Rhyacotriton variegatus - Stebbins and Lowe, 1951
Southern Torrent Salamander
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Rhyacotriton variegatus Stebbins and Lowe, 1951 (TSN 550252)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.104649
Element Code: AAAAJ01020
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Amphibians - Salamanders
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Amphibia Caudata Rhyacotritonidae Rhyacotriton
Genus Size: B - Very small genus (2-5 species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Good, D. A., and D. B. Wake. 1992. Geographic variation and speciation in the torrent salamanders of the genus RHYACOTRITON (Caudata: Rhyacotritonidae). Univ. California Publication Zoology 126:i-xii, 1-91.
Concept Reference Code: B92GOO01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Rhyacotriton variegatus
Taxonomic Comments: Formerly included in R. OLYMPICUS. An analysis of allozyme variation in the long-standing monotypic genus RHYACOTRITON yielded three distinct geographic units: (1) the Coast Ranges from the Olympic Peninsula of Washington to northwestern Oregon, (2) the Coast Ranges from northwestern Oregon to Mendocino County, California, and (3) the Cascade Mountains of south-central Washington and northern Oregon (Good et al. 1987). The level of morphological differentiation was not concordant with the genetic patterns observed. Because no contact areas or areas of sympatry were found, Good et al. (1987) did not recommend any taxonomic changes, but the authors did state that RHYACOTRITON probably includes three separate species, each of which displays substantial intraspecific differentiation. Further study by Good and Wake (1992) confirmed high levels of genetic differentiation and revealed no gene flow in contact zones; Good and Wake concluded that RHYACOTRITON comprises 4 species: R. OLYMPICUS, R. CASCADAE (new taxon), R. KEZERI (new taxon), and R. VARIEGATUS (raised from subspecific rank). Highton (2000) reviewed data presented by Good and Wake and concluded that R. VARIEGATUS may include multiple species.

Good and Wake (1992) removed RHYACOTRITON from the family Dicamptodontidae and established it as the sole member of the family Rhyacotritonidae.
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G3G4
Global Status Last Reviewed: 05Nov2003
Global Status Last Changed: 03Sep2003
Rounded Global Status: G3 - Vulnerable
Reasons: Small range in northern California and Oregon; still occurs throughout most of historic range but localized extirpations and reductions in abundance are evident, resulting from past impacts of logging (species is sensitive to increased water temperatures and sedimentation); threats from logging are decreasing; regarded as not threatened by current regulatory practices.
Nation: United States
National Status: N3N4 (03Sep2003)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
United States California (S2S3), Oregon (S3)

Other Statuses

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: Southern Mendocino County, California, north through the Coast Ranges to the Little Nestucca River and the Grande Ronde Valley in Polk, Tillamook, and Yamhill counties, Oregon, where the range abuts that of R. kezeri; an apparently isolated population exists on the west slope of the Cascade Mountains in the vicinity of Steamboat, Douglas County, Oregon (south of the range of Rhyacotriton cascadae) (Good and Wake 1992). Patchy distribution in headwaters and low order tributaries (Welsh and Lind 1996).

Number of Occurrences: 21 - 80
Number of Occurrences Comments: Little historical information. Widespread in many headwater streams in north-coastal California (Diller and Wallace 1996). Jennings and Hayes (1994) mapped 65 verified records in California. Forty documented sites in Oregon; site conditions estimated to be 20% excellent, 50% good, 20% fair, and 10% poor (E. Gaines, pers. comm., 1997).

Population Size: Unknown
Population Size Comments: Very little information available; estimated 700-1000 individuals in Oregon (E. Gaines, pers. comm., 1997); many more in California.

Overall Threat Impact: Medium
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Sensitive to increased temperature and sedimentation such as may result from logging or road construction (Welsh and Ollivier 1998). Timber harvest negatively affects Rhyacotriton salamanders more than any other amphibian in the Oregon Coast Range (Bury and Corn 1988, Corn and Bury 1989). Logging activities may destroy habitat and increase siltation; the Oregon range coincides with areas of intense logging practices (E. Gaines, pers. comm., 1997). However, the species can persist in habitats after habitat alteration, including logging (see USFWS 2000). Some populations are isolated by intervening areas of unsuitable habitat; these are vulnerable to extirpation through natural processes exacerbated by timber harvest (especially old growth stands on north-facing slopes). Much of the range has undergone large-scale timber harvesting or is harvestable, and there is concern that adequate protection of habitat is lacking (Federal Register, 29 June 1995). However, current timber harvest regulations provide more protection for habitat than did those of the unregulated past (Diller and Wallace 1996). USFWS (2000) concluded that current regulatory practices do not constitute a threat. USFWS (2000) determined that the species currently is not threatened by logging or other habitat alterations but noted that the most vulnerable populations are those at the southern and eastern edges of the range.

