered 10/18/22.
Organization Status Listing  Notes
NatureServe Global Ranking G2G3 Imperiled - Vulnerable
NatureServe State Ranking S2S3 Imperiled - Vulnerable
U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) FPT Listed as Endangered 10/18/2022
California Endangered Species Act (CESA) ST Listed as Threatened 6/27/1971
California Department of Fish and Wildlife None
Bureau of Land Management None
USDA Forest Service S Sensitive
IUCN VU Vulnerable
Proposed for listing as threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 10/22.

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