Salamanders are amphibians that differ from frogs and toads in that they have a long tail and four roughly equal-sized legs. A total of eight salamander species call the San Francisco Bay Area parks home, with the highest diversity in the coastal parks. Aquatic species near the coast are the Rough-skinned newt (Taricha granulosa), California newt (Taricha torosa), and California giant salamander (Dicamptodon ensatus). The East Bay parks share three terrestrial species with the coastal parks: Ensatina (Ensatina eschscholtzii), arboreal salamander (Aneides lugubris), and California slender salamander (Batrachoseps pacificus). Pinnacles National Park also shares these species, except that the last is replaced by the locally endemic Gabilan slender salamander (Batrachoseps gavilanensis). Also at Pinnacles is the federally threatened California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense) which breeds in seasonal ponds in grasslands.
Unlike most amphibians, several of our salamander species lay their eggs in moist places on land, rather than in water. These terrestrial species are excellent indicators of biodiversity and terrestrial habitat integrity, and the aquatic breeders can alert park managers to potential contaminants in wetland habitats. Look for salamaders in these wet habitats, and also watch for them on the road on rainy nights!