California Tiger Salamander

From Academic Kids

California Tiger Salamander
Conservation status: Vulnerable
Missing image
California Tiger Salamander

Photo by Gary Nafis
Scientific classification
Species:A. californiense
Binomial name
Ambystoma californiense
Gray, 1853

The California Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma californiense) is an endangered amphibian native to Northern California. Previously considered to be a Tiger Salamander subspecies, the California was recently designated a separate species.



The California Tiger Salamander is a relatively large, secretive amphibian. Adults can grow to a length of about 19 - 20 cm (7 - 8 inches). It has a stocky body and a broad rounded snout. Adults are black and have yellow or cream spots; larvae are greenish-grey in color. The California Tiger Salamander has protruding eyes with black irises

Habitat and range

The California Tiger Salamander is endemic to California. Because it depends on water for reproduction, its 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).

It occurs in California in Sonoma County and Santa Barbara County, in vernal pool complexes and isolated ponds along the Central Valley from Colusa County to Kern County, and in sag ponds in the coastal range. Both the Sonoma and Santa Barbara populations are listed as endangered since 2000 and 2003, respectively. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently campaigning to list all the populations as threatened. The main threat to the salamanders is habitat destruction through human interaction.

The habitat includes Lake Lagunita at Stanford University, and the need to protect this site is a primary given reason for the cancellation of the Big Game bonfire.

Life cycle

Adults spend most of their lives underground, in burrows created by other animals such as ground squirrels: the salamanders themselves are poorly equipped for burrowing. Little is known about their underground life, except that they spend the dry season in estivation.

Breeding takes place in December, 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.

The larval period lasts for three to six months. The larvae feed on other small invertebrates, including tadpoles. When their pond dries, they resorb their gills, develop lungs, and then the metamorphs leave the pond in search of a burrow.

California Tiger Salamanders are believed to have relatively long life spans, ten years or more.

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