Western Redback Salamander

October 23, 2015
Heidi Rockney and Karen Wu
Western Redback Salamander

Western Redback Salamander. 
Photo: Heidi Rockney

Western Redback Salamander

Western Redback Salamander. 
Photo: Heidi Rockney

Name: Western Redback Salamander (Plethodon vehiculum)
Order: Salamanders (Caudata)
Family: Lungless Salamanders (Plethodontidae)

What they look like

  • 4-10cm
  • Are black with back strip that is usually red or tannish that goes all the way to the end of the tail with very defined, even edges.
  • Sides are dark with speckles of white.
  • Underside is dark with flecks of white, orange or yellow. 

Where they live

  • View a map of where they live.
  • In Washington State are found west of the Cascades mountains
  • Prefer to be under rotting logs or rocks near small streams or springs in damp mountain forests
  • They are found up to 1,250 feet in elevation (higher elevation than any other species in this family) on rocky and steep mountain slopes.
  • Can be found in drier locations when other species of salamanders are present. 

Breeding

  • Breeding season is November to March.
  • Eggs are most likely laid in underground burrows or under rocks or logs and protected by the female, although there have been a few circumstance when the male has been found protecting eggs.
  • Females only lay eggs every other year.
  • Eggs hatch into tiny salamanders, skipping the aquatic larval stage.

Cool Biology Facts

  • The name vehiculum comes from the word ‘vehicle’ and is a reference to the fact that the male actually carries the female while she clings to his tail during courtship.
  • They use chemical cues to choose mates during breeding.
  • Western-red backed salamanders do not defend their territories.

Threats

Distribution map.

Map of Western Redback 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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