Other Amphibian of the Week

Ensatina (Ensatina eschscholtzii)

Sierra Nevada Ensatina photo by Marshal Hedin

Common Name: Ensatina
Scientific Name: Ensatina eschscholtzii
Family: Plethodontidae – Lungless Salamander Family
Location: United States, Canada, and Mexico
US Location: California, Oregon, and Washington
Size: 5 inches or 145 mm total length

The Ensatina Salamander is a complex of usually 7 different subspecies of salamanders found along the western coast of North America. They are referred to as a ring species or Rassenkreis, which is a series of connected populations that can interbreed with the close populations but can’t with the farther out populations.

The seven subspecies are..

  • Yellow-blotched Ensatina (E. e. croceater )
  • Monterey Ensatina (E. e. eschscholtzii)
  • Large-blotched Ensatina (E. e. klauberi)
  • Oregon Ensatina (E. e. oregonensis)
  • Painted Ensatina (E. e. picta)
  • Sierra Nevada Ensatina (E. e. platensis)
  • Yellow-eyed Ensatina (E. e. xanthoptica)

Below is a map of the ranges of the subspecies.

photo by Thomas J. Devitt, Stuart J.E. Baird and Craig Moritz, 2011.
Source: (2011). “Asymmetric reproductive isolation between terminal forms of the salamander ring species Ensatina eschscholtzii revealed by fine-scale genetic analysis of a hybrid zone”. BMC Evolutionary Biology 11 (1): 245.

The Ensatinas are terrestrial salamanders that are direct developing meaning their eggs hatch into small salamanders instead of tadpoles. Female salamanders usually lay around 10 to 15 eggs at a time on the ground. Breeding season in fall and spring but also happens during the winter too.

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