Scientific Name: Aneides lugubris
Description: These thick-bodied salamanders are dark in color above with a sprinkling of yellowish flecks. The underside is creamy white to yellow. As their name implies, arboreal salamanders are excellent tree climbers. Their large toes and prehensile tail aid them in climbing up to 60 feet above the ground!
Size: The largest arboreal salamanders reach 7 inches in length, including the tail.
Diet: Arboreal salamanders find their food of insects and terrestrial invertebrates on the forest floor at night during wet weather. They catch their prey on their tongue and crush it with powerful jaws and sharp teeth. An arboreal salamander may even eat another salamander if it’s smaller than itself!
Predation: Arboreal salamanders use several defense mechanisms to avoid becoming dinner for jays and Pacific rattlesnakes. When disturbed, they exhibit a defensive stance, squeak, jump, and attempt to flee. If necessary, they use their teeth to inflict a wound on their attacker. While their bite is too small to do significant damage on large animals, the open gash can become infected and prove fatal.
Habitat: Arboreal salamanders are found in coastal live oak woodlands and yellow pine and black oak forests. They are lungless salamanders that breathe through their skin, so they are restricted to areas with plenty of moisture. Much of their time is spent on the forest floor, but they retreat to tree cavities in the summer to wait out the dry weather.
Range: Their range extends along the coast of California to the northern part of the Baja Peninsula. An inland population occurs in the Sierra Nevada foothills.
Life History and Reproduction: Unlike many amphibians, arboreal salamanders don’t undergo a larval stage. Newly hatched arboreal salamanders look just like miniature adults. Eggs are laid in moist logs or tree cavities.
Fun Fact: Arboreal salamanders are solitary and bite other members of their species that get too close. Nevertheless, they’re often found clustered together in moist spaces during the dry season.
Conservation Status: Stable. Like many amphibians, the greatest threats to arboreal salamanders are habitat loss and pollution.
University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web
IUCN Red List