Salamander and Newt Identification Keys

This identification key uses questions and answers to help identify the actual species of salamander or newt encountered. The questions are simplistic, you should follow the result link to the description page for the salamander or newt species and see if it fits. Also check the species description page for similar species, as there may be additional keys useful in distinguishing a particular species from similar species.

At this time, there either are no or few images or illustrations. Photographs for this identification guide that show identification key features will hopefully be more complete by 2011.

1. Larvae or Adult

In Shasta County, some species of salamanders (lungless) do not have a larval stage. For those that do, the larvae always have external gills that they lose when they metamorphis into adults.

Does the salamander in question have external gills?

Yes
Goto 2
No
Goto 5
   
 

2. Pond Type or Stream Type

Salamander larvae can be divided into two basic forms, a pond type and a stream type. The pond type is adapted for ponds or calm streams and has long gills, long toes, and a long dorsal fin. The stream type is adapted for faster moving water and has short gills, short toes, and a short dorsal fin.

Is the salamander larvae a pond type or stream type?

Pond Type
Goto 3
Stream Type
Goto Coastal Giant Salamander
   
 

3. Eye Position

When viewing the larvae from above, are the eyes set well in from the outline or are the eyes on or near the outline?

Eyes Well In
Goto Long-toed Salamander
Eyes Near Outline
Goto 4
   
 

4. Pacific Newt Larvae

You probably have a Pacific Newt larvae. Two species occur in Shasta County.

Does the larvae have an irregular black stripe on either side of the dorsal fin?

Yes
Goto Sierra Newt
No
Goto Rough-skinned Newt
 

5. Flattened Tail or Round Tail

Salamanders that spend some time in water will have a flattened tail adapted for swimming. This is particularly evident towards the end of the tail. Salamanders that do not spend time in water will have round (cross-section) tails.

Does the salamander or newt have a flattened tail or a round tail?

Flattened
Goto 6
Round
Goto 9
   
 

6. Costal Grooves

Costal grooves are a set of vertical grooves (appear as lines) that run from along the sides of the salamander between the front and rear legs.

Does the Salamander or Newt have costal grooves?

Yes
Goto 7
No
Goto 8
   
   

7. Mole and Giant Salamanders

Does the salamander have a distinctive yellow stripe down the back and yellow spots on the head?

Yes
Goto Long-toed Salamander
No
Goto Coastal Giant Salamander
 

8. Pacific Newts

You probably have a Pacific Newt. Two species occur in Shasta County.

Is the pigment directly beneath the eye lighter than the rest of the face?

Yes
Goto Sierra Newt
No
Goto Rough-skinned Newt
[Light Under Eye] [Dark Under Eye]
 

9. Lungless Salamanders

You probably have a Lungless Salamander. Five species occur in Shasta County.

Is the salamander really skinny, almost wormlike, with extremely small legs?

Yes
Goto California Slender Salamander
No
Goto 10
 

10. Not Slender

Does the salamander have a yellow, greenish-yellow, or orange colored sleeve on all four legs extending almost to the elbow/knee joint?

Yes
Goto Ensatina
No
Goto 11
 

11. Not Ensatina

Does the salamander have webbing between the toes?

Yes
Goto Shasta Salamander
No
Goto 12
 

12. Black Salamander Complex

You probably have a member of the Black Salamander Complex. They can not be reliably distinguished from each other by visible physical characteristics, but they can be identified by range.

Was the salamander found in the south west arm of Shasta County?

Yes
Goto Black Salamander
No
Goto Shasta Black Salamander
 

Long-toed Salamander

You possibly have a Long-toed Salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum).
For more information on this species: Long-toed Salamander.

[Long-toed Salamander]
 

Coastal Giant Salamander

You possibly have a Coastal Giant Salamander (Dicamptodon tenebrosus).
For more information on this species: Coastal Giant Salamander.

 

Sierra Newt

You possibly have a Sierra Newt (Taricha sierrae).
For more information on this species: Sierra Newt.

 

Rough-skinned Newt

You possibly have a Rough-skinned Newt (Taricha granulosa).
For more information on this species: Rough-skinned Newt.

[Rough-skinned Newt]
 

California Slender Salamander

You possibly have a California Slender Salamander (Batrachoseps attenuatus).
For more information on this species: California Slender Salamander.

[California Slender Salamander]
 

Ensatina

You possibly have a Ensatina (Ensatina eschscholtzii).
For more information on this species: Ensatina.

[Ensatina]
 

Shasta Salamander

You possibly have a Shasta Salamander (Hydromantes shastae).
For more information on this species: Shasta Salamander.

[Shasta Salamander]
 

Black Salamander

You possibly have a Black Salamander (Aneides flavipunctatus).
For more information on this species: Black Salamander.

 

Shasta Black Salamander

You possibly have a Shasta Black Salamander (Aneides iëcanus).
For more information on this species: Shasta Black Salamander.

[Shasta Black Salamander]

End Of Identification Key