Batrachoseps campiInyo Mountains Salamander

Geographic Range

Batrachoseps campi are found in the nearctic biome. These salamanders are endemic to the Inyo Mountains of Inyo County, California. This region is north of California's Mojave Desert and is one of the most arid spots in North America.

The small sections that are suitable for this desert salamander are localized along a 40 km section of the Inyo Mountains and some surrounding canyons and streams. This species and closely related desert slender salamanders (Batrachoseps major aridus) are the only two types of salamanders that occur exclusively in desert ecosystems.

Because B. campi are found in highly localized microhabitats in the Inyo Mountains, it was previously believed that the geographic range of the species was extremely limited. However, additional sites in the Owens Valley on the western side and drier Saline Valley to the east have extended the known geographic range of the species. Efforts have been made to locate other populations to see if the geographic range extends further, but much of the area surrounding the known habitats is very hard to access. ("", 2005; "IUCN Red List of Threatened Species", 2010)


Batrachoseps campi inhabit desert, mountain, and riparian terrestrial biomes. The main habitat of B. campi is in the Inyo Mountains between Owens Valley and Saline Valley of Inyo County, California. The elevational range of the habitat extends from 550 to 2620 meters.

These salamanders inhabit small areas of suitable habitat which are bordered by large amounts of inhospitable desert terrain . They typically live closest to springs or seeps and their associated riparian growth in the Inyo Mountains. They can generally be found under stones, wood, or crevices in moist soil near pools and springs. The vegetation associated with these pools and springs consists of willows, wild rose, and coyote bush. The heavy vegetation growth surrounding water creates dense protection from direct sunlight. Batrachoseps campi also inhabit areas where solid rock cliffs of limestone or granite are in contact with water flow.

Mountain springs provide a moist, thermally-buffered environment for B. campi and allow them to live comfortably year-round. Water temperatures recorded from several springs where these salamanders are found ranged from 11 to 17.5 °C, and vary little seasonally.

Although the overall region of suitable B. campi habitat is not large, consisting of a range between 15 km wide and 32 km long, it has been recently discovered that these salamanders are capable of living far from surface water. This leads researchers to believe the B. campi may have a larger habitat area than previously expected. ("", 2005; "California Reptiles and Amphibians", 2001; "IUCN Red List of Threatened Species", 2010)

  • Range elevation
    550 to 2620 m
    1804.46 to 8595.80 ft

Physical Description

Batrachoseps campi belong to family Plethodontinae, commonly called "lungless salamanders," that conduct respiration through their skin. They are bilaterally symmetrical and have 4 long limbs with 4 appendages on each limb. An unusual physical characteristic of this salamander genus is their projectile tongues that are attached anteriorly by a long genioglossus muscle. This tongue is very efficient for catching prey like insects.

The average size of an adult ranges from 4.1 cm to 6.2 cm long from snout to vent. The maximum size discovered is 10.8 cm. Batrachoseps campi exhibits sexual dimorphism, with females larger on average than males. Average size of a mature female is 5.16 cm, while the average size of a mature male is 4.69 cm. Another aspect of sexual dimorphism is that males have fewer but larger preaxillary teeth compared to females, and also have fewer trunk vertebrae. Males also have a broader squarish snout. Both males and females have a nasolabial groove that extends from each nostril to the upper lip. These grooves help pick up chemical information from the surrounding environment and have been suggested to play a role in the salamander's communication.

Unlike other slender salamanders, B. campi have a stocky body with a broad distinctive head, a rounded snout, and large protruding eyes. Compared to other members of their genus, B. campi have shorter tails, usually measuring only about 3/4 as long as their entire body and their body also lacks a dorsal stripe.

Batrachoseps campi have 16 to 21 costal grooves, which are lateral indentations of the integument. The grooves mark the position of the internal rib location. ("", 2005; "California Reptiles and Amphibians", 2001; "", 2009; "Tree of Life Web Project", 2007; Hollingsworth and Roberts, 2009)

Batrachoseps campi vary in coloration from dark brown or black to silvery, reddish, or pink. Typically, greenish, silver-gray patches are found on the head and the front part of the back. These spots, found on the anterior body and head, are iridophores, a type of chromatophore, which are pigment and light-reflecting cells found in the skin that give off an iridescent appearance. Sometimes the iridophores cover the entire dorsal surface, which results in an overall silvery, light-green coloration.

Inyo Mountains slender salamanders are ectothermic and sustain relatively low metabolic rates. Significant individual and geographic variation exists in this complex species. ("", 2005; "California Reptiles and Amphibians", 2001; Hollingsworth and Roberts, 2009; Wake, 2006)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • Range length
    3.4 to 10.8 cm
    1.34 to 4.25 in


Not much is known about the development and life cycle of Batrachoseps campi, but all species of the genus Batrachoseps undergo direct development, with the females laying eggs in moist places on land and the young hatching fully formed. The number of hatchlings per nest can be between four and twenty-one. Batrachoseps campi do not have an aquatic larvae stage of development.

