blackbelly slenders found in San Diego County

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SurfinHerp
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blackbelly slenders found in San Diego County

Post by SurfinHerp » December 6th, 2014, 12:47 am

Hello CA Chapter,

I believe I found a County Record today!

I took advantage of the wet conditions and drove up to the Riverside/San Diego County border area to look for salamanders. My main goal was to find CA newts in NW SD County, and I was also cognizant of the fact that blackbelly slenders might be found in the area as well. I was about a mile or less inside the SD County border when I got out and explored a riparian corridor with large oak trees.

Before too long I found a healthy adult arboreal salamander:

Image


On the other side of the road, under another huge oak tree, I found five slender salamanders in a small area of fallen branches and bark:

Image

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I was pretty happy with the slenders and never found a good-looking newt stream in the area.



Based on the range map available on Californiaherps.com, the locale where I found these salamanders represents a very small range extension - perhaps 2 miles (or less). All of these slenders appeared to have a black venter with light speckles. They were also quite small compared to the garden slenders I'm accustomed to finding across most of San Diego.


Please correct me if I'm mistaken on the ID of these salamanders before I enter them into the HERP database.


Cheers,


Jeff

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Re: blackbelly slenders found in San Diego County

Post by RobertH » December 6th, 2014, 3:09 am

Very impressive, Jeff. I can confirm your ID - they are classic B. nigriventris, from what I can tell.

I hope Fieldnotes will chime in to let us know whether it is indeed a small range extension. He should have the historical data for that.

Range extension or not, it's a county record and that's a lot right there :thumb:

The arboreal is also nice. I know how hard these are to find down here in SoCal (as opposed to NorCal), at least here in the San Gabriels.

Robert

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Re: blackbelly slenders found in San Diego County

Post by hellihooks » December 6th, 2014, 9:22 am

It's not the size of the range extension that matters...it's what you do with it... :crazyeyes: :lol: :lol: :lol: good job, bro... :beer: jim

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Re: blackbelly slenders found in San Diego County

Post by Speckled Rosy » December 6th, 2014, 5:20 pm

Wow! really nice images and close-ups on the slenders.. Great finds.. I believe in one of the photoes with two slenders you have at least one garden slender. They are identified by the larger red blotching down the back and tail.. Thats how I identify both species up here in LA co. where they can live side by side..

-Dan

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Re: blackbelly slenders found in San Diego County

Post by Fundad » December 6th, 2014, 5:41 pm

Let Sam Sweet take a look at them... email him if you have his email address.

Fundad

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Re: blackbelly slenders found in San Diego County

Post by Brian Hubbs » December 6th, 2014, 7:59 pm

I just e-mailed the thread to him...

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Re: blackbelly slenders found in San Diego County

Post by Sam Sweet » December 6th, 2014, 9:22 pm

There is a lot that still needs to be explained about Batrachoseps south of the LA basin. The most recent treatment (Martinez-Solano et al. 2012, Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution) shows a significant genetic gap between northern and southern populations now assigned to B. major, certainly a species-level difference, with the contact running SW-NE across northern San Diego County, with the closest approach between the two being in Ramona. The southern animal is smaller and darker, sometimes almost black (and black-bellied), and I sorta suspect the animals reported here are southern major rather than B. nigriventris, based on short(er) tail length, large(r) feet, and wide(r) heads. The northern part of the B. major range map from the 2012 paper is copied here (unfortunately it does not show records for B. nigrventris).

Image.

Guys like Fundad who know all the micropatches of habitat remaining in the LA basin proper really need to help the Berkeley crowd out with sampling localities, eh? Soon they truly will be gone from LA, and nobody will know what genetic information has been lost.

Anyone who would like an e-copy of the Martinez-Solano et al. paper can PM me (but include your e-mail!) -- one of the hot issues would be to find northern and southern major in sympatry, and the other is to clarify the southern end of the range of B. nigriventris, preferably by finding them together with southern B. major. Without doing the genetics, sympatry with some subtle but consistent differences in morphology is going to be what carries the day here.

More complications, the southern unit of B. major consists of 5 species-level entities (only one in the US). The Los Coronados Islands and San Diego animals were named as Batrachoseps leucopus by E.R. Dunn in 1922, and the dark San Diego animals have long been informally called B. major minor as a joke (not to be confused with B. minor of SLO County). However, the Coronados populations group with northern, not southern B. major, so B. leucopus would be a synonym of B. major Camp 1915, and not a name available for the San Diego or Baja populations. Helping even further to keep it real, there are two species of B. nigriventris, and it is the southern, as yet unnamed, species we are talking about here. So ALL the names we are using tonight are wrong and will be changed, yahoo for taxonomy.

