Aneides lugubrisArboreal Salamander

Geographic Range

Aneides lugubris, commonly known as the arboreal salamander, ranges all along the California coastline edges from Humboldt County to Baja, California and a small part of the north western area of Mexico. It is also found in the Sierra Nevada foothills, Santa Catalina, Los Coronados islands, and South Farallon (Behler and King 1998). Its original range was from Griffith Park to Decter Canyon (Resource Conservation 1999).


The arboreal salamander likes moist places in leaf litter where it can hide during the day and forage food at night. It likes to live in oak woodlands along the coast of California and can be found in yellow pine and black oak forests in the Sierra Nevada foothills (Behler and King 1998).

Physical Description

The arboreal salamander's length ranges from four to seven and a quarter inches. It has fifteen to sixteen costal grooves and like all plethodontids has naso-labial grooves that possibly aid in smelling by funneling odors toward the nose. Their dorsal coloration is dark brown to gray with yellowish or white spotting. This spotting varies between populations and in some cases is absent. Underneath, A. lugubris is a solid cream color. The head of A. lugubris is large relative to the body. Its toe tips are expanded, digits elongated, and it has a moderately prehensile tail, all of which make it a most excellent tree climber among salamanders (Prairie 1999, Behler and King 1998).



Aneides lugubris breeds in late spring or early summer. The female lays twelve to twenty-four eggs in a moist hollowed area such as a rotten log or tree hollow. The female broods her eggs and they hatch within three or four months (Behler and King 1998).

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)


  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    5.3 years


Aneides lugubris is an excellent climber and has been found as high as sixty feet . It often hides during the day and in dry seasons. An interesting aspect of A. lugubris is that it may share a "retreat" in a basement, rodent burrow, or a cave with up to about eleven other conspecifics. When handled it may bite and squeak (Behler and King 1998). It comes out during the first heavy rain and remains out until early to mid spring (Resource Conservation 1999).

Food Habits

The arboreal salamander is more active at night and eats insects such as small crickets and termites, as well as other invertebrates found underneath leaf litter on the ground at night (Prairie 1999, Behler and King 1998).

Conservation Status

Some sources label A. lugubris as being a sensitive species as well as being relatively rare. The IUCN, CITES, and the U.S. Endangered Species Act does not label them this way. As with many animals, A. lugubris's primary threat is habitat fragmentation due to human development. As a lungless salamander (Plethodontidae) they breathe through their skin and membranes in the mouth and throat (Harding 1997 ) which makes them particularly sensitive to the effects of pollution.


Pamela Bartholomew (author), Michigan State University, James Harding (editor), Michigan State University.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature


A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


"Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center" (On-line). Accessed November 1, 1999 at

"Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains" (On-line). Accessed November 1, 1999 at

Behler, J., F. King. 1998. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. Alfred A. Knopf.

Harding, J. 1997. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Great Lakes Region. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.