Nature Notes

Vol. XIV December - 1936 No. 4

Description of Individual Species

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PACIFIC COAST NEWT. Triturus torosus (Rathke) (See Figure 1-Plate 3).

The general form of this animal which is generally referred to as a "water dog" is moderately stout. The limbs are well developed and the tail is cylindrical. The nostrils are small, the eyes moderately small and the neck is short. There are not costal grooves evident. The anterior, or fore, limbs have four toes while the posterior, or rear limbs, have five.

In the breeding season the males which preceed the females to the water, have well developed caudal fins, that is the tail, which is normally cylindrical, otherwise, flattens out vertically. The cloacal region in the male is large, especially during this period. Otherwise the skin surface is usually roughed with minute brownish horny points.

The color of this amphibian varies from dark to brown or reddish brown to a greenish brown. The lower surfaces however are orange.

This species may be found along the Pacific Coast from Alaska south to lower California. In Mt. Rainier National Park the range extends from the boundaries up to Reflection Lake on the south side and Mowich Lake on the north. Slater states that he has taken only one specimen around Reflection Lake, but several at Mowich Lake. In small, fairly stagnant lakes at lower levels they are abundant. The eggs are deposited singly or in small bunches soon after the ice melts off the ponds, and they transform in three to four months or more. Some may continue as larvae over the first winter, but it is believed most of them transform near the end of their first summer when they are from one and one-half to two inches long. They return to water only when sexually mature and in some ponds and adults appear to remain all summer.

NORTHWEST SALAMANDER. Ambystoma gracile (Baird) (See Figure 2-Plate 3).

The general form of this species is quite robust with well developed limbs, rounded snout and with a neck shorter than the width of the body. The tail is cylindrical except near the outer end where it is slightly compressed laterally. Prominent paratid glands are also characteristic - these being generally browner than the rest of the body. There are ten costal grooves (rib-like folds) which are continued across the abdomen while the sides of the tail, toward its base, show lateral grooves. The eyes are medium sized. The skin, slightly roughened on the dorsal surface (back), is smooth on the ventral surface (abdomen). The color of this amphibian is dark brown above and light brown underneath.

The Northwest Salamander is probably the most abundant salamander in the Park, and is found from the lowest elevations to five thousand feet, although the larvae have been taken at higher elevations on several occasions. This is the species which is commonly seen in the lakes and ponds around Reflection Lake and Paradise. Usually it is the one-year and two-year larvae that are noted while an adult may occasionally be seen in the pond at the breeding season. Large larvae as well as adults lay eggs when the ice is melting out of the pond, or soon after. The eggs are in bunches of one hundred or two hundred, if firm jelly, and generally fastened to sticks a few inches to a foot under the surface of the water. The three to six inch larvae are remarkably fast swimmers. They have three pairs of well-developed gills.

The only other larvae with which these are likely to be confused are those of the Long-toed Salamander. However the latter usually do not grow any larger than a lead pencil and generally are not over three inches in length when they transform into adults.

This species ranges from British Columbia south along the Pacific Coast to north western California.


LONG-TOED SALAMANDER. Ambystoma macrodactylum (Baird) (See Figure 3-Plate 3.)

The body form of this animal is moderately stout; stouter than our two species of Plethodon - (Western Red-backed and Washington Salamander) but slenderer than the Northwest Salamander (Ambystoma gracile). Its limbs are strong and well developed. The eyes and nostrils are small. The skin is smooth and there are usually eleven costal grooves (rib-like folds) which are, however, not prominent on ventral side (abdomen).

The color on the back and sides is dark brown to nearly black, with an irregular yellowish stripe down the center of the back, starting near the eyes and extending nearly to the tip of the tail. The ventral (abdomen) side is dark brown with many small white spots.

The general range of this salamander is from British Columbia south to Central California and eastward to Montana. In Mt. Rainier National Park it is found from the lowest points on the boundary to as high as six thousand feet in elevation. It prefers the smaller ponds between five and six thousand feet for breeding. The pond on the summit of Mazama Ridge, just north of the trail between the Paradise Highway and Reflection Lake, the pond near the Paradise Highway just above the last crossing of Paradise River, Little Reflection Lake, Fairy Pool and ponds in the Elysian fields are typical breeding ponds for the Long-toed Salamander. The eggs are deposited singly or in small bunches either on the bottom of such ponds or fastened to grass or small sticks therein. The jelly surrounding these eggs is quite soft.