Only juvenile and adults of this species have been observed in the wild. ("", 2005; "California Reptiles and Amphibians", 2001; "", 2009)


Courtship, mating, and oviposition occur on land and the terrestrial eggs hatch as miniature adults, an example of direct development. Mating systems of the Batrachoseps campi species are not known. But generally, lungless salamanders of the family Plethodontidae conduct an elaborate courtship.

Batrachoseps campi breed seasonally. Adults begin to breed after the first winter rain (typically late November or early December), and shortly afterward females lay their eggs in communal nests, then brood them until hatching. Female brooding behaviors include coiling around eggs, moving the eggs around in nest, and putting the head in direct contact with the eggs. Brooding increases hatching success in some species. Some research suggests that species in the genus Batrachoseps lack parental care, although there is no reliable field data to support this suggestion. Absence of maternal care is unique to the genus Batrachoseps and not necessarily specific to B. campi.

There are no reports of the reproductive cycle of B. campi specifically, but lungless salamanders in general have an elaborate courtship. Males rub against females, and females may straddle the male's tail while he moves and drops a spermatophore (a jelly-like capsule that is topped with a sperm cap) for her to retrieve. The female picks up the spermatophore and deposits it into her cloaca while pressing her snout against the male's tail. Then internal fertilization occurs. (Hollingsworth and Roberts, 2009; Jockusch and Mahoney, 1997; "A Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of the United States", 2008)

Batrachoseps campi breed seasonally. The breeding season begins with the first winter rains (usually late fall or early winter).

Females likely lay their eggs underground in nesting burrows or in moist logs or crevasses where they hatch into miniature versions of their adult form after 1 to 2 months. No metamorphosis is necessary and therefore no standing water is needed to act as the direct developer. The eggs hatch in January and February with typically four to twenty-one hatchlings arriving each breeding season. Age of reproductive maturity is unknown for this species, but reproductively mature females are greater than 43.8 mm SVL and mature males are greater than 41.3 mm SVL. ("California Reptiles and Amphibians", 2001; "", 2009; Hollingsworth and Roberts, 2009)

  • Breeding interval
    Inyo Mountains slender salamanders breed once yearly.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding season for Inyo Mountains slender salamanders occurs in late fall or winter.
  • Range number of offspring
    4 to 21
  • Range time to hatching
    1 to 2 months

Information on parental investment specifically for Batrachoseps campi is not available, but there is research on other members of the family.

Parental care in lungless salamanders probably evolved to protect the eggs from desiccation. Female lungless salamanders oviposit (lay eggs) in appropriate nesting environments and brood their eggs until hatching, which takes about two months.

Although there is no information describing the parental investment of B. campi, most Batrachoseps species lay their eggs in communal nests. These nests, with up to 60 to 70 eggs, represent the likely combined contribution of at least 7 to 10 females. Females have been found with these communal nests but no parental care is given. (Jockusch and Mahoney, 1997)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement
  • female parental care
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female


Inyo Mountains slender salamanders have a life span between 7 to 10 years. No studies have been conducted with B. campi in captivity to see life span in a controlled environment versus in the wild. ("", 2009)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    7 to 10 years


Inyo Mountains slender salamanders are nocturnal, which may be an adaptation for the hot temperatures in their native habitats. They are inactive and usually below ground during the day when temperatures are highest. They burrow underground in moist soil in communal burrows and surface at night to look for food. They are sedentary and do not travel far from their home ranges, usually less than 5 square meters.

Batrachoseps campi detach their tail in order to escape from a predator (caudal autotomy). A new tail is later regenerated. Another defensive behavior, besides slinking and hiding in tight crevices, is their ability to coil and use their tails as a spring and "catapult" themselves away from a predator's reach.

There is no information regarding any social hierarchies in B. campi. Many things are still unknown about the behavior of these salamanders. ("California Reptiles and Amphibians", 2001; "", 2009; "Tree of Life Web Project", 2007; Hollingsworth and Roberts, 2009; Wake, et al., 2002; Yanev and Wake, 1981)

  • Range territory size
    1 to 5 m^2

Home Range

The home range of B. campi is not well documented but believed to be fairly small (5 square meters). ("", 2005; "Tree of Life Web Project", 2007)

Communication and Perception

Bactrachoseps campi are a nocturnal species and have large protruding eyes that aid in night vision.

