The Critically Endangered bigfoot splayfoot salamander is endemic to Mexico and found in damp caves surrounded by forest at around 2,4000 metres above sea level.
They are moderately sized with webbed feet and are often found climbing cave walls. This species has the ability of caudal (tail) autotomy, whereby it can detach their tail and regrow it later as a defence escape method. It is therefore not unusual to see individuals missing part of their tail.
This species is part of the Plethodontidae, the largest salamander family, comprising almost two thirds of all known species. They are thought to have diverged from all other amphibian species over 100 million years ago, in the Early Cretaceous. They are as distantly related to all other amphibian lineages as humans are to elephants, and emerged when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth!
Despite being seen regularly in the past, the bigfoot splayfoot salamander has not been recorded in recent years. Threats include the removal of the forest habitat above the caves, as this causes the caves to dry out, which may explain the disappearance of this species. The bigfoot splayfoot salamander does not occur in any protected area therefore the protection of the original habitat, both the caves and the surrounding forest, is urgent. The species is protected by Mexican law under the “Special Protection” category.
- Order: Caudata
- Family: Plethodontidae
- Population: Possibly extinct
- Trend: decreasing
- Size: 80-120mm
This species is known only from south eastern San Luis Potosi and eastern Queretaro Mexico, at around 2,400 metres above sea level.
Habitat and Ecology
This species inhabits caves and crevices under pine-oak forests. This species reproduces by direct development whereby offspring emerge from the egg as miniature versions of the adults and bypass a free living larval stage. This process is independent of water making this a truly terrestrial species.