San Diego Natural History Museum--Your Nature ConnectionSDNHM Field Guide

Garden Slender Salamander, by Bradford Hollingsworth.

Batrachoseps major
Garden Slender Salamander


The name Batrachoseps comes from Greek words batrachos, meaning a frog and seps, meaning a kind of lizard. Together, Batrachoseps means the frog-like lizard. The name major is Latin for greater or larger.


Garden Slender Salamander, by Jim Melli.

The Garden Slender Salamander is a small species, with adults reaching about 2 inches snout-vent length). Females, on average, are larger than males. Its body is elongate and slender with relatively short limbs. It has only 4 toes on both the front and hind feet. The tail can be over twice as long as the body. This species is variable in coloration. It can be light brown, light tan, pink, or light gray above, often speckled with rust on the snout, tail, and shoulders. A dorsal stripe is sometimes present and often has diffuse borders. There are 16-21 costal grooves grooves.

This species has no larval stage and the young are miniatures of the adult form.

Range and Habitat

Eight of the nine species of slender salamanders occur in California. The Garden Slender occurs in many isolated populations starting from central California to northwestern Baja California. It also occurs on nearly all of the Channel Islands, all of the islands composing Isla Los Coronados, and Isla Todos Santos (Isla Sur).

It can be found in a variety of habitats, including oak woodlands, coniferous forests, chaparral, and grasslands. It has even been found along washes in salt marshes and underneath beach driftwood.


Drs. David Wake and Elizabeth Jockusch are finding that many of the isolated populations of Slender Salamanders represent distinct species. There are three subspecies and each will probably be recognized as a separate species, or even further divided.

Natural History

This salamander belongs to the family Plethodontidae or Lungless Salamanders. It lacks lungs and respires completely through its skin. Therefore, it needs moist habitats to allow the skin to 'breath'.

It is believed that the Garden Slender Salamander was distributed continuously throughout its range. Since the drying of the environment over the last 10,000 years, its distribution has become broken into isolated populations. Southern California contains a large number of isolated populations, each may be a separate species.

Behavior: They are nocturnal and active during periods of precipitation. They remain inactive and below ground during dry periods of the year. These salamanders may remain in communal burrows during the day and surface at night to forage. They mostly are found on the ground, but may climb as high as two feet off the ground on plants. This species has caudal autonomy, meaning that the tail may be dropped in order to escape from a predator.

Diet: They eat small invertebrates, but detailed studies on their diet have never been conducted.

Breeding: Adults emerge with the first winter rains and shortly afterwards begin to breed and lay their eggs. Eggs have been found under wooden debris. Hatchlings emerge in January and February.

Conservation Status

There has been no proposed conservation plans. This species is somewhat tolerant to urbanization and can be found in residential gardens.

Suggested Reading

Petranka, James W. 1998. Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution.

Text by Bradford Hollingsworth and Kathy Roberts
Photo credits: Bradford Hollingsworth and Jim Melli

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