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Posted (crates) in Amphibians, biology, Caudata (Order) Salamanders, Evolution, nature on May-6-2012

It was 3 am and my bleary eyes found it  hard to see through the beating of my windshield wipers, but the tiny object in my headlights appeared to be something other than a small twig.  As I got out of the car and picked it up, I realized it was a salamander quite different than the typical Rough Skin Newt (Taricha granulosa) that I usually found in this area.Ensatina eschscholtzii

Although I handled it with great care, when I placed it into a container to hold it until the next day, I found that in its exertions to escape, it had lost its tail which was squirming distractedly about.  It also appeared quite motionless, and I wondered whether it was dead or whether it was simply feigning death.  After handling it, I noticed a dried secretion on my hand which I was careful to wash off since such secretions can often be irritating to mucous membranes.

    The next morning I found it to be quite chipper despite its moribund state the night before, and I confirmed that it was the lungless salamander, Ensatina eschscholtzii, which occurs from British Columbia to Baja California, Mexico.  This was the second specimen that I found crossing the same street in two months (April and May, 2012)–both times in a light rain around 3 am.

    These little salamanders have no larval stage and lay their eggs mostly in April and May under logs, and bark, and inside animal burrows, etc. and are usually attended by the female.  The clutch size ranges most commonly from 9-16 with a range of about 3-25 eggs.  The time it takes for the eggs to hatch varies amongst the subspecies, ranging from 113-142 days with a maximum of 177 days (Monterrey salamander).  The time involved was usually inversely proportional to egg size.

    The young reach maturity in three to four years with males reaching sexual maturity at about 48-55 mm snout/vent length while females reach maurity when they are over 60 mm snout/vent length.  One researcher (Stebbins) estimated that the oldest animals he studied was greater 8.5 years old while another researcher estimated ages up to 15 years.

Although quite variable in its coloration, it typically has nasolabial grooves, about 12-13 coastal grooves along its side, a constricted tail which can often snap off to distract predators, and light coloration at the base of its legs.