Other Amphibian of the Week

Bell’s False Brook Salamander (Isthmura bellii)

Bell's False Brook Salamander
photo by Sean Michael Rovito

Common Name: Bell’s False Brook Salamander or Bell’s Salamander
Scientific Name: Isthmura bellii
Family: Plethodontidae – Lungless Salamanders
Location: Mexico
Size: 14 inches (36 cm)

The Bell’s False Brook Salamander is the largest salamander in the family Plethodontidae – the Lungless Salamander. It is also one of the largest terrestrial salamanders in the world. They live mostly under logs and rocks in pine and pine oak forests. Surprisingly, the salamanders also lives in arid, tropical scrub land. These guys only come out at night to eat, making them nocturnal.

The salamander was originally placed in the genus Pseudoeurycea, the False Brook Salamanders. Pseudo = false, eurycea = brook. They were moved to a new genus Isthmura due to boring taxonomy stuff. Due to changing their genus, the salamanders can just be called Bell’s Salamander.

Once, researchers recognized two subspecies of the salamander. P. b. sierraoccidentalis is found along the border of the states of Sonora and Chihuahua in the northwestern part of Mexico. The other subspecies, P. b. bellii, is found in central Mexico and further down. These subspecies have now been elevated to full species status.

The Bell’s False Brook Salamander is a highly terrestrial species, not even needing water for reproduction! The females lay up to 20 eggs directly on land. The eggs eventually hatch and mini salamanders come out. They are a direct developing species, skipping the aquatic larvae stage.

Bell's False Brook Salamander
photo by Sean Michael Rovito

Bell’s False Brook Salamander Conservation

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List categorizes the Bell’s False Brook Salamander as Vulnerable to Extinction. Their habitat is being cut down to make room for farms and cities. Also logging is happening in their habitat which disturbs the salamanders. Better protections are needed to help save the species.

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