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Amphibians of Washington

Rhyacotriton cascadae, Cascade torrent salamander

Description. This is a small salamander (up to 10 cm total length) that lives in clear, cold mountain streams. It is yellowish-brown on the back and often has small black spots; it is bright yellow on the belly and often has black spots there. Torrent salamanders typically have short snouts and relatively large eyes. As in other torrent salamanders, adult males have square-edged lobes behind the cloaca (which are visible in the picture above).

Distribution (GAP Analysis map) The cascade torrent salamander occurs in the Cascade Mountains of southern Washington and northern Oregon. In Washington, it occurs from the Columbia River Gorge to just north of Mt. St. Helens.

Habitat. These salamanders live at the edges of clear, cold mountain streams; they can be abundant under gravel at stream edges and in the spray zones of waterfalls. During rainy seasons, they are occasionally found on land away from streams.

Cool Biology Facts. All torrent salamanders have a larval stage with tiny external gills, but lose the gills at metamorphosis. Adults have very reduced lungs and breathe mostly through their skin.

Conservation status. These salamanders live and breed in clear, cold, fast-flowing streams with rock or gravel bottoms. They can be very common in appropriate habitats. However, they are extremely sensitive to stream siltation and warming caused by excessive logging and other human activities.

Rhyacotriton cascadae, Cascade torrent salamander
Rhyacotriton cascadae, Cascade torrent salamander
Photo by Brad Moon