Last updated: December 21, 2016
Species Spotlight: Garden Slender Salamander
December 21, 2016
Did you know that an amphibian species calls Cabrillo National Monument home? This species, the garden slender salamander (Batrachoseps major major) spends most of its time underground, but they are most active this time of year. These salamanders requires a damp environment because they respire through their skin and mouth tissues – they do not have lungs! They do not typically live near water sources. You are more likely to see a Batrachoseps salamander now in the winter compared to any other season since they will only move above ground during times of high humidity or precipitation.
The Batrachoseps begins life inside an egg that has been buried in moist soil, along with about 10-20 other eggs that are laid in a string. The eggs hatch, and tiny salamanders emerge, contrary to many other types of salamanders that may begin life as small “larvae” that breathe through gills and live in water.
An individual’s life expectancy is largely unknown, but it is estimated that Batrachoseps reach full maturity around three years of age. Their prey includes worms, sow bugs, and ear wigs; predators include small snakes such as the ring-necked snake (Diadophis punctatus) and San Diego nightsnake (Hypsiglena orchrorhyncha).
Cabrillo NM biologists regularly check the health of reptile and amphibian populations each month by utilizing special traps called “pitfalls,” which are essentially 5 gallon buckets set into the ground that are opened up to catch just about anything that moves along the ground. The study has been going on for over 20 years and the National Park Service is gaining valuable information such as how species are coping with stressors such as climate change and habitat fragmentation. As you can probably guess, an animal that is required to live in moist environments is extremely susceptible to climate change.
For more information on the study, please visit: https://science.nature.nps.gov/im/units/MEDN/index.cfm
Sources: Amphibiaweb.org; californiaherps.com
Species Spotlight is an ongoing feature of the Cabrillo Field Notes Blog where we highlight the fur and feathered (and sometimes scaled and squishy) friends that call Cabrillo National Monument home. If there is a particular critter you would like to learn more about from our Natural Resources Rangers, please leave us a photo or name in the comments and we will do our best to investigate.