Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Wildlife Profile: California Slender Salamander

Is it a worm? Is it a tiny snake?! No! It's a California Slender Salamander. A resident species at Pennsylvania Garden, at first I thought we had tiny little snakes but was excited to learn that they are in fact a lungless salamander, and a very cute one at that.

Name: California Slender Salamander (Batrachoseps attenuatus)
Class: Amphibian
Length: 7-13cm, 5.5"
Geographical Distribution: The coastal mountain areas of Northern California, a small part of the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, California, in patches of the northern Central Valley of California, and in extreme southwestern Oregon.

In the right places - that is, shady, moist gardens, woodlands and forests - this salamander can be easily found. Especially at night, when you'll see them walking around during or after heavy rains in the winter and spring. Turn over a rock at PG or PRG and you're pretty likely to see one, at first coiled up but suddenly squirming away as it tries to escape being seen. 

They look like tiny brown or black snakes, or even worms, but you'll see four miniature legs that are a dead giveaway to ID them. And while they have tiny legs, they have no lungs at all.They breathe through their skin, in fact.

Another oddity is that their red blood cells don't have a nucleus. In general, red blood cells in mammals lack a cell nucleus when mature, and the red blood cells of other vertebrates have nuclei. The only known exceptions are salamanders of the genus Batrachoseps like the Slender Salamander, and fish of the genus Maurolicus.

If you try to pick one up, do be careful of their tails, which they can detach in order to escape. Don't worry - they will grow back, but it's certainly not ideal for them to be always growing tails...

These salamanders lay eggs as early as December. Clutches contain approximately five to twenty eggs, but five to ten different females may use the exact same egg laying site. Hatching around March or April, and in their 7-10 year lifespan they can grow to 5.5" long.

page counter
Free Hit Counter