Townsend’s dwarf salamander is the solitary representative of its genus, and its lineage may have diverged from all other amphibian species over 34 million years ago at a time when monkeys and humans shared a common ancestor.
This species has not been located despite numerous recent attempts, and it appears to have had a 80% population decline over the past ten years. Townsend’s dwarf salamander has the incredible capability of caudal (tail) autotomy, which is the ability to drop the end of the tail and later regrow it. This is an antipredator mechanism that allows Townsend’s dwarf salamander to escape from an attack by a predator is its tail is grabbed. A major threat to this species is habitat loss due to expanding agriculture and human settlements, and the extraction of wood. It can survive in shaded coffee plantations, providing that humidity is retained, but is not found in heavily disturbed areas. This species is not known from any protected areas, making habitat protection an urgent priority for this species.
- Order: Caudata
- Family: Plethodontidae
- Population: Possibly extinct
- Trend: decreasing
- Size: 50mm
This species occurs on the Sierra Madre Oriental, in east-central Veracruz, Mexico, at 800-1,500 metres above sea level.
Habitat and Ecology
Townsend’s dwarf salamander inhabits cloud and oak forest and is partially terrestrial (ground dwelling) and also arboreal (tree-dwelling), where they are often found to inhabit bromeliads. Direct development of the young occurs within the eggs and they hatch as miniature adults. This whole process is independent of a water body since the eggs are laid in damp locations on the land, making this a truly terrestrial (or land-dwelling) species.