Other Amphibian of the Week

California Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma californiense)

California Tiger Salamander
Caphoto by John Cleckler

Common Name: California Tiger Salamander
Scientific Name: Ambystoma californiense
Family: Ambystomatidae – Mole Salamander family
Location: United States – California
Size: 8 inches (20.32 cm)

The California Tiger Salamander is a large, fossorial salamander found only in California. They are poor burrowers and rely on other animals, such as ground squirrels or gophers, to make their homes. They stay underground until November and come up to breed. Heavy rains generally bring them out of their underground homes. The salamanders travels up to a mile to find a pond to breed in. The females can lay as many as 1300 eggs. Most larvae take between 3 to 6 months to complete their metamorphosis but some take longer. Occasionally, some larvae take over a year to complete their metamorphosis.

California Tiger Salamander
photo by William Flaxington

Conservation of the California Tiger Salamander

The California Tiger Salamander is considered both federally listed endangered and threatened species due to population declines. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List assesses it as Vulnerable to Extinction. The salamander populations in Sonoma County and Santa Barbara are considered endangered. Meanwhile, the salamander populations in Central Valley are listed as threatened.

There are a few different reasons for the declines in the California Salamander’s population. Humans are destroying their habitat to make room for more cities and farms. Another threat is the introduction of the invasive American Bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana), which to eat the larvae, as well as the introduction of the mosquitofish, that also eats the larvae. People introduced the mosquitofish to help curb mosquitoes levels. Meanwhile, people brought over live American Bullfrogs to be eaten later at restaurants.

As previously mentioned, the California Tiger Salamander rely on Ground Squirrels to make them burrows to live in. Sadly, rodent control programs poison and kill these squirrels, reducing burrows for the salamander to live in. Lastly, all salamanders have a tough time when migration time comes. They travel across roads and sometimes, they get run over.

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