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Cave Splayfoot Salmander

Chiropterotriton mosaueri


The Critically Endangered cave splayfoot salamander had not been seen for 73 years before its rediscovery in 2010!

The species no longer occurs in the area in which it was originally discovered, which is a cave near Durango town, Mexico. The area has become uninhabitable due to pollution and desiccation as a result of forest clearance and the original cave is now filled with rubbish.

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!

This species has the remarkable ability of caudal (tail) autotomy; the ability to drop the end of their tail and later regrow it, which is used as a defensive escape method. Cave splayfoot salamanders are found crawling about on damp cave walls in near-total darkness.

The remaining forests around the caves where this species survives are under intense pressure from agricultural expansion and wood extraction. The cave splayfoot salamander could exist in other caves in Parque Nacional Los Mármoles, therefore further cave exploration is needed to determine the extent of this species. This species is protected by Mexican law, under the “Special Protection” Category.

  • Order: Caudata
  • Family: Plethodontidae
  • Population: Extremely rare
  • Trend: unknown
  • Size: 100mm

EDGE Score

EDGE Score: 6.09 (?)
ED Score: 26.47 (?)
GE / IUCN Red List (?)
Not Evaluated Data Deficient Least Concern Near Threatened Vulnerable Endangered Critically Endangered Extinct in the Wild Extinct


This species was found within the Parque Nacional Los Mármoles, northern Hidalgo, Mexico, at 2,160 metres above sea level.

Habitat and Ecology

This species is a crevice dweller that requires humid caverns in pine-oak forest. Direct development of young occurs within the egg as the young hatch as miniature adults. The whole reproduction process is independent of water as eggs are laid in damp locations on the land, making this a truly terrestrial species.

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Conservation Actions

For each key category of conservation action, we calculated a conservation attention score based on expert information. In this graph, a higher score means the action is being carried out more intensively over more of the species range. The colour shows how important each action is considered to be for the conservation of this species.

Engaging stakeholders
Addressing threats
Status of knowledge
Management plan
Capacity building
Behaviour change
Awareness raising
  Score: 100 means the activity occurs at high level across more than 75% of the species range
Very Low

Overall Conservation Attention

We combined all of the expert information on conservation actions to calculate an overall conservation attention score for this species. Please help us to reach our goal of establishing dedicated conservation attention at “High” levels for all EDGE species.

Very Low Low Medium High

More information

Recent studies have grouped all possible conservation activities for any species into nine key categories (Washington et. al 2015). For each action, we asked experts for each species to assess the extent to which that action is being carried out and how much of the species’ range that action occurs in. For each action we used these two pieces of information to calculate the conservation attention score per action. A score of 100 means that the action is being carried out to a high level across at least 75% of the species range. We then combined the scores for all actions into an overall conservation attention score for the species. The experts also judged how important each category was to the conservation of that particular species.

This wordcloud illustrates the threats facing this species. The size of each word indicates the extent of a species range that is affected by that threat (larger size means a greater area is affected). The colour of the word indicates how much that threat impacts the species (darker shades of red mean the threat is more severe).

Urban development Tourism Habitat change Droughts Extreme temperatures Extreme weather Roads/Rail Hunting Gathering Recreation Work Fire Dams Invasive species Disease Garbage Air pollution

Threat wordcloud key:

Small area affected
Large area affected
Least severe
Most severe
Severity unknown
Source: The IUCN List of Threatened Species. Version 2017.1.
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