The larvae usually transform soon after the ice melts from the ponds during their second summer at the higher elevations, while at the lower levels they transform the same year that the eggs are laid.


PACIFIC GIANT SALAMANDER. Dicamptodon (Eschscholtz) (See Figure 4 - Plate 3).

This is the largest of our native salamanders. The body is robust with strong limbs. A prominent groove extends from the head to the base of the tail on the dorsal or upper side of the animal's body. The head is broad and depressed; snout rounded; eyes large and building and the nostrils are small. This animal also possesses well developed maxillary teeth.

The skin is smooth with, usually, twelve costal grooves. These grooves however are not very conspicuous. The color of the dorsal (upper) and lateral (side) surface is mottled with bronze and dark sepia while the ventral (abdominal) surface is brownish drab. The larvae on the upper side is grey. They (the larvae) have a truncate nozzle, and their dorsal fins come only to the base of the tail.

One may find the larvae of the Pacific Giant Salamander in the smaller mountain streams and occasionally in the larger streams. The adults spend much of their time on land, hiding under rocks, slabs of bark, etc. While Slater has not taken the eggs of this species in Mt. Rainier National Park, Storer in "A Synopsis of Amphibia of California" states that the eggs are deposited in small lakes, (in Mendocino County, California,) in the redwood forest region, in masses two to three inches in diameter, to three or four inches in length, on sticks one or two feet under the surface. The jelly is very firm. The transformation size varies from four to ten or more inches.

This large Salamanders ranges from British Columbia south to Monterey Bay, California. In the park it is most generally noted at the lower elevations, several specimens having been taken in the vicinity of Longmire, the Nisqually Entrance and in the Carbon River Valley.


WESTERN RED-BACKED SALAMANDER. (Plethodon vehiculus) (Cooper) (See Figure 5 - Plate 3.)

The form of this species is elongated and slender with the head and body depressed, the head being slightly broader than the rest of the body. The limbs and toes are rather small. A groove extends along the ventral (lower) side from the head to the base of the tail, and there are usually fourteen costal grooves (rib-like folds) between the fore and hind limbs.

The color is blackish brown, which fades out to a lighter shade beneath. A reddish or yellowish band extends from the snout to the tip of the tail though some specimens may not have such a stripe. Minute white specks are generally present, especially on the sides.

This species is found in British Columbia, Washington, and Western Oregon. In Mt. Rainier National Park it ranges up to five thousand feet, and is found in moist woods, under leaves or under rocks which have water trickling over them. The eggs are laid in moist places, but not in water. This and other species belonging to the genus Plethodon, when adult, do not have lungs as the majority of adult salamanders do.


WASHINGTON SALAMANDER. Plethodon vandykei Van Denburgh; (See Figure 6 - Plate 3.)

The body of this species is similar to that of the Western Red-backed Salamander (Plethodon vehiculus) except that it is slightly stouter and possessed a heavier head. There are generally twelve costal grooves (rib-like folds) between the fore and hind limbs. The limbs are well developed and the tail is used much in climbing.

The color varies; but usually there is a dark clay-colored band from snout to tip of tail; while the side may be black to yellowish brown with tiny black specks. The ventral (abdomen) side is lighter in color.

This species was first described from a specimen taken in Paradise Valley which makes this animal of particular interest in this issue of Nature Notes. Slater reports having found them under rotting fir slabs at the base of a tree and under wet moss by a tiny stream. The latter specimens were found only a very short distance from the snout of the Carbon Glacier about 1934. Slater states that "as far as I know their eggs have never been taken, but it is believed that they will be found under much the same condition as those of Plethodon vehiculus."

It is apparent from the few collections noted above that this species, in Mt. Rainier National Park, has a rather wide altitudinal range - from near the Carbon Glacier's terminus (3400 ft.) to Paradise Valley (5500 ft.). It is not widely distributed geographically however - being known only from the vicinity of the Puget Sound region of Washington.


RED SALAMANDER or OREGON SALAMANDER. Ensatina eschscholtzii Gray - (See Figure 7 - Plate 3).

The form of this amphibian is rather stout with short limbs and a tail that is cylindrical with marked constriction at base. The head is depressed, and about as wide as the widest part of the body. The eyes are large and the nostrils small. There are usually eleven costal grooves or rib-like folds upon the sides of the body.