My best guess is that those animals are southern B. major, but I would strongly encourage you to work out radially from that site and see if you can discover a place where the two species co-occur. And thank you for taking enough photos that actually show things like feet and bellies clearly!

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Re: blackbelly slenders found in San Diego County

Post by hellihooks » December 7th, 2014, 8:18 am

The Hi-D crew is down to help Fundad, Jeff, Robert, or whoever with sampling localities in the LA basin... :thumb: jim

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Re: blackbelly slenders found in San Diego County

Post by SurfinHerp » December 7th, 2014, 10:44 am

Thanks for the comments and info guys.


The slenders in this post were found close to locale 16 in the map Dr. Sweet has posted above. That's not very close to the 'southern population' of B. major.

As far as I know, there could have been two different species amongst the 5 specimens I found. If I recall correctly, a couple of them had rather long tails, and others had more normal length tails. The degree of dorsal reddish blotching/striping varied as well, with one individual having much more pronounced red compared to the rest. All of their venters seemed pretty black to me though. None of them reached the full size of a garden slender.

In retrospect, I suppose I should have posed all 5 specimens together for group photos to make comparison easier. However, I didn't know how many I would find, so I just took a few iPhone photos of each, then returned them to their hiding places under bark/logs. (The first two were found under the same log, thus the photos with two together).


Since the taxonomy of slender salamanders in So. Cal. is currently in limbo, I don't see a problem with entering these specimens into the HERP database as B. nigriventis. Hopefully entering them as such will highlight the locale where they were found as an interesting spot for further study.


Jeff

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Re: blackbelly slenders found in San Diego County

Post by hellihooks » December 7th, 2014, 1:43 pm

went through the exact same thing Jeff, when me n Josh were flipping slenders up in the western Santa Anas... thought the smaller black ones were juvie, and the pics of the bigger ones all keyed out major... :roll: :)

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Re: blackbelly slenders found in San Diego County

Post by mattg » December 7th, 2014, 11:28 pm

jeff those are not nigriventris in my opinion. at least there not the same as the ones found from riv/orange co. north to la and beyond. i have done alot of searching in the santa anas on the coastal side and the riverside side and all in between in about a dozen canyons. i have yet to find what i consider a true blackbelly south of hwy 74(see record no.184862 ). That being said it is my opinion that the salamanders i find along the hwy 74 corridor ,in the higher elev santa anas riv co. and south of there all the way down into san diego co. will eventually be deemed a different species. Neither nigriventris or major and i think that is what you have there. I dont think it matters what you call it in the database if the species names are going to be changed though. check out record no.172229 that is from cariso village area off hwy 74 i think it is the same kind as yours, black belly but not alot of white dots and larger than blackbellys but smaller than gardens. in areas where both species occur such as chino hills, san jose hills, etc. the way i tell the difference between blackbellys and smaller gardens is by there bellys (among other things, behavior, etc.). black bellys are small like really small see record no.141179. Also back bellys can have a red/orange back also copper and brown. I think the ones with real bright colors displayed are probably males.see record no.145016 ,145017. Just my two cents. And to further complicate things i have found dark bellied gardens in chino record no.136908 . At any rate more work needs to be done with these little gummy lizards all throughout the santa anas and other montain ranges as well. I will be hitting up the area south of 74 all the way to fallbrook as much as i can this winter/spring looking for all kinds of manders.

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Re: blackbelly slenders found in San Diego County

Post by Fundad » December 8th, 2014, 6:34 am

Nice work on the manders Jeff.

Sam has more experience/Knowledge with salamanders than all of us put together. If he says they are part of the major complex than that's what should go into HERP, though notes could/should be added to the records, pointing out the visual differences.



I love the "wtf" comment on the empty section, of the map. LOL The need for specimens is duly noted, :D .

Fundad

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Re: blackbelly slenders found in San Diego County

Post by RobertH » December 8th, 2014, 9:43 am

I have to agree with Fundad that the record should reflect our best educated guess. And Sam is by far in the best position to make that guess.

However, I agree with Jeff that location 16 is not near the known range of the southern population of B. major. So, maybe Sam could briefly explain the reason why he thinks this does not matter in this case.

