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California Tiger Salamander Ambystoma californiense


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California Tiger Salamander
credit: John Cleckler

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Family: Ambystomidae, Mole Salamanders view all from this family

Description A relatively large, secretive amphibian endemic to California. Adults can grow to a length of about 7-8 inches. It has a stocky body and a broad rounded snout. Adults are black with yellow or cream spots; larvae are greenish-grey in color. The California tiger salamander has brown protruding eyes with black pupils.

Dimensions 6-8 1/2" (15.2-21.6 cm)

Endangered Status The California Tiger Salamander is on the U.S. Endangered Species List. It is classified as endangered in Santa Barbara County, California. This salamanderís habitat, in ponds and pools in central California, has been reduced drastically by human activities, and there has been a corresponding decline in its population. The introduction of non-native predators in its environment, such as bullfrogs and several types of fish, have also taken a toll. Currently the California Tiger Salamander and its habitat are protected only within the confines of Jepson Prairie Natural Preserve.

Subspecies Previously considered to be a Tiger Salamander subspecies, the California tiger salamander was recently designated a separate species.

Breeding Breeding takes place after the first rains in late fall and early winter, when the wet season allows the salamanders to migrate to the nearest pond, a journey that may be as far as a mile and take several days. The eggs, which the female lays in small clusters or singly, hatch after some 10 to 14 days.

Habitat Depends on vernal pools for reproduction, so habitat is limited to the vicinity of large, fishless vernal pools or similar water bodies. It occurs at elevations up to 1000 m (3200 ft). Adults migrate at night from upland habitats to aquatic breeding sites during the first major rainfall events of fall and early winter and return to upland habitats after breeding

Range Six populations found in: (1) Sonoma County; (2) the Bay Area, (Stanislaus County, western Merced, and the majority of San Benito counties); (3) the Central Valley; (4) southern San Joaquin Valley (5) the Central Coast Range and 6) Santa Barbara County

Discussion Food includes Pacific Tree Frogs and Red-legged Frog tadpoles. Larvae feed on small invertebrates including tadpoles.