Short-term Trend: Decline of <30% to relatively stable
Short-term Trend Comments: Trend of habitat loss is lessening across much of the range with a reduction in clearcutting and with some increased awareness and protection of headwater habitats (USFWS 2000). In Oregon, believed declining (E. Gaines, pers. comm., 1997); state species of special concern.

Long-term Trend: Decline of 30-50%
Long-term Trend Comments: Still present throughout historical range, but localized extirpations and reductions in abundance are evident, due to past forest management activities (USFWS, Federal Register, 29 June 1995; USFWS 2000). Habitat has declined; recent estimates place the amount of remaining coastal old-growth redwood forest in California, which comprises a significant portion of California coastal old-growth forest, at 12% (see Jennings and Hayes 1994).

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Highly to moderately vulnerable.

Environmental Specificity: Very narrow to narrow.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Inventory Needs: Estimate population numbers at known localities and monitor populations to determine status and trends.

Protection Needs: Promote timber harvest regulations that protect headwater streams. See Thomas et al. (1993).

Distribution
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Global Range: (20,000-200,000 square km (about 8000-80,000 square miles)) Southern Mendocino County, California, north through the Coast Ranges to the Little Nestucca River and the Grande Ronde Valley in Polk, Tillamook, and Yamhill counties, Oregon, where the range abuts that of R. kezeri; an apparently isolated population exists on the west slope of the Cascade Mountains in the vicinity of Steamboat, Douglas County, Oregon (south of the range of Rhyacotriton cascadae) (Good and Wake 1992). Patchy distribution in headwaters and low order tributaries (Welsh and Lind 1996).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: endemic to a single nation

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

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


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
CA Del Norte (06015), Humboldt (06023), Mendocino (06045), Siskiyou (06093), Trinity (06105)
OR Coos (41011), Curry (41015), Douglas (41019), Josephine (41033), Lane (41039), Yamhill (41071)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
17 Upper Willamette (17090003)+, Yamhill (17090008)+, Alsea (17100205)+, Siuslaw (17100206)+, North Umpqua (17100301)+, South Umpqua (17100302)+, Umpqua (17100303)+, Coquille (17100305)+, Applegate (17100309)+, Lower Rogue (17100310)+, Illinois (17100311)+, Chetco (17100312)+
18 Smith (18010101)+, Mad-Redwood (18010102)+, Lower Eel (18010105)+, South Fork Eel (18010106)+, Mattole (18010107)+*, Big-Navarro-Garcia (18010108)+, Lower Klamath (18010209)+, Trinity (18010211)+, South Fork Trinity (18010212)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: A small salamander with an aquatic larval stage.
General Description: For all species in the genus, mean SVL for the largest 10% of adults is between 5 and 6 cm.
Diagnostic Characteristics: Differs from KEZERI and OLYMPICUS by the presence of dorsal dark spotting, but the spotting is weak in northern populations in geographic proximity to KEZERI; differs from OLYMPICUS also by lacking the wavy line of demarcation between the dorsal and ventral ground colors and the large, well-defined ventral spots; southern populations of VARIEGATUS are more heavily spoted than are northern populations; heavily spotted populations resemble many populations of CASCADAE, but in the latter the concentrations of dorsal and ventral spotting usually are not as equally balanced as in VARIEGATUS; also, ventral spotting in CASCADAE often is lacking or consists only of a few very fine speckles, and heavy spotting along the sides of most CASCADAE produces a much more sharply defined line of demarcation between the dorsal and ventral surfaces than is true in VARIEGATUS; heavily spotted VARIEGATUS usually have a strong preorbital stripe anterior to the eye (weak or absent in most CASCADAE); difficult to distinguish from immediately adjacent populations of R. KEZERI, but the latter usually differs by one or more of the following characteristics: dorsal spots absent (weak but usually present in northern populations of VARIEGATUS), a few small ventral speckles usually present in the gular and chest regions (not present away from contact zone), lighter limb insertions, and less extensive dark pigmentation of the soles of the feet (Good and Wake 1992).
Reproduction Comments: Breeds mostly in spring and early summer in Oregon, also in fall and winter (Stebbins 1985). Mean clutch size (based on yolked ovarian follicles) = 8-10 (Good and Wake 1992). Larval period lasts 3 to 3.5 years in coastal populations in southwestern Oregon (Nussbaum and Tait 1977); also reported as 4-5 years (see 1995 Herpetol. Rev. 26:172). Sexually mature 1.0-1.5 years after metamorphosis (Behler and King 1979; Nussbaum et al. 1983). Probably a communal nester (Nussbaum).
Ecology Comments: Adults are very sensitive to desiccation.