In any event, I want to thank Sam for taking the time - a lot of time - to give us his considered opinion, including range maps, etc. That is way more than we can ask for, and another reason why we should ultimately go with Sam's suggestions. If we ignore his advice, he and other professionals may see little or no reason to invest time in giving advice on this forum in the future.

Jeff: Just to be sure, I am not at all denigrating your find. In fact, Sam's comments, and also Matt's input, suggest that you stumbled across something much more interesting and perplexing than "just" a 2-mile range extension of B. nigriventris.

This is all good stuff, guys. Let's stick our heads together and try to come up with some small-group salamander surveys in the relevant areas. More rain, a lot more, is on the way later this week. It looks like we are going ot have a good salamander season for once :thumb:

Robert

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Re: blackbelly slenders found in San Diego County

Post by jonathan » December 9th, 2014, 7:48 am

I had the same issue on the Riverside/San Diego border. I found a slender that I was sure was a blackbelly right on the edge of its range. Then I found another that seemed like a blackbelly...and then a third that made me unsure about all three of them. Then I checked the same map that Sam showed and saw that one of their collection spots for major was very close to me...and decided that they were probably major.

I apologize for not doing as well as I should documenting all three.

Here's one:

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and another

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and another

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Image

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Re: blackbelly slenders found in San Diego County

Post by jonathan » December 9th, 2014, 7:56 am

Sam Sweet wrote:Image.

Guys like Fundad who know all the micropatches of habitat remaining in the LA basin proper really need to help the Berkeley crowd out with sampling localities, eh? Soon they truly will be gone from LA, and nobody will know what genetic information has been lost.

That's a great WTF Sam. I don't understand it at all. I know a good number of sampling localities in the PV Hills, Whittier Hills, Chino Hills, and across the LA Basin that are ignored by that map.

I've said this plenty before, but I think the Palos Verdes Peninsula is a big one. The combination of appearance and habitat occupied by different slenders in different parts of that peninsula has always been very very interesting to me. I think that it is extremely likely that they are genetic outliers in some way, potentially separate species, but I haven't seen anyone doing the necessary work to investigate that. I think I could give them some significant localities to look at.

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Re: blackbelly slenders found in San Diego County

Post by RobertH » December 9th, 2014, 11:34 am

Thanks for posting those. Your Slenders, except for the third one, do look more B. major to me than Jeff's, based mostly on the thickness/length of the tail. But then, at least one of Jeff's slenders, the upside down one, also has that short, thick tail characteristic of B. major.

So, this really is one confusing area for Slenders, that's for sure. Maybe, one or both of you found some of each species. Or some or all of them either or both of you found are a new species. Or some or all of them are hybrids. Or none of the above.

Robert

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Re: blackbelly slenders found in San Diego County

Post by SurfinHerp » December 10th, 2014, 9:49 am

Thanks for the comments and pictures Jonathan, and Robert.

It's surprising how similar Jonathan's slenders are to the ones I found. Nearly identical mix of colorations and tail lengths.

I guess we can just enter slenders from the border area into HERP as Batrachoseps and leave the species undefined.

I'd be willing to help any researcher studying these slenders. I don't think it makes sense for NAFHA to initiate some sort of study of our own though.


Jeff

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Re: blackbelly slenders found in San Diego County

Post by RobertH » December 10th, 2014, 9:53 am

I'd be willing to help any researcher studying these slenders. I don't think it makes sense for NAFHA to initiate some sort of study of our own though.
I agree, it would be good to have a researcher take the lead on it and we'd provide specimen.

Robert

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Re: blackbelly slenders found in San Diego County

Post by jonathan » December 11th, 2014, 1:30 am

I should add that the habitat I found the first slender in felt like blackbelly habitat. The habitat I found the other two in was a bit in-between what I consider blackbelly/garden slender habitat.

On the Palos Verdes Peninsula as well, I've found unusual-looking slenders in what appeared to be borderline habitat, or across a varied habitat range.

Whereas in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, I'm much more used to blackbelly slenders being found in "blackbelly" habitat and garden slenders being found in "garden" habitat.