The color on the upper surface is reddish-brown without markings. Upon the upper surface of the limbs and toward the tip of the tail, however, possesses yellowish spots. The lower surface the animal is yellowish to light cream.

This species is found under stones and logs in moist locations. The eggs which are few in number are deposited in decaying logs and stumps-not in water. The mother usually stays with them until they are hatched - sometimes longer, presumably for protection.

The Red or Oregon Salamander is known to occur from Washington to Southern California while in the park it occurs up to an elevation of 3000 feet.

AMERICAN RIBBED TOAD or AMERICAN BELL TOAD. Ascaphus truei Stejnegner (See Figure 8; Plate 4)

The head of this species is flattened and not as long as it is broad. The eyes are of moderate size with vertically eliptic pupils. On the lower surface of the hand there are three pads, and the fingers are long. The hind leg is moderately long, with slender toes that are moderately webbed. In adult males a "tail" extends back about one-fourth of an inch. There is no tympanic membrane. The skin is smooth; only in a few specimens does it appear slightly warty.

The color of the American Ribbed Toad varies greatly, but it is usually reddish-brown to gray with numerous minor blending colors. Some specimens however have a decided greenish cast. A whitish stripe extends between the eyes.

The eggs of this species are deposited beneath stones in streams and the tadpoles live in a habitat of swift water, characteristic of mountain streams. One of the very interesting things about this tadpole is that the anterior (mouth) portion of the head is modified to form a suction cup which enables the animal to stick to boulders or even work its way against the swift current. They are nearly black with a whitish or cream-colored tip to the tail. Some may transform at the end of the first summer, but many hibernate the first winter as tadpoles. This is the easiest way to recognize the Salatian tadpoles. Mrs. Gage (Occasion Papers Mus. Zool. Univ. Mich. No. 84, 1920) is the only one to report having collected their eggs in the field; and Slater was the first to observe and report mating (Copeia 1931 p. 62-63). This was at Ipsut Creek, a branch of the Carbon River, Mt. Rainier National Park, on May 17, 1930.

Ascaphus is widely distributed in Mt. Rainier National Park, occuring up to about 6000 feet in this area. The highest elevations in the park that Slater has recorded these animals are just below Paradise Inn on the south side, and at the head of Dick Creek on the north side. Almost every creek inhabited by Ascaphus tadpoles is also occupied by the larvae of the Pacific Giant Salamander, which Slater considers as its great enemy. One exception is Dick Creek which drains the Elysian Fields, being a tributary of the Carbon River.


NORTHWESTERN TOAD. Bufo boreas boreas (Baird and Girard) (See Figure 9 - Plate 4.) The cover design pictures this animal also.

This toad which is common in Mt. Rainier National Park, grows to a large size being 2" - 5" in length. The females are larger than the males. The mature size is attained in from 2 - 3 years. The strong limbs are possessed of blunt toes and fingers. The skin is covered with characteristically roundish and elongated warts. The head is broad; the tympanum, (ear) is small and there are two large and prominent parotid glands.

The color varies from gray and brown to greenish but the surface of the warts is usually brownish. A yellowish or whitish and mid-dorsal stripe extends from snout to anus.

The eggs of the Northwestern toad are deposited in ponds or slow moving streams in long strings of jelly. These eggs are quite dark on top, and six to ten will be found to the inch in the string of jelly. They hatch in a few days and transform in six to eight weeks.

The range of this toad in the park is about the same as that of the Pacific Coast Newt (Triturus torosus.), that is from the lower elevations along the park boundaries up to 5000 feet. Slater reports having seen less than half a dozen around Reflection Lakes and none higher on this side of the park On the north side of the park he reports seeing numbers around Mowich Lake and on the trail up to Ipsut Pass. The general range is from S. E. Alaska to Northern California and east to Colorado.

Generally speaking toads remain active from early spring until late fall when they hibernate, underground, by burrowing. The burrowing is done with the hind legs, the hind feet possessing tubercles or "spurs" which are of assistance in this digging. The animal goes down backwards into the burrow as it is being dug, the dirt filling in over the toad's head. It is said that when toads hibernate those that fail to burrow below the frost level perish.

Like all amphibians the toad has numerous enemies. There is no period in its life when it is not subject to attack. All classes of verebrate animals destroy it while drought in summer or severe cold in winter kill many toads. Young toads, being diurnal, expose themselves to their enemies more than do the adults which are active only in the evening and at night. They hide under stones, debris etc. during the day.

