Ambystoma flavipiperatum
Yellow-Peppered Salamander, Ajolote de Chapala
Subgenus: Heterotriton
family: Ambystomatidae

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Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN (Red List) Status Endangered (EN)
See IUCN account.
Other International Status None
National Status None
Regional Status None


Ambystoma flavipiperatum is a robust terrestrial salamander described from four specimens, one male and three female. The male holotype has a snout-vent length of 99.5 mm and a total length measuring 175.0 mm while the three female ranged from 80.0 – 103.0 mm in snout-vent length and 137.0 - 188.0 in total length. The head is longer than wide, with the length being a fourth the snout-vent length and the width being a fifth of the snout-vent length. The internarial width is slightly more than 1.5 times the length of the eye. However the nostrils are only about one eye length from the eye. There is a shallow groove starting from the posterior of the eye and leading to the angle of the jaw. Ambystoma flavipiperatum possess 132 - 145 maxillary teeth and 63 – 76 vomerine teeth, oriented in a slightly curved and continuous manner. A lateral-line system is also present on the head consisting of several rows of small pits that extend from the snout to the posterior part of the head. The species has 13 costal grooves, with one in the axilla and one in the groin. When adpressed, the digits of the limbs overlaps. The flattened digits are long with the forefoot having relative lengths of 1 < 4 < 3 < 2 and the hindfoot having relative lengths of 1 < 5 < 2 < 3 < 4. There are two metatarsal tubercles with the outer tubercle being slightly larger than the inner. The body and tail are covered in visible pores across the skin (Dixon 1963).

When compared to A. rosaceum, A. ordinarium, A. taylori, A. tigrinum, A. granulosum, and A. bombypellum, A. flavipiperatum has considerably more vomerine teeth (average of 70.8 compared to 52 or less). Amybstoma amblycephalum has an average of 70.5 vomerine teeth, but A. flavipiperatum possesses more costal grooves (13) than A. amblycephalum (11), a larger tail to total length ratio (0.44 mm to 0.41 mm) in females, and different coloration (Dixon 1963).

In life, these salamanders are black in color with two small yellow spots on each costal fold. There are also many bright yellow spots between the axilla and groin on both sides, and more yellow spots on the lateral sides of the tail. There are no spots on the dorsal surface of the salamanders’ head or limbs. However, there are large yellow spots on the ventral surface of the limbs. The ventrolateral surfaces of the body have an irregular, wide yellow stripe. The throat and chin are a mosaic of slate gray and yellow. From the throat to the cloaca, the ventrum is slate gray and two additional longitudinal, broken, yellow strips are present. In males, the ventral surface of the tail has a yellowish brown line that covers seven-eights of the tail beginning at the vent. In females the ventral surface of the tail is black in females (Dixon 1963).

Overall, females a have a slightly longer tail-total length ratio. Females also have darker limbs and venter, and more distinct color pattern. In the same vain, the ventral surface of the tail is black in females whereas the male have a yellow ventral surface on their tail. Females may also lose yellow spotting as they age (Dixon 1963).

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Mexico

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Initially, the species was only known from Santa Cruz in Jalisco, Mexico southwest of Guadalajara. All four observed specimens were found at an elevation between 1,494 - 2,400 m asl. The habitat in this area is desert scrub vegetation with rocky soil and a multitude of rock outcroppings (Dixon 1963). However, in 2008, the species was found in Sierra de Quila in Jalisco. It’s possible that other populations of the species exist in Guadalajara, but taxonomic confirmation is still needed ( IUCN 2016).

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Adults are mostly terrestrial and spend most of their time in desert shrubland and thorn forest. They are active at night when they can be found on roads but can also be found under rocks, logs, or in burrows made by Buller’s pocket gopher (Pappogeomys bulleri) in pine-oak forests (IUCN 2016).

Larvae are able to persist in bodies of water such as small pools, artificial ponds, and shallow streams with slow currents and organic matter (IUCN 2016).

Female specimens contained 128 – 1451 eggs in each ovary depending on their size and maturity. It is believed that females can lay between 2500 – 3000 eggs. The eggs were 1.8 – 2.0 mm in diameter and were similar to eggs of A. rosaceum (Dixon 1963).

Males in breeding condition have greatly enlarged and swollen cloacae. The inner lips have large papillae and the sperm ducts were convoluted (Dixon 1963).

Individuals are reported to live for 25 years (IUCN 2016).

Trends and Threats
Ambystoma flavipiperatum is listed as “Endangered” on the IUCN Redlist because its extent of occurrence and occupancy is small (445 km2 and 134 km2 respectively), it is only known from two localities, and because of a known decreasing population at those localities (IUCN 2016).

Its major threats are habitat destruction and fragmentation from smallholder farming. The species is also threatened by water pollution, road construction, human settlements, and introduction of predatory fish. More specifically, in Sierra de Quila, water pollution by visitors and climate change, which has affected rainfall patterns and intensity, has caused a reduction in suitable habitat. However, a local committee in the Area de Proteccion de Flora y Fauna Sierra de Quila, is using the species as an umbrella species to protect clean water. The group is monitoring the stream and reaching out to local landholders about the importance of clean water and this species. Nevertheless, further habitat protection is needed to conserve this species and more genetic research is needed to elucidate the taxonomy of other populations in the Guadalajara region (IUCN 2016).

Possible reasons for amphibian decline

General habitat alteration and loss
Habitat modification from deforestation, or logging related activities
Disturbance or death from vehicular traffic
Habitat fragmentation
Local pesticides, fertilizers, and pollutants
Predators (natural or introduced)
Loss of genetic diversity from small population phenomena

The species authority is: Dixon, J.R. (1963). “A New Species of Salamander of the Genus Ambystoma from Jalisco, Mexico.” Copeia, 1963(1): 99-101.

Evidence from mitochondrial DNA sequences shows close relationship to some Mexican populations of A. velasci (IUCN 2016).

The species epithet refers to its yellow spots. In Latin “flavi” means “yellow” and “piperatum” means “peppered”.


Dixon, J.R. (1963). ''A New Species of Salamander of the Genus Ambystoma from Jalisco, Mexico.'' Copeia, 1963(1), 99-101.

IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group. 2016. Ambystoma flavipiperatum. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T59056A3075883. Downloaded on 22 March 2017.

Written by Mauro Hernandez and Jake Lee (mherna28 AT, jacob.lee851 AT, University of California-Santa Cruz and Western Kentucky University
First submitted 2017-03-25
Edited by Ann T. Chang and Jarrett Johnson (2017-03-25)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2017 Ambystoma flavipiperatum: Yellow-Peppered Salamander <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Mar 27, 2017.

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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2017. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 27 Mar 2017.

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