The nasolabial groove between the salamanders' nostril and upper lip is used to help pick up chemical information from the environment. It has been suggested that members of the Batrachoseps genus may have the ability to communicate using chemical communication as well. Other species within the Batrachoseps genus have had their ability to communicate and differentiate between species documented by research, but little is known about the communication and perception of B. campi.

The use of pheromones and other chemical cues likely play a large roll in communication and environmental perception by Inyo Mountains slender salamanders. ("", 2005; "California Reptiles and Amphibians", 2001; "", 2009; Gillette, 2002; Wake, 2006)

Food Habits

Detailed studies on the diet of Batrachoseps campi have never been conducted but these salamanders most likely have similar food habits as other members of their genus, primarily eating small invertebrates including insects, snails, spiders, and sowbugs. Sometimes even hatchlings may be cannibalized by adult B. campi.

Inyo Mountains slender salamanders use their projectile tongues to find and pull in prey from the surrounding environment. Their tongues are sticky and easily grab hold of insects and other small prey. ("California Reptiles and Amphibians", 2001; "", 2009; "NatureServe Explorer Online Encyclopedia of Life", 2009)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • mollusks
  • terrestrial worms


Inyo Mountains slender salamanders often resemble worms to predators, therefore animals that prey on worms are usually predators to these salamanders as well. Batrachoseps campi do not have toxic chemicals on their skin for protection like other amphibians such as frogs. Small snakes such as Pacific ring-necked snakes and sharp-tailed snakes are common predators, as well as larger frogs and even other salamanders. Eggs and hatchlings are susceptible to cannibalism by adult salamanders even from the same species. Small mammals like raccoons, striped skunks, and opossums prey on slender salamanders as well.

Batrachoseps campi use defensive anti-predator mechanisms including coiling and catapulting themselves away from predators using their tails, or dropping their tails to distract predators and escape. Coloration of these salamanders varies with respect to habitat. This cryptic coloration aids in avoiding predators as well. ("", 2009)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Although there is not much information about the specific role Batrachoseps campi play within their ecosystem, terrestrial salamanders of the family Plethodontidae are excellent indicators of biodiveristy and ecosystem integrity. These include their longevity, small territory size, site fidelity, sensitivity to natural perturbations, tendency to occur in high densities, and low sampling costs. Batrachoseps campi also are a common food source for small mammals, large frogs, and other amphibians in the Inyo Mountains. Batrachoseps campi play a role in the food web of their habitat, both as prey and as predators. (Welsh and Droege, 2002)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

This species provides no specific benefit to humans, but it has been suggested that these salamanders benefit humans as indicators of biodiversity and ecosystem integrity. (Jockusch, et al., 2001; "NatureServe Explorer Online Encyclopedia of Life", 2009; Stebbins, 2003)

  • Positive Impacts
  • research and education

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of Batrachoseps campi on humans. ("", 2005; "California Reptiles and Amphibians", 2001; "", 2009)

Conservation Status

Inyo Mountains slender salamanders have been on the endangered species list since 1996. There are many threats to its survival, including habitat alteration from flash floods, mining, water diversion, and vegetation damage by cattle. Their geographic range is limited to less than 5,000 square kilometers and inhabit less than 5 areas within that range. Exact population numbers are currently unknown. ("IUCN Red List of Threatened Species", 2010)

Due to its scarce and fragile desert riparian habitat, Inyo Mountains slender salamanders are protected under California law. These salamanders are also registered as a Species of Special Concern by the California Department of Fish and Game. All populations are located on federal lands managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management or USDA Forest Service. The estimated population size is small therefore protection of all populations is necessary to maintain diversity. Some populations have been declining due to spring alterations related to mining. Although B. campi is a protected species under California law, the enforcement and effectiveness of these measures is not quite known. There is a need for immediate protection of this fragile species to ensure its survival for years to come. ("IUCN Red List of Threatened Species", 2010)


Jessica Leonard (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Rachelle Sterling (editor), Special Projects.



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.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.


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

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


union of egg and spermatozoan


having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


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.


active during the night


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


The term is used in the 1994 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals to refer collectively to species categorized as Endangered (E), Vulnerable (V), Rare (R), Indeterminate (I), or Insufficiently Known (K) and in the 1996 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals to refer collectively to species categorized as Critically Endangered (CR), Endangered (EN), or Vulnerable (VU).


uses sight to communicate

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Welsh, H., S. Droege. 2002. A Case for Using Plethodontid Salamanders for Monitoring Biodiversity and Ecosystem Integrity of North American Forests. Conservation Biology, 15/3: 558-569. Accessed March 30, 2010 at

Yanev, K., D. Wake. 1981. Genic Differentiation in a Relict Desert Salamander, Batrachoseps Campi. Herpetologica, Vol. 37 No. 1: 16-28. Accessed February 14, 2010 at