Plethodon asupak is a robust, medium-sized salamander of the western Plethodon group. Male SVL averages 60.7 mm, while female SVL averages 67.2 mm. Tail length averages 50.6 mm for males and 57.8 mm for females. Males have an average of 16 costal grooves (range 16-17), while females have an average of 17 costal grooves (range 16-17). Males and females generally have 3 intercostal folds between adpressed limbs (range 2-3 for males, 3-5 for females). Teeth number 60 for premaxillary and maxillary teeth, and 15 vomerine teeth are also present. Forelimbs and hindlimbs are relatively long (Mead et al. 2005).
In life, a broad brown and bronze dorsal stripe extends from the head to the tail. The sides of the body are chocolate brown. Most parts of the body are flecked with white and yellow spots, especially on the sides and on the limbs. The ventral surface is dark gray to purple and is mottled with light gray patches and some white flecking. The gular region has more dense white flecks. The chin is gray and somewhat mottled. Eyes are black with gold flecks on the upper and lower regions (Mead et al. 2005).
Juveniles differ from adults in having two orange or red-brown stripes that extend from the eye toward the tail. The two stripes fuse into a single band just posterior to the vent. Dorsal stripes are lined with black pigment, which is replaced by brown pigment on the sides of the body. White or yellow flecks are concentrated on the dorsal surface of the head, the lateral parts of the trunk, and limbs. The ventral surfaces are dark gray to purple and have white flecks (Mead et al. 2005).
Similar species: Plethodon asupak can be distinguished from the similar species P. elongatus and P. stormi by allopatric location, a wider head and longer limbs, a slightly shorter tail relative to the body length (tail/body ratio of about 0.80 in P. asupak vs. 0.85-0.90 in P. elongatus and P. stormi) and by generally having one less intercostal fold between adpressed limbs (limb interval of 2.5-3.5 in P. asupak vs. 5-6 in P. elongatus and 4-5 in P. stormi). It can also be distinguished from P. elongatus by larger size (average total length 111.3 mm for P. asupak males, and 125.0 mm for P. asupak females, vs. average total length of 91.6 mm for P. elongatus males and 97.4 mm for P. elongatus females).
Distribution and Habitat
Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: United States
U.S. state distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: California
Plethodon asupak occurs only in the Scott River drainage of Siskiyou County, California, at elevations from 700-1300 m asl. It has been found at Walker Gulch, Muck-a-Muck Creek, and Mill Creek, south of the Klamath River, in the Scott River drainage. The distribution follows lower-elevation federal matrix lands along the Klamath River's south bank eastward from Seiad Valley, and south along both shores of the Scott River. The holotype was collected at Muck-a-Muck Creek, at the confluence of the Scott and Klamath Rivers, Siskiyou County, California. This species is found in old-growth forests near streams (Mead et al. 2005).
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
This species is a terrestrial forest-dweller and appears to reach highest density in closed-canopy forests, on north-facing slopes with rocky talus substrates, like P. stormi (Nauman and Olson 2008). It is presumed to breed by direct development (Stuart et al. 2008).
Trends and Threats
The major threat is habitat loss and modification. It occurs in a semi-protected area, a National Forest, but logging is allowed. It is known only from 17 sites at three localities and is thought unlikely to occur more widely (Stuart et al. 2008; Nauman and Olson 2008). Special consideration for this species should be given in planning land management, particularly with respect to maintaining riparian reserves in federal matrix lands within its range (Nauman and Olson 2008). Mining, recreation, and road building may also threaten the habitat (DeGross and Bury 2007).
Possible reasons for amphibian decline
General habitat alteration and loss
Habitat modification from deforestation, or logging related activities
This species is closely related to Plethodon stormi and Plethodon elongatus, but can be distinguished both morphologically and genetically (Mead et al. 2005).
The specific epithet "asupak" is the Shasta Indian name for the area of the type locality. The Karuk tribe of Shasta Indians settled in this region and saw salamanders as omens of good luck and as serving to purify water (Mead et al. 2005).
DeGross, D. J., and Bury, R. B. (2007). . USGS, Reston, VA.
Mead, L. S., Clayton, D. R., Nauman, R. S., Olson, D. H., and Pfrender, M. E. (2005). ''Newly discovered populations of salamanders from Siskiyou County California Represent a Species Distinct from Plethodon stormi.'' Herpetologica, 61(2), 158-177.
Nauman, R. S., and Olson, D. H. (2008). ''Distribution and conservation of Plethodon salamanders on federal lands in Siskiyou County, California.'' Northwestern Naturalist, 89, 1-9.
Stuart, S., Hoffmann, M., Chanson, J., Cox, N., Berridge, R., Ramani, P., and Young, B. (eds) (2008). Threatened Amphibians of the World. Lynx Edicions, IUCN, and Conservation International, Barcelona, Spain; Gland, Switzerland; and Arlington, Virginia, USA.
Written by Christine Lu (karomi AT berkeley.edu), UC Berkeley
First submitted 2009-10-20
Edited by Kellie Whittaker (2011-04-21)
Citation: AmphibiaWeb: Information on
amphibian biology and conservation. [web application]. 2013. Berkeley, California:
(Accessed: May 25, 2013).
AmphibiaWeb's policy on data use.