Long Toed Salamander

Long-toed Salamander, Vancouver Island, BC
Long-toed Salamander, Vancouver Island, BC, photo by Robert Logan

The Long Toed Salamander can be found in the Pacific Northwest, in and around ponds and wetlands, and the surrounding forest. It is secretive and shelters under decaying logs, rotting stumps, or in piles of wet wood that has fallen down from snags.

This semi-aquatic salamander is a medium-sized amphibian with a total length that can reach up to about 16.5 cm. A broad yellow stripe runs down from the neck to the tail tip, where it often turns into blotches. The sides are black or dark gray with light flecking. The tail is keeled rather than round in cross-section. The common name of the species is derived from having a long fourth toe on each hindfoot.

The female will lay small clusters of up to 30 eggs in ponds or shallow edges of lakes in early spring. The clusters are usually attached to aquatic vegetation, sticks, or other submerged debris. Individual eggs are 2 mm in diameter. The aquatic larva has external gills on each side of the head to allow breathing underwater.  The gills appear orderly with side filaments gradually shortening towards the tip.

The head is large with a broad snout. The legs are quite slim. Larvae are brownish-grey or tan with fine darker flecking. They usually morph into terrestrial forms in the late summer of the same year. At some localities, they retain larval characteristics into adulthood and never leave the water.

Adult Long-Toed Salamanders feed on a variety of invertebrates, including slugs, worms, and insects. Smaller larvae eat tiny water crustaceans (zooplankton), but as they grow they will begin to eat invertebrates, frog tadpoles, and often other smaller salamander larvae.

Like all amphibians, the long-toed salamander can absorb water and oxygen through its skin. It lives on land and water at various stages of its life. They are very sensitive to changes in their habitats, and the toed salamanders are early indicators of environmental problems.

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