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Re: blackbelly slenders found in San Diego County

Post by Fieldnotes » December 12th, 2014, 4:50 pm

In 2006 and 2007 while attending a NAFHA meeting at San Diego Wild Animal Park, Mike Kolb and I found peculiar, black bellied salamanders at Santa Ysabel Creek. We showed them to Jeff Lemm and he contacted Dr. Wake at Berkeley. Dr. Wake suspected them as B. major due to their large eyes. The animals Jeff Nordland discovered in NW San Diego also have large eyes, thus leading me to speculate they too are black bellied Major.

In general, I find black bellied Major in soil and humus deposits, and find the Northern Major in sandy or gravelly deposits, such as alluvial fans, washes, semi-arid terrain, and Oak woodlands with gravel foundations. When I have found Northern Major in humus deposits they were huge so there was no chance of mistaking them for B. nigriventris. The black bellied Major tend to be smaller humus dwellers, more proportioned to B. nigriventris.

One reason, for the wide gap in Sam’s map to Jeff’s salamanders is that they are not Southern Major or Northern Major, but perhaps, something else in the Major complex.

Image
1
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2a
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2b
Two different Southern Major from two sample sites in southern San Diego County


******************
Image
Northern Major


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Image

Black bellied Major from Santa Ysabel Creek

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Re: blackbelly slenders found in San Diego County

Post by hellihooks » December 13th, 2014, 8:04 am

So potentially... a major discovery?? :roll: :lol: :lol: :lol:

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Re: blackbelly slenders found in San Diego County

Post by mattg » December 13th, 2014, 10:34 pm

Blackbellied B.major from hwy 74, 9 miles by air from coast
ImageDSCF0162 by M.Gruen
ImageDSCF0159 by M.Gruen,
Blackbellied B.major from hwy 74, near el carriso village
ImageIMAG0346 by M.Gruen,
ImageIMAG0349 by M.Gruen,
Black bellied major from elsinore mountains/main divide
ImageDSCF0543 by M.Gruen,
ImageDSCF0546 by M.Gruen,
ImageDSCF0561 by M.Gruen,
ImageDSCF0563 by M.Gruen,
ImageDSCF0568 by M.Gruen,
ImageDSCF0569 by M.Gruen,
ImageDSCF0571 by M.Gruen,

B.nigriventris from trabuco canyon
ImageDSCF0686 by M.Gruen,
ImageDSCF0685 by M.Gruen,
Harding canyon
ImageDSCF0323 by M.Gruen,
ImageDSCF0324 by M.Gruen,
Habitat
ImageDSCF0329 by M.Gruen, on Flickr

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Re: blackbelly slenders found in San Diego County

Post by RobertH » December 14th, 2014, 6:42 am

Are you sure about the "B. nigriventris" from Trabuco Canyon? They don't look much like the B. nigriventris we find up here in the San Gabes. The first one seems too light on the belly, and on the second one the tail seems too fat. But that's just based on what we see (mostly, but not always) up here. Maybe, there are northern and southern populations of nigriventris just as there are for B. major, with light colored southerners ... . Or maybe there is really just once species of slender salamander in SoCal and they just come in different shapes, colors and sizes. That would be my preferred model.

Robert

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Re: blackbelly slenders found in San Diego County

Post by mattg » December 14th, 2014, 9:42 am

I base it on overall size, habitat, and belly, all the nigriventris I find even in the San Gabes have a darkish belly completely covered in those tiny little white spots.

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Re: blackbelly slenders found in San Diego County

Post by Speckled Rosy » December 14th, 2014, 11:47 am

Here are some of my pictures taken over the last four years or so.. All are from various locations from the western part of the LA basin..
These are just those that I photoed.. Ive seen many more over the years here in LA..




A b. major specimen found eating a large earthworm
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Several more that I identify as b. major
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These I identify as b. nigriventus specimens
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I would be more than willing to share data or help with locations, if a serious study was done in the future.. Slender salamanders appear to be doing well in parts of the LA basin
where habitat is not disturbed.. I have found 14, blackbellies under one board at a south Los Angeles location. There is still plenty to sample currently, if one wanted to get a fairly
complete picture of whats going on in the Los Angeles basin and south.. I only wish the snake and lizard species could cling on as well as these little guys do, in such small and
disturbed areas.. From what I have seen, b. major seem to tolerate sandier and more open situations along the coast, with b. nigriventus prefering a little more cover/shade..
that is not to say I didn't find b. nigriventus in open and disturbed areas as well. It seemed like all or most of the Palos verdes slenders I've seen, were smaller and darker,
more resembling nigriventus...

Is it possible the two species are intergrading in many parts of socal?

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