Desert Slender Salamander

Batrachoseps major aridus


Adults 3.1-4.9 cm (1.3-1.9 in) snout-to-vent length (SVL)[1]. A small, slender salamander with tiny limbs, possible to mistake for a worm at first glance. Heavy-bodied and long-legged for a slender salamander. This desert subspecies has a relatively short tail.

Background coloration is pale gray, white, or pink. Ventral color is dark on the belly and flesh-colored on the tail[2].

Similar Species

Quick ID Notes


Hidden Palm Canyon and Guadalupe Canyon in the Santa Rosa Mountains. These areas are protected and Hidden Palm Canyon is closed to public access.


Seeps and other moist areas in shaded, well-vegetated canyons surrounded by desert scrub. The salamanders are sometimes found under rocks, but appear to most often utilize fissures and crevices in the limestone walls of their habitat[4].


Likely spend most of their time deep in limestone crevices, though they have been observed feeding at crevice openings at night[5].

When disturbed the salamanders sometimes roll up into a tight coil and lift their tails up in the air, a behavior not seen in any other slender salamander[6].


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. In the case of s the eggs are likely laid within their limestone crevices. Young hatch from the eggs already fully formed.


Have been observed at crevice openings feeding on small invertebrates with their prehensile tongues[5].

Meaning of Scientific Name

Greek - batrachos meaning amphibian, frog and seps meaning lizard — therefore a "lizard-like amphibian"[7]
Latin - larger.[7]
Latin - dry -- referring to its dry habitat[7]

Conservation Status

Listed as an endangered species under the United States Endangered Species Act and the California Endangered Species Act. The minuscule range of this salamander and surrounding inhospitable conditions make it vulnerable to natural or man-made alterations to the water sources and limestone formations that allow it to utilize its habitat. A USFWS study in 2009 reported that no s had been located in its surveys since 1995, though the search techniques used (meant to avoid damage to habitat) have limited the chance of success[8]. (Note - Eddy Konno of California Fish and Game reports that Kimberly Nicol actually saw the salamanders in that habitat in 1997.[9])

Taxonomic Notes

was discovered in 1969 and considered a distinct species of slender salamander when it was first described[10]. In 2000 a paper by Jockusch and Wake[3] led to be placed as a subspecies within the newly described species Batrachoseps major.

Batrachoseps major is considered to be especially closely related to Batrachoseps minor, Batrachoseps incognitus, and Batrachoseps pacificus. These species form the Batrachoseps pacificus group along with Batrachoseps luciae, Batrachoseps gavilanensis, and Batrachoseps gabrieli[11].


  1. AmphibiaWeb: Information on amphibian biology and conservation. [web application]. 2011. Berkeley, California: AmphibiaWeb. Available:
  2. Stebbins, R. C. 2003. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. 3rd Edition, revised. Houghton Mifflin Book Co., Boston. New York, NY.
  3. Wake, D.B. and E.L. Jockusch. (2000). Detecting species borders using diverse data sets: plethodontid salamanders in California. Pp. 95-119 in R.C. Bruce, R.G. Jaeger, and L.D. Houck, eds. The Biology of the Plethodontidae. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.
  4. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1982. Desert slender salamander recovery plan. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Portland, Oregon.
  5. Bleich, K.M. 1978. Preliminary results of a study on Batrachoseps aridus in Hidden Palm Canyon, Riverside County, California. Report to California Department of Fish and Game, Sacramento, California.
  6. Brame, A.H., Jr., M.C. Long and A.A. Chiri. 1973. Defensive display of the desert slender salamander, Batrachoseps aridus. Herpeton 8:1–3.
  7. Beltz, Ellin. "Scientific and Common Names of the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America - Explained",, 2006
  8. Nafis, Gary. “Batrachoseps major aridus - Desert Slender Salamander”. 2010.
  9. Graham, Sean. "A Slender Margin for Survival (Part II)",, 2015
  10. Brame, Arden. H., Jr. "A new species of Batrachoseps (slender salamander) from the desert of southern California." Contributions in Science - Los Angeles County Museum, 200. 1970
  11. Wake, David and Tom Devitt. 2007. "supergenus Batrachoseps". Version 18 June 2007 (temporary). in The Tree of Life Web Project.

Log In