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Title: Ensatina  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Robert C. Stebbins, Van Dyke's salamander, Lungless salamander, Egg incubation, Wildwood Regional Park
Collection: Amphibians of North America, Lungless Salamanders, Monotypic Amphibian Genera
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Yellow-eyed Ensatina
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Amphibia
Order: Caudata
Family: Plethodontidae
Genus: Ensatina
Gray, 1850
Species: E. eschscholtzii
Binomial name
Ensatina eschscholtzii
Gray, 1850

Ensatina klauberi
Heredia oregonensis
Plethodon croceater
Urotropis platensis

Ensatina eschscholtzii (commonly known by its genus name, Ensatina) is a complex of plethodontid (lungless) salamanders[2] found in coniferous forests, oak woodland and chaparral[3] from British Columbia, through Washington, Oregon, across California (where all seven subspecies variations are located), all the way down to Baja California in Mexico. The genus Ensatina originated approximately 21.5 million years ago.[4]


  • Habitat and description 1
    • As a ring species 1.1
  • Human contact 2
  • Subspecies 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Habitat and description

Ensatina eschscholtzii klauberi, the Large-blotched Ensatina
E. eschscholtzii eschscholtzi, the Monterey Ensatina

The Ensatina subspecies E. e. eschscholtzii, or Monterey Ensatina, can be found in Santa Cruz, Monterey, and the California coastal mountains. They reach a total length of three to five inches, and can be identified primarily by the structure of the tail, and how it is narrower at the base. This salamander is the only type that has this tail structure and five toes on the back feet.

Males often have longer tails than the females, and many of the salamanders have lighter colored limbs in comparison to the rest of the body. The salamanders lay their eggs underground, often in threes, which then hatch directly into salamanders, skipping the usual aquatic phase.

As a ring species

The Ensatina salamander has been described as a ring species in the mountains surrounding the Californian Central Valley.[2] The complex forms a horseshoe shape around the mountains, and though interbreeding can happen between each of the 19 populations around the horseshoe, the Ensatina eschscholtzii subspecies on the western end of the horseshoe cannot interbreed with the Ensatina klauberi on the eastern end.[5] As such it is thought to be an example of incipient speciation, and provides an illustration of "nearly all stages in a speciation process" (Dobzhansky,1958).[2][6] Richard Highton argued Ensatina is a case of multiple species and not a continuum of one species (meaning, by traditional definitions it is not a ring species)[7]

Human contact

The ensatina can usually be found under logs, brush, by or in streams and lakes, and in other moist places. Because they breathe through their pores, distress in the animal can be caused by improper handling by human hands. They may exude a toxic milky secretion from the tail.[3]


E. e. platensis from Fresno County, California
  • Yellow Blotched Ensatina — E. e. croceater (Cope, 1868)
  • Monterey Ensatina — E. e. eschscholtzii Gray, 1850
  • Large Blotched Ensatina — E. e. klauberi Dunn, 1929
  • Oregon Ensatina — E. e. oregonensis (Girard, 1856)
  • Painted Ensatina — E. e. picta Wood, 1940
  • Sierra Nevada Ensatina — E. e. platensis (Jiménez de la Espada, 1875)
  • Yellow Eyed Ensatina — E. e. xanthoptica Stebbins, 1949


  1. ^ Hammerson et al. (2004). Ensatina eschscholtzii. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 12 May 2006.
  2. ^ a b c Wake, D. (1997) complexEnsatinaIncipient species formation in salamanders of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA 94:7761-7767
  3. ^ a b Monterey Ensatina San Diego Field Station, United States Geological Survey Viewed: April 24, 2005, Last updated: March 05, 2003
  4. ^ Carl T. Bergstrom; Lee Alan Dugatkin (2012). Evolution. Norton. p. 468.  
  5. ^ Dawkins, R. (2004) The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Life ISBN 0-618-00583-8, Ring Species (The Salamander's Tale)
  6. ^ Dobzhansky T. (1958) in A Century of Darwin, ed Barnett S A (Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, MA), pp 19–55.
  7. ^ Highton, Richard (June 1998). "Is Ensatina eschscholtzii a Ring-Species?". Herpetologica 54 (2): 254-278. 

External links

  • Data related to Ensatina at Wikispecies
  • Media related to at Wikimedia Commons
  • SalamanderEnsatina page at Santa Rosa Junior College Department of Life Sciences
  • SalamanderEnsatina page at AmphibiaWeb
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