Density generally is not more than about 5-6 per sq m, but sometimes up to about 30-40 per sq m (see Diller and Wallace 1996).

Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Riverine Habitat(s): CREEK, High gradient, SPRING/SPRING BROOK
Palustrine Habitat(s): Riparian
Special Habitat Factors: Benthic
Habitat Comments: Coastal coniferous forests in small, cold (usually 5.8-12.0 C), clear, high-gradient mountain streams and spring seepages, especially in gravel-dominated riffles with low sedimentation. Larvae often occur under stones in shaded streams. Adults also inhabit these streams or streamsides in saturated moss-covered talus, or under rocks in splash zone. Typically occurs in older forest sites with large conifers, abundant moss, and > 80% canopy closure; required microclimatic and microhabitat conditions generally exist only in older forests (Welsh 1990, Welsh and Lind 1996). Young, managed forests may be occupied as long as the required microhabitats are present (Diller and Wallace 1996). Two Rhyacotriton nests were found in deep, narrow rock crevices; eggs were lying in cold, slow-moving water (Nussbaum et al. 1983).
Adult Food Habits: Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Invertivore
Food Comments: Opportunistic. Larvae feed on aquatic invertebrates such as flatworms, annelids, snails, arachnids, crustaceans, and insects. Adults eat aquatic/semi-aquatic invertebrates, including beetles, stoneflies, snails, flies, amphipods, etc. (Nussbaum et al. 1983).
Length: 12 centimeters
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Biological Research Needs: Refine understanding of habitat requirements and movement ecology (Jennings and Hayes 1994).
Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Rhyacotritonid (Torrent) 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 larvae or eggs) in or near appropriate habitat where the species is presumed to be established and breeding.
Separation Barriers: More than 50 m of upland habitat; warm or slow low-gradient stream; impoundment or lake.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 1 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 3 km
Separation Justification: Torrent salamanders are virtually restricted to cold, high-gradient headwaters and their margins, and only rarely do they venture as far as 50 m from water (Good and Wake 1992). Within-stream movements generally appear to be limited to stream segments of less than 25 m (Petranka 1998). Larvae likely disperse farther than this, but supporting data are lacking.

Welsh and Lind (1992) estimated that R. VARIEGATUS larvae moved a mean distance of 0.006 m per month (SD=0.008), and adults 0.003 m per month (SD=0.003). Nijhuis and Kaplan (1998) found that R. CASCADAE moved a mean distance of about 0.359 m per day (SE=0.076). They attributed the difference in distance primarily to their larger sample size. Nussbaum and Tate (1977) found that out of 191 recaptures of different individuals, 70 percent moved less than 2 m, and the greatest known distance moved over one summer was 22 m. Movements as great as 50 m have been observed in wet coastal Douglas-fir habitat, but are an exception (Good and Wake 1992). However, these long distance movements can only occur in very moist habitats as RHYACOTRITON are desiccation intolerant (Jennings and Hayes 1995).

Separation distance for unsuitable habitat reflects the usual minimum value for sedentary organisms. Despite information indicating limited movements in suitable habitat, dispersal behavior is poorly known, and it seems unlikely that 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., K. J. Popper, and L. Hallock
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: 05Nov2003
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Clausen, M. K., and G. Hammerson
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 20Nov2000
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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  • Anderson, J.D. 1968. Rhyacotriton, R. olympicus. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles. 68:1-2.

  • 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.

  • Brodie, J. B. 1995. Status review of the Southern Torrent Salamander in California. Report to the Fish and Game Commission. California Dept. of Fish and Game. 23 pp. plus appendices.

