Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Tale of Two Salamanders

Our yard is very rocky, and one way we commonly come across critters is when we move a rock.  It is amazing the life and diversity you can find just under the surface of this earth.  It's like a whole other world down there.  Working in the garden last weekend, we found under rocks and stones: ants, sow bugs, little centipedes, some kind of cricket, and worms, but the most interesting creatures we found were amphibians - salamanders.

Slender Salamander
The more common variety we see is the "California Slender Salamander", or Batrachoseps attenuatus.  At first glance, these appear to be worms, but on closer examination you will see tiny legs.    For years I thought these were a reptile, some sort of skink, as I thought a skink was basically a lizard with small legs.  It wasn't until I found the 'California Herps' website (www.californiaherps.com) that I found out these are salamanders.

Arboreal Salamander
Another species we rarely see (although we found two last weekend) is the arborial salamander, or Aneides lugubris.  The scientific name is latin for 'shapeless and dull colored', a rather dismal name for such an interesting critter.  And although this looks like the most harmless creature this side of the Mississippi, it evidently has teeth and can bite and draw blood.  Check out the above mentioned California Herps site to see a picture of salamander teeth and the damage they can do!

One of the more amazing things about both of these species is that they do not have lungs.  They do not breathe through their mouths.  Instead, they breathe through their skin.  Bad breath and B.O. are one and the same for these guys.  

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