Seasonal observations: long-toed salamander
Animal tracker, Nature Camp instructor, naturalist and environmental educator, Kathy Jenkins, posted this on her Facebook page recently… a little inhabitant in her garden that reminds us that this backyard of ours is habitat, first, for many other living things. Like this long-toed salamander. (And friends.)
The Long-toed Salamander is a slender salamander, about 8.5 centimetres long, with dark grey to black skin flecked with golden speckles. The head is oval with large bulbous eyes and a blunt snout. A yellow to green stripe, sometimes patchy and uneven on the edges, runs down the back almost to the tip of the tail. When threatened, this salamander secretes a distasteful poison from granular glands on its back and tail. The little scars often found on the tail prove that this defence works well against small predators – after a little nibble most predators will find a tastier snack! Sometimes, a salamander may lose its tail in defence.
This amphibian is named for the long fourth toe on each hind foot. The underside often has a pinkish tone, and the belly, legs and sides are flecked with white. Twelve costal grooves (vertical furrows that look like ribs) mark each side of the body. The smooth skin appears wet– most salamanders produce a mucous-like secretion that keeps them from drying out on land, and acts as a ‘wetsuit’ underwater to control the amount of water soaking through the skin.
Larvae are translucent grey or light brown with dark flecks and a silvery belly. They have large heads, usually one-third the length of the body, and eyes that look out to the sides. Large feathery gills stick outwards on both sides of the head.
- One of the neatest things about the salamanders is that they can regenerate body parts – this means that if a leg or tail becomes lunch for another critter, the salamander can simply grow it back!
- What’s long, wet and dark that is both a lunchbox and a weapon? A Long-toed Salamander’s tail! The amazing tail of this colourful amphibian serves two purposes; the granular glands in the tail can store fat for the salamander to use as food during hard times, as well as serve up a sticky poison to any predator that tries to take a bite!
- Many species of the Mole Salamander family have sticky poison secretions. In some species, this gluey substance can be as strong or stronger than rubber cement often sticking predators to themselves or to the ground for up to 40 minutes while the salamander makes a clean getaway.