Santa Cruz long-toed Salamander, Ambystoma macrodactylum croceum
The Santa Cruz long-toed salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum croceum) is currently endangered. A subspecies of the Long-toed salamander and a member of the Ambystomatidae family, the Santa Cruz long-toed salamander can be found, rarely, only in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, in California.
The Santa Cruz long-toed salamander reaches lengths of approximately 2.5 inches fully grown. It is one of the smallest members of its family. The overall coloration is a black or deep grey hue and a yellowish or orange strip runs vertical down its body.
The Santa Cruz long-toed salamander inhabits ponds or streams. By nature, the species is very shy and secretive and typically finds cover hiding under leaves, brush and logs. Rarely ever seen in the wintertime the salamander goes into hibernation and will not become active again until early spring. Typical in the species, the Santa Cruz long-toed salamander eats a variety of insects. A diet rich in slugs, snails, worms and insects provides enough protein to maintain energy during periods of inactivity.
Typical of Long-toed salamanders, the Santa Cruz long-toed salamander begins breeding when coming out of hibernation. Melting snow causes temporary ponds, perfect for breeding and hatching. Fertilized eggs are attached to rocks, sticks, or vegetation at the bottom of the water source. Hatched, the larvae are born aquatic, with external gills and no feet. Larvae typically measure only .4 inches long and they feed on zooplankton (tiny water crustaceans).
Image Caption: Santa Cruz long-toed salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum croceum). Credit: Lopezmts/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)