Is That A Worm?

April 04, 2018 Posted by: Andrew Rosales
This little worm-like Garden Slender Salamander (Batrachoseps major) is a native to Southern California and may be confused with a worm due to its slender body, short legs, and long tail, resembling a worm at first glance. This salamander is 3cm – 6cm in length and has four toes unlike other species of salamander. The coloration is reddish-brown to copper, but also slightly grey toward the head with visible blotches on the body as well.

Garden Slender Salamander on sidewalk
NPS Photo/Nicole Ornelas: Garden Slender Salamander on sidewalk.

This species is found in Southern California from the southern foothills of the Los Angeles Basin mountains, along the coast, into Palm Springs and down into Northern Baja California. The Garden Slender Salamander breathes through its skin and tissues in their mouths, not lungs or gills. Therefore, this species does not live in creeks, streams, or ponds, but inhabit damp environments in their terrestrial home range. This entails leaf litter, bark, under rocks and logs.

Garden Slender Salamander face closeupNPS Photo/Nicole Ornelas: Garden Slender Salamander face closeup. 

This salamander is provoked form its torpor, or dormancy, during the warm, dry summer months with the first significant rains of our rainy season, typically October – November. This surface activity continues through the Spring (April – May) as moisture and humidity levels remain acceptable. The coastal fog can also prolong activity into July with this added moisture. They can be found active all year in irrigated suburban yards where moisture levels remain constant in developed areas. 

Mating and laying of eggs takes place during this wet season. About 10-20 eggs are laid in burrows. Hatchlings emerge fully formed as tiny salamanders in late January to February. Burrows are also used during their dormancy in the summer months. Gopher holes, earthworm burrows, also cracks in soil and cement offer refuge from the heat. 
The salamander diet consists of arthropods like earwigs and sow bugs, but also invertebrates like earthworms, and other insects. All this activity is done during the rainy season before the long hot summer days arrive and they head back into their burrows. So, keep an eye out for these fun little creatures, and no, it’s not a worm. 

Garden Slender Salamander on sidewalkNPS Photo/Nicole Ornelas: Garden Slender Salamander on sidewalk.

Last updated: April 4, 2018

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