Northwestern Salamander (Ambystoma gracile)

photo by wikiuser The High Fin Sperm Whale

Common Name: Northwestern Salamander
Scientific Name: Ambystoma gracile
Family: Ambystomatidae – Mole Salamander family
Locations: Canada and the United States
US Locations: Alaska, California, Oregon, and Washington
Size: 5.5 – 8.6 inches (14 – 22 cm) – Neotenic individuals can grow to 10 inches (26 cm)

The Northwestern Salamander gets its name from living in the northwestern North America. They are found along the Pacific Coast, maybe Pacific Coast Mole Salamander would be a better name? Like most members of the family Ambystomatidae, the Northwestern Salamander spends most of its life hidden either underground or under logs. They can be found on rainy nights traveling to and from breeding sites.

The salamander breeds from January to August depending on latitude and altitude. Lower altitude populations breed earlier from January to April while higher altitudes breed from June to August. They breed in semi-permanent or permanent water bodies such as lakes, ponds, or streams. After they breed, the couple will leave and not perform any parental care. The eggs eventually hatch and larvae emerges. The larvae takes a year or two, depending on location, to complete metamorphosis.

Some individuals never complete their metamorphosis. They retain their larval characteristics such as gills. This is called neoteny or paedomorphosis. These neotenic salamanders stay in the ponds, lakes, or streams that they were born, never leaving the water.

There are two subspecies of the salamander that have been recognized. The 51°N latitude divides the species with A. g. decorticatum north of the line and A. g. gracile below it. A. g. decorticatum is more spotted than the other.

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