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Amphibians of Washington

Rhyacotriton kezeri, Columbia torrent salamander

Description. This is a small salamander (up to 10 cm total length) that lives in clear, cold mountain streams. It is dark orange-brown on the back, orange or yellow with white speckles on the lower sides, and yellow on the belly. 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). Although there are some differences in color pattern among species of torrent salamanders, it can be difficult to tell apart the different species; their geographic range is the best indicator of which species and individual represents.

Distribution (GAP Analysis map) The Columbia torrent salamander occurs in southwestern Washington and northern Oregon. In Washington, it occurs from the mouth of the Columbia River through the Willapa Hills, and north to the Chehalis River.

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. Torrent 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 kezeri, Columbia torrent salamander
Rhyacotriton kezeri, Columbia torrent salamander
Photo by Brad Moon