06 July 2010

Monterey Slender Salamanders

Slender Salamanders, or Worm Salamanders, are a genus (Batrachoseps) of small, thin salamanders that are found only on the west coast of North America, from Oregon to Mexico. In recent years, the use of genetics has greatly enhanced our understanding of this genus. The more we study them, the more diverse they seem to be.

There are now about 20 species known in the genus, and most of them have very small ranges. While I was in Monterey last month, I took the opportunity to find two of these narrow endemics.

The Gabilan Mountains Slender Salamander, above, was described as a species in 2001. It is found in only a small part of California. Like all members of the genus, this species captures small insect prey with a projectile tongue. The last photo above shows the habitat where these individuals were found.

The Santa Lucia Mountains Slender Salamander is closely related, and although it is said to be slightly more robust, it may be impossible to distinguish it reliably except by genetics. Fortunately, its range does not overlap with the Gabilan Mountains Slender Salamander, so the species can be identified safely by location. This species is even more narrowly distributed, being found over only about 50 miles of the California coast.

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