Adults 3.2-5.4 cm (1.3-2.1 in.) snout-to-vent length (SVL). A small, slender salamander with tiny limbs, possible to mistake for a worm at first glance. This species is one of the most slender of the slender salamanders in California. The tail is often long, in some individuals reaching over 10 cm (4 in.).
Background coloration is typically dark brown, with a lighter dorsal stripe. Ventral color is black with light speckling.
- Garden Slender Salamander, Batrachoseps major major
- San Gabriel Mountains Slender Salamander, Batrachoseps gabrieli
- Tehachapi Slender Salamander, Batrachoseps stebbinsi
- Channel Islands Slender Salamander, Batrachoseps pacificus
- Lesser Slender Salamander, Batrachoseps minor
- San Simeon Slender Salamander, Batrachoseps incognitus
- Gabilan Mountains Slender Salamander, Batrachoseps gavilanensis
Quick ID Notes
- Black-bellied Slender Salamanders have narrow head and body, small limbs with minute toes, and dark ventral surface on both body and tail.
- Garden Slender Salamanders are more robust and have light venter (especially on tail).
- San Gabriel Mountains Slender Salamanders have broad head, longer limbs with more distinct toes, and are only found in a limited region of the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains.
- Tehachapi Slender Salamanders have broad head, longer limbs with more distinct toes, and are only found in the Tehachapi Mountains.
- Channel Islands Slender Salamanders are more robust, have light venter (especially on tail), and are only found on the Channel Islands.
- Lesser Slender Salamanders have larger feet and only occur in a limited area of the southern Santa Lucia Mountains. Within their range, these salamanders cannot be definitively distinguished from Black-bellied Slender Salamanders without biochemical testing.
- San Simeon Slender Salamanders have slightly larger legs, toes, and neck and are only found near the coast on the border of San Luis Obispo and Monterey Counties. Several populations are difficult to distinguish from Black-bellied Slender Salamanders without chemical testing.
- Gabilan Mountains Slender Salamanders have slightly larger feet and toes and only overlap with Black-bellied Slender Salamanders in the northernmost part of their range. This species is also difficult to distinguish from Black-bellied Slender Salamanders without lab testing.
- Several other slender salamander species are found in Kern Canyon and the Tehachapi Mountains north of Bakersfield. Black-bellied Slender Salamanders do not range this far north in the Tehachapis.
Found in coastal Southern California from the the Orange/San Diego county border north to the Monterey/San Luis Obispo county border. Occurs inland through the coastal mountain ranges, including the Santa Ana Mountains, San Gabriel Mountains, Santa Monica Mountains, southern Tehachapi Mountains, and the southern Santa Lucia Mountains. Also found on Santa Cruz Island.
Commonly seen in forest/woodlands, but also in meadows and even scrub. Most often found in the canyons of mountains and hills but can be found in sea-level flats in some localities. Occurs under rocks, logs, bark, leaf litter, and other debris.
Most of life is spent under substrate (rocks, logs, bark, and artificial cover) where moisture is held in the soil. Only observed moving on the surface on rainy nights.
When disturbed the salamanders sometimes attempt to flee into deeper substrate, but more often roll up into a tight coil.
Eggs are laid in moist substrate underneath surface cover in the winter and hatch in the winter and early spring. Young hatch from the eggs already fully formed.
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"
- Latin - "nigri" meaning black and "ventris" meaning venter -- referring to the dark venter
This is the most common salamander over much of its range, and there are no known conservation issues.
As recently as the 1960s, some sources only recognized two species of slender salamander in California, though several populations were in question. Since then greater sampling of slender salamander populations, extensive DNA testing, and the discovery of new species have led to the description of 19 distinct species of Batrachoseps in California. Batrachoseps nigriventris was lumped within Batrachoseps attenatus until 1980, when genetic work led to it being described as a separate species. In 1998 another genetic investigation led to Batrachoseps gregarius being separated out from Batrachoseps nigriventris. Scientific study of the species is ongoing, and more such splits would not be surprising.
- Hakim, Jonathan. Personal observation.
- Nafis, Gary. “Batrachoseps nigriventris - Black-bellied Slender Salamander”. CaliforniaHerps.com 2011. http://www.californiaherps.com/salamanders/pages/b.nigriventris.html
- Nafis, Gary. “Batrachoseps minor - Lesser Slender Salamander”. CaliforniaHerps.com 2011. http://www.californiaherps.com/salamanders/pages/b.minor.html
- Flaxington, William. Personal observation.
- Nafis, Gary. “Batrachoseps gavilanensis - Gabilan Mountains Slender Salamander”. CaliforniaHerps.com 2011. http://www.californiaherps.com/salamanders/pages/b.gavilanensis.html
- Stebbins, R. C. 2003. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. 3rd Edition, revised. Houghton Mifflin Book Co., Boston. New York, NY.
- Hakim, Jonathan. Personal observation.
- Beltz, Ellin. "Scientific and Common Names of the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America - Explained", http://ebeltz.net/herps/etymain.html, 2006
- Stebbins, R. C. 1966. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. 1st Edition. Houghton Mifflin Book Co., Boston. New York, NY.
- Yanev, K.P. 1980. Biogeography and distribution of three parapatric salamander species in coastal and borderland California. Pp. 531–550. In Power, D.M. (Ed.), The California Islands: Proceedings of a Multidisciplinary Symposium. Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Santa Barbara, California.
- Jockusch EL, Wake DB, Yanev KP. 1998. New species of Batrachoseps (Caudata: Plethodontidae) from the Sierra Nevada, California. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County Contributions in Science 472:1-17.
- Wake, David and Tom Devitt. 2007. "supergenus Batrachoseps". Version 18 June 2007 (temporary). http://tolweb.org/supergenus_Batrachoseps/65947/2007.06.18 in The Tree of Life Web Project.
Batrachoseps - Slender Salamanders
- Batrachoseps nigriventris - Black-bellied Slender Salamander