Plethodon vehiculum - (Cooper, 1860)
Western Redback Salamander
Other English Common Names: Western Red-backed Salamander, western redback salamander
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Plethodon vehiculum (Cooper, 1860) (TSN 173672)
French Common Names: salamandre à dos rayé
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.100174
Element Code: AAAAD12200
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Amphibians - Salamanders
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Amphibia Caudata Plethodontidae Plethodon
Genus Size: D - Medium to large genus (21+ species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Frost, D. R. 1985. Amphibian species of the world. A taxonomic and geographical reference. Allen Press, Inc., and The Association of Systematics Collections, Lawrence, Kansas. v + 732 pp.
Concept Reference Code: B85FRO01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Plethodon vehiculum
Taxonomic Comments: Mahoney (2001) used mtDNA data to examine phylogenetic relationships of western and eastern Plethodon and Aneides. She found strong support for eastern Plethodon as a clade, but monophyly of Aneides was only weakly supported in some analyses, though "the monophyly of this clade is not in doubt." Analyses indicated that Plethodon stormi and P. elongatus are clearly sister taxa, and P. dunni and P. vehiculum also are well-supported sister taxa. Plethodon larselli and P. vandykei appear to be closely related, whereas P. neomexicanus did not group with any other lineage. All analyses yielded a paraphyletic Plethodon but constraint analyses did not allow rejection of a monophyletic Plethodon. Mahoney recommended continued recognition of Aneides as a valid genus and adoption of the metataxon designation for Plethodon*, indicating this status with an asterisk. (A metataxon is a group of lineages for which neither monophyly nor paraphyly can be demonstrated.)
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 02Feb2016
Global Status Last Changed: 31Oct2001
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Common and still well distributed throughout the historical range in western Oregon, western Washington, and southwestern British Columbia.
Nation: United States
National Status: N5 (05Nov1996)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N4 (02Feb2016)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Oregon (S5), Washington (S5)
Canada British Columbia (S4)

Other Statuses

Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC): Not at Risk (01Nov2001)
Comments on COSEWIC: Reason for Designation: Although mainland populations are negatively affected by habitat loss due to timber harvesting and urban expansion, most Vancouver Island populations remain large and, for the foreseeable future, secure.

Status History: Designated Not at Risk in November 2001. More recently (2015) considered a low priority candidate for re-assessment.

IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 20,000-200,000 square km (about 8000-80,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Southwestern British Columbia, including Vancouver Island, south through western Washington to southwestern Oregon (Petranka 1998). Sea level to about 4100 ft (1250 m) (Stebbins 1985).

Number of Occurrences:  
Number of Occurrences Comments: Represented by many and/or large occurrences throughout most of the range.

Population Size: 100,000 - 1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but likely exceeds 100,000. One of the most commonly encountered terrestrial salamanders throughout its range (Nussbaum et al. 1983).

Viability/Integrity Comments: Likely many occurrences have good viability.

Overall Threat Impact: Low
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Logging is not a major threat because this species maintains thriving populations in young forests.

Short-term Trend: Decline of <30% to relatively stable
Short-term Trend Comments: Likely stable in extent of occurrence and probably stable to slightly declining in population size, area of occupancy, and number/condition of occurrences.

Long-term Trend: Decline of <30% to increase of 25%
Long-term Trend Comments: Likely relatively stable in extent of occurrence, probably less than 25% decline in population size, area of occurrence, and number/condition of occurrences.

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable

Environmental Specificity: Broad. Generalist or community with all key requirements common.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: (20,000-200,000 square km (about 8000-80,000 square miles)) Southwestern British Columbia, including Vancouver Island, south through western Washington to southwestern Oregon (Petranka 1998). Sea level to about 4100 ft (1250 m) (Stebbins 1985).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States OR, WA
Canada BC

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: IUCN, Conservation International, NatureServe, and collaborators, 2004

Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: A lungless salamander that reaches a maximum snout-vent length of about 6 cm.
Reproduction Comments: In Oregon, breeds mainly from November-early March; courtship occurs in autumn on Vancouver Island (Ovaska and Gregory 1989). Female lays a clutch of about 10 eggs in the spring, broods them during the summer. Hatchlings appear in autumn. Female oviposits at intervals of 2 years or more; male produces sperm every year.
Ecology Comments: In British Columbia, mean distance between the two farthest captures over several months was 2.7 m (range up to 8-9 m) for adult males, which moved greater distances than did adult females and juveniles (Ovaska 1988); captures during the active season ranged from 0.3-1.16 per sq m, highest in spring (Ovaska and Gregory 1989).
Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Bare rock/talus/scree, Forest - Conifer
Special Habitat Factors: Burrowing in or using soil, Fallen log/debris
Habitat Comments: Humid coniferous forests; damp talus slopes and shaded ravines. Found under rocks, logs, leaf litter, and other forest debris. On Vancouver Island, small individuals were found under small rocks and away from discrete cover objects in leaf litter and under moss more frequently than were larger individuals (Ovaska and Gregory 1989). Lays eggs on land in moist retreats.
Adult Food Habits: Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Invertivore
Food Comments: Feeds on a wide variety of terrestrial invertebrates including mites, collembolans, spiders and isopods (Nussbaum et al. 1983).
Adult Phenology: Hibernates/aestivates, Nocturnal
Immature Phenology: Hibernates/aestivates, Nocturnal
Phenology Comments: Inactive in cold temperatures and hot, dry weather. On Vancouver Island, adults active on surface mainly March-June and September-November (also in mild winter weather); juveniles remained above ground in midsummer (Ovaska and Gregory 1989).
Length: 12 centimeters
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Terrestrial Plethodontid Salamanders

Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Occurrences are based on evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a given location. Such evidence minimally includes collection or reliable observation and documentation of one or more individuals (including eggs) in or near appropriate habitat where the species is presumed to be established and breeding.
Separation Barriers: Busy highway, especially with high traffic volume at night; major river or lake; other totally inappropriate habitat that the salamanders cannot traverse.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 1 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 3 km
Separation Justification: These salamanders rarely successfully cross roadways that have heavy traffic volume at night, when most movements occur. Rivers and lakes pose formidable impediments to movement and generally function as barriers, with the effect increasing with river and lake size. Treatment of these as barriers or unsuitable habitat is a subjective determination.

Compared to larger ambystomatid salamanders, the movements of plethodontids are poorly documented, but it is clear that home ranges tend to be very small (e.g., Marvin 2001), on the order of a few meters to a few dozen meters in diameter. For example, Welsh and Lind (1992) found that over six months, 66% of Plethodon elongatus males and 80% of females recaptured were in the same 7.5 x 7.5 m grid, and the maximum distance moved was 36.2 m. D. Clayton (pers. comm 1998) estimated that average home ranges may be as small as one square meter. Yet, on occasion, dispersing plethodontids likely travel at least several hundred meters. The separation distance for unsuitable habitat reflects the nominal minimum value of 1 km. The separation distance for suitable habitat reflects the limited movements of these salamanders, tempered by their tendency to occur throughout patches of suitable habitat and the likely low probability that two locations separated by a gap of less than a few kilometers of suitable habitat would represent independent occurrences over the long term.

Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): .1 km
Date: 10Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G.
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 27Mar2002
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Hammerson, G.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 31Oct1995
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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  • Behler, J. L., and F. W. King. 1979. The Audubon Society field guide to North American reptiles and amphibians. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 719 pp.

  • Blackburn, L., P. Nanjappa, and M. J. Lannoo. 2001. An Atlas of the Distribution of U.S. Amphibians. Copyright, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana, USA.

  • Cook, F. R. 1984. Introduction to Canadian amphibians and reptiles. National Museum of Natural Sciences, National Museums of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario.

  • Frost, D. R. 1985. Amphibian species of the world. A taxonomic and geographical reference. Allen Press, Inc., and The Association of Systematics Collections, Lawrence, Kansas. v + 732 pp.

  • Leonard, W. P., H. A. Brown, L. L. C. Jones, K. R. McAllister, and R. M. Storm. 1993. Amphibians of Washington and Oregon. Seattle Audubon Society, Seattle, Washington. viii + 168 pp.

  • Mahoney, M. J. 2001. Molecular systematics of Plethodon and Aneides (Caudata: Plethodontini): phylogenetic analysis of an old and rapid radiation. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 18:174-188.

  • Matsuda, B.M., D.M. Green and P.T. Gregory. 2006. Royal BC Museum handbook amphibians and reptiles of British Columbia. Royal B.C. Mus., Victoria, BC. 266pp.

  • Nussbaum, R.A., E.D. Brodie Jr., and R.M. Storm. 1983. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Pacific Northwest. Univ. Press of Idaho. 332pp.

  • Nussbaum, R.A., E.D. Brodie, Jr., and R.M. Storm. 1983. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Pacific Northwest. University Press of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho. 332 pp.

  • Ovaska, K, S. Lennart, C Engelstoft, L. Matthias, E. Wind and J. MacGarvie. 2004. Best Management Practices for Amphibians and Reptiles in Urban and Rural Environments in British Columbia. Ministry of Water Land and Air Protection, Ecosystems Standards and Planning, Biodiversity Branch

  • Ovaska, K. 1988. Spacing and movements of the salamander PLETHODON CINEREUS. Herpetologica 44:377-386.

  • Ovaska, K. 2007. Monitoring a population of the Western Red-backed Salamander (Plethodon vehiculum) in Goldstream Provincial Park, Vancouver Island, BC. Report prepared for Goldstream Provincial Park, Victoria, BC. 9pp. + appendices.

  • Ovaska, K., and P. T. Gregory. 1989. Population structure, growth, and reproduction in a Vancouver Island population of the salamander PLETHODON VEHICULUM. Herpetologica 45:133-143.

  • Petranka, J. W. 1998. Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.

  • Plethodon vehiculum/Western Redback Salamander. Copyright Dave Fraser.

  • Stebbins, R. C. 1985a. A field guide to western reptiles and amphibians. Second edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. xiv + 336 pp.

  • Storm, R.M. and Brodie, E.D. Jr. 1970. Plethodon vehiculum. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles. 83:1-2.

  • Weller, W. F., and D. M. Green. 1997. Checklist and current status of Canadian amphibians. Pages 309-328 in D. M. Green, editor. Amphibians in decline: Canadian studies of a global problem. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, Herpetological Conservation 1.

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Citation for Bird Range Maps of North America:
Ridgely, R.S., T.F. Allnutt, T. Brooks, D.K. McNicol, D.W. Mehlman, B.E. Young, and J.R. Zook. 2003. Digital Distribution Maps of the Birds of the Western Hemisphere, version 1.0. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia, USA.

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