  • Bury, R. B., and P. S. Corn. 1988a. Responses of aquatic and streamside amphibians to timber harvest: a review. Pages 165-181 in Raedaeke, K., editor. Streamside management: riparian wildlife and forestry interactions. Univ. Washington.

  • Corn, P. S., and R. B. Bury. 1989. Logging in western Oregon: repsonses of headwater habitats and stream amphibians. Forest Ecology and Management 29:39-57.

  • Diller, L. V., and R. L. Wallace. 1996. Distribution and habitat of RHYACOTRITON VARIEGATUS in managed, young growth forests in north coastal California. Journal of Herpetology 30:184-191.

  • Good, D. A., G. Z. Wurst, and D. B. Wake. 1987. Patterns of geographic variation in allozymes of the Olympic salamander, RHYACOTRITON OLYMPICUS (Caudata: Dicamptodontidae). Fieldiana Zoolgy No. 32 (1374). 15 pp.

  • Good, D. A., and D. B. Wake. 1992. Geographic variation and speciation in the torrent salamanders of the genus RHYACOTRITON (Caudata: Rhyacotritonidae). Univ. California Publication Zoology 126:i-xii, 1-91.

  • Good, D.A. and Wake, D.B. 1992. Geographic variation and speciation in the torrent salamanders of the genus Rhyacotriton (Caudata: Rhyacotritonidae). University of California Publications in Zoology. 126:i-xii:1-91.

  • Highton, R. 2000. Detecting cryptic species using allozyme data. Pages 215-241 in R. C. Bruce, R. G. Jaeger, and L. D. Houck, editors. The biology of plethodontid salamanders. Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, New York. xiii + 485 pp.

  • Jennings, M. R., and M. P. Hayes. 1994. Amphibian and reptile species of special concern in California. Final Report submitted to the California Department of Fish and Game, Inland Fisheries Division. Contract No. 8023. 255 pp.

  • Nijhuis, M. J., and R. H. Kaplan. 1998. Movement patterns and life history characteristics in a population of the cascade torrent salamander (RHYACOTRITON CASCADAE) in the Columbia River gorge, Oregon. Journal of Herpetology 32:301-304.

  • Nussbaum, R. A. 1969. A nest site of the Olympic salamander, RHYACOTRITON OLYMPICUS (Gaige). Herpetologica 25:277-278.

  • Nussbaum, R. A., and C. K. Tait. 1977. Aspects of the life history and ecology of the Olympic salamander, Rhyacoitriton olympicus (Gaige). American Midland Naturalist 98(1):176-199.

  • 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.

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

  • Thomas, J. W., Ward, J., Raphael, M.G., Anthony, R.G., Forsman, E.D., Gunderson, A.G., Holthausen, R.S., Marcot, B.G., Reeves, G.H., Sedell, J.R. and Solis, D.M. 1993. Viability assessments and management considerations for species associated with late-successional and old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest. The report of the Scientific Analysis Team. USDA Forest Service, Spotted Owl EIS Team, Portland Oregon. 530 pp.

  • Thomas, J. W., Ward, J., Raphael, M.G., Anthony, R.G., Forsman, E.D., Gunderson, A.G., Holthausen, R.S., Marcot, B.G., Reeves, G.H., Sedell, J.R. and Solis, D.M. 1993. Viability assessments and management considerations for species associated with late-successional and old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest. The report of the Scientific Analysis Team. USDA Forest Service, Spotted Owl EIS Team. 530 pp. Portland, Oregon.

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 6 June 2000. 12-month finding for a petition to list the southern torrent salamander in California as endangered or threatened. Federal Register 65(109):35951-35956.

  • Welsh, H. H., Jr. 1990. Relictual amphibians and old-growth forests. Conservation Biology 4:309-19.

  • Welsh, H. H., Jr., and A. J. Lind. 1996. Habitat correlates of the southern torrent salamander, RHYACOTRITON VARIEGATUS (Caudata: Rhyacotritonidae), in northwestern California. Journal of Herpetology 30:385-398.

  • Welsh, H. H., Jr., and L. M. Ollivier. 1998. Stream amphibians as indicators of ecosystem stress: a case study from California's redwoods. Ecological Applications 8:1118-1132.

  • Welsh, H. H., and A. J. Lind. 1992. Population ecology of two relictual salamanders from the Klamath Mountains of Northwestern California. Pp. 419-437 in McCullough D. R. and Barrett, R. H. 1992, Wildlife 2001: Populations. Elsevier Applied Science, London.

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