In the matter of food habits the toad is largely beneficial to man, particularly in the garden, greenhouse, on the farm, in fields of small grain, on golf courses and the like, for the bulk of their food consists of noxious insects. Main food types (Kirkland) are sowbugs, snails, spiders, millipedes, and insects. Insects comprised, in an analysis of 502 toad stomachs, about 77% of the food - beetles of various kinds and ants being the chief constituents. (Kirkland)

PACIFIC TREE TOAD. Hyla regilla Baird and Girard (See Figure 10 - Plate 4.)

This, one of the most interesting amphibians native to Mt. Rainier National Park, is our smallest member of that group which includes the tailess amphibians (Salients - frogs and toads). It is, however not much smaller than the American Ribbed or American Bell Toad (Ascaphus truei). Seldom is a Pacific Tree Toad found with a body length of two inches. Its form is delicate with the nostrils nearly terminal, the tympanum (ear) is small and the skin is smooth. There are no webs between the fingers of the fore limbs but webs are present between the third, fourth, and fifth toes on the hind limbs. On both fingers and toes one finds expanded terminal discs by means of which this animal clings to various objects and climbs about. The general body color of the Pacific Tree Toad varies from pale green, green, brown, reddish brown, and is often blotched on the back. The side of the head has a broad band of dark color with a narrow strip of white below.

In the park it is found in the region where swamps and heavy forests abound. The highest that this species has been reported (Slater), on the south side of the park, is the lower end of Paradise Valley just above the forest zone. Slater also states that he has never seen nor heard them about Reflection Lakes. However, in California this species has been reported as high as 11,600 feet (Slevin - Amphibians of Western North America).

The Pacific tree toad lays its eggs in small ponds, soon after it comes out of hibernation, in small clusters which are fastened to grass or sticks a few inches under the surface of the water. These clusters usually contain 20 to 40 eggs. The jelly is soft, and the eggs are a light grayish brown on top and light cream underneath. The young transform during the first summer.

During the mating season - in the spring - the small lakes and marshes resound with the voices of great numbers of the male Tree Toads. The "Song" of this animal is made by means of blowing out the membrane of the under surface of the lower jaw to truly alarming proportions. This skin then looks like a large bubble and the tree toad's voice is given added resonance. It might be compared to shouting into a barrel.


WESTERN WOOD FROG or OREGON RED-LEGGED FROG. Rana aurora aurora (Baird and Girard) (See Figure 11; Plate 4.)

This species resembles the Western Spotted Frog (Rana pretiosa) but the form is heavier, the dorsal folds are not as prominent and the dark spots are not as conspicuous. In addition the snout of this species is rounded and the color is apt to be darker on the back and a purplish red beneath.

The egg masses are distinguished from those of the Western Spotted Frog (Rana pretiosa) by the more grape-like appearance; that is, the jelly envelopes about each egg near the surface of the group stand out whereas the jelly masses of the Western Spotted Frog from a more even surface. The individual jelly envelopes of the Western Wood Frog are also larger.

This frog is not found at such high elevations in Mt. Rainier National Park as is the Western Spotted Frog nor is it quite as common. Its general range includes a narrow strip of territory from British Columbia to Oregon, with a possibility of its occurence in the extreme northwestern corner of California.


WESTERN SPOTTED FROG. Rana pretiosa Baird and Girard. (See Figure 12 - Plate 4.)

This is the most abundant frog in Mt. Rainier National Park. It is a moderate sized species with moderately heavy fore limbs, moderately slim hind limbs, and a prominent dorsolateral fold.

Above, its color is light to dark brown with black spots. These spots very greatly in number and to some extent in size. The under surface is reddish to straw colored, the reddish specimens being found in the lower altitudes, and the straw colored ones in the higher portion of this species' range. The latter are abundant about Paradise, Reflection Lakes, Elysian Fields, and similar places; but, none have been reported from Yakima Park or Spray Park. It is distributed from Alaska to northern California and east to Utah and Montana.

The eggs are deposited within a few days after the frog comes out of hibernation in the higher elevations regardless of whether the ice and snow is melted from the pond. The jelly mass of these eggs forms a rather even surface - that is the individual jelly envelope of each egg is not very well defined. The egg masses of this frog are those most commonly seen early in the summer in the vicinity of Paradise and places of similar elevation.

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