Ambystoma californiense
California Tiger Salamander
Ambystoma californiense
Range USA: California
USF&W Listing Endangered
IUCN Red Book Vulnerable
CITES No listing
First described Gray, 1853

Species Information

The California Tiger Salamander is one of the larger Ambystoma species, with adults ranging in size from 6 to 9 inches (15-23 cm) in total length. The adult coloration is an overall jet black with creamy white to lemon yellow spots and bars scattered from snout to tail. The black snout is often lightly faded, with the underside of the chin being white. In the southern coastal populations, the markings are often absent or reduced midbody.

Ambystoma californiense occurs from Sonoma County California south along the coast to Santa Barbara County and east into the Central Valley, extending from Sacramento County down to Tulare County. Now extirpated from nearly 50% of itís known historic range due to agriculture and urbanization, Ambystoma californiense is listed as a federally endangered species in CA.

During the late fall and winter rains, the California Tiger Salamander will emerge from its summertime aestivation. Adult activity increases after a few passing storms, and heightens during the months of January and February. In the warmer regions of the California Tiger Salamander's range, the adults will possibly lay dormant underground for up to 8 months out of the year. The movements of the California Tiger Salamander are nocturnal and greatly dependent on rainfall; it is rare to find them out on the crawl without rain.

Breeding occurs between the months of December to February as the adults converge to the nearest vernal pool. An adult male will often stay in or around the vernal pool waiting for the females to enter. The female California Tiger Salamander will breed, lay her eggs, and return to higher ground. The larvae will hatch in 2 to 4 weeks, and metamorphosis occurs between 3 to 6 months. The newly metamorphosed young will exit the vernal pools in mid to late summer during the cool of the night.

In parts of the California Tiger Salamander's range, the species has hybridized with the introduced Eastern Tiger Salamander, Ambystoma tigrinum, and the Barred Tiger Salamander, Ambystoma mavortium. As a result of this, effective in the year 2008, the California Department of Fish and Game has banned all species of the genus Ambystoma as pets. It is unlawful to import, transport, or possess any non-native member of the genus Ambystoma inside of California state lines.

Ambystoma californiense Ambystoma californiense

Related Resources

AmphibiaWeb resources for Ambystoma californiense. page for Ambystoma californiense.

© David Tobler. Posted January 2009.


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