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Bolitoglossa mexicana01.jpg
Bolitoglossa mexicana
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Amphibia
Order: Caudata
Family: Plethodontidae
Genus: Bolitoglossa

c. 120, see text

Bolitoglossa is a genus of lungless salamanders, also called tropical climbing salamanders or web-footed salamanders, in the family Plethodontidae. Their range is Central and South America: Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, northeastern Brazil, and central Bolivia. These arboreal and terrestrial, Neotropical salamanders of the Bolitoglossa genus make up the largest genