Friday, April 03, 2009

Slithering Surprise

I moved a rotted railroad tie in the garden today. Underneath were two creatures I thought to be sturdy earthworms, similar in color, size, and body style to some extent. Then I looked closer, since they were odd looking earthworms. In fact, I checked for an itty-bitty rattle on the tail, since they also looked like snakes. No rattles. I noticed bulgy eyes and four legs on each. Hmmm. What are these crazy little inhabitants of dirt and rotting wood? The web rocks when you want to find out something like this. Our two tiny garden creatures are California Slender Salamanders.

The photo and article excerpt below are from the website linked above (click on "Slithering Surprise"):
A small plethodontid salamander which breathes through smooth moist thin skin. 18 -21 costal grooves. Short limbs, a narrow head, long slender body, very long tail, and conspicuous costal and caudal grooves give this species the worm-like appearance typical of most Slender Salamanders. 4 toes on front and hind feet, also typical of Slender Salamanders. (Other California salamanders have 5 toes on the hind feet.) Variable in color. Generally black or dark above, with red, brown, yellow, or tan coloring forming a dorsal stripe, sometimes with a herringbone pattern. Black or dark ventrally, with fine white speckles.
Active on rainy or wet nights when temperatures are moderate, beginning with the first fall rains until the spring or summer dry period. Retreats underground when the soil dries or when air temperature gets below freezing. Lives and lays eggs in moist places on land. When disturbed, may coil up and remain still, then uncoil quickly and spring away, repeatedly bouncing over the ground. Tail is easily broken off, but it can be regenerated. A sit-and-wait predator.


  1. This is scary. I am not going out there again.

  2. Not being classified as a "slender" anything, very interesting. I am in the "sturdy" category. Just try and knock me over! But if you do, the struggle is for me to get up:-)