Coast Giant Salamander

October 23, 2015
Heidi Rockney and Karen Wu
Coast Giant Salamander

Photo: Heidi Rockney

Gills of salamander

Photo: Heidi Rockney

Name: Coast Giant Salamander (Dicamptodon tenebrosus)
Order: Salamanders (Caudata)
Family: Giant Salamanders (Dicamptodontidae)

What they look like

  • One of the larger terrestrial salamanders can reach a length of up to 35 cm.
  • Larvae and adults in the aquatic form are brown, have short gills.
  • Terrestrial adults are usually brown and black and marbled all over, except their throat and legs.

Where they live

  • View a map of where they live.
  • Coast Giant Salamanders are only found in the Pacific Northwest. In Washington State they are found in the Cascade Mountains, the Willapa Hills of southwestern Washington, Long Island
  • Prefer clear, cold mountain streams next to forests or in mountain lakes and ponds.
  • During the day they stay underground or under rocks in the streams, but come out in the evenings onto the stream bottom.
  • Some terrestrial forms will move out of the stream and stay in the forest undergrowth near water sources.


  • Eggs are laid one at a time under rocks and logs in slower moving parts of streams usually during May.
  • The female protects eggs.
  • Larvae take 18-24 months to go through metamorphosis.

Cool Biology Facts

  • Metamorphose into terrestrial adults, but sometimes mature and reproduce in the aquatic form. This is called paedomorphosis or neoteny.
  • Marbled pattern is usually the easiest way to identify them, although the larvae form are easily mixed up with the Cope’s Giant Salamander.


Distribution Map

Map of Coast Giant Salamander distribution in Washington state. Learn more on the NatureMapping Foundation website

Explore more of the Amphibians & Reptiles of Washington or check out All About Amphibians.

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