San Gabriel Mountains Slender Salamander

Batrachoseps gabrieli


Adults 3.8-5.1 cm (1.5-2 in)[1] snout-to-vent length (SVL). A small, slender salamander with tiny limbs, possible to mistake for a worm at first glance. However, it is bulkier than most other , with a comparatively broader head, longer limbs, and larger toes[2].

Background coloration is black, with variable copper to orange dorsal stripe that often breaks up into blotches, especially near the tail. Ventral color is black with light speckling.

Similar Species

Quick ID Notes


Known only from 13-15 isolated localities in a 300 sq. mi. (750 sq. km) region of the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains. Has been found as far west as San Gabriel Canyon in Los Angeles County and as far east as Waterman Canyon in San Bernardino County. Due to its secretive nature, recent discovery, and ability to utilize isolated microhabitats, there are undoubtedly populations that have not yet been found.


North-facing talus slopes in high-elevation forest. Lowest elevation record is from 816 m (2,700 ft.)[3], and they have been reported as high as 2,380 m (7,800 ft.)[2].


Little is known about the natural behavior of this species. All individuals so far found were under substrate (rocks, logs, bark, and artificial cover) where moisture was held in the soil. Can be found under snow[4]. Other are active on the surface on rainy nights.

Appears only to be near surface during winter and spring months, with all records coming between November and April. It is assumed that the salamanders go deeper into the talus in the late spring as the soil dries.


Reproductive activity has not yet been observed in this species. All species known are terrestrial egg-layers, depositing small clutches of eggs in moist substrate underneath surface cover. Young hatch from the eggs already fully formed.


Likely a sit-and-wait predator. Feeds on small invertebrates.

Meaning of Scientific Name

Greek - batrachos meaning amphibian, frog and seps meaning lizard — therefore a "lizard-like amphibian"[5]
References the San Gabriel Mountains, its type location

Conservation Status

The recent discovery of this species makes it difficult to assess population trends, but the specificity of habitat requirements and limited number of sites in which it has been found warrant concern. It is listed as a sensitive species by the USDA Forest Service[2].

Taxonomic Notes

The was first described in 1996 by David B. Wake[6].

is considered to be somewhat related to other members of the Batrachoseps pacificus group, which includes Batrachoseps pacificus, Batrachoseps incognitus, Batrachoseps major, Batrachoseps minor, Batrachoseps luciae, and Batrachoseps gavilanensis[7]. However, it is a genetic and morphological outlier in the group.


  1. Stebbins, R. C. 2003. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. 3rd Edition, revised. Houghton Mifflin Book Co., Boston. New York, NY.
  2. Nafis, Gary. “Batrachoseps gabrieli - San Gabriel Mountains Slender Salamander”. 2010.
  3. MVZ Herp 237196
  4. Hakim, Jonathan. Personal observation.
  5. Beltz, Ellin. "Scientific and Common Names of the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America - Explained",, 2006
  6. Wake, D.B. 1996. A new species of Batrachoseps (Amphibia: Plethodontidae) from the San Gabriel Mountains, southern California. Contributions in Science from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Number 463, Los Angeles, California.
  7. Wake, David and Tom Devitt. 2007. "supergenus Batrachoseps". Version 18 June 2007 (temporary). in The Tree of Life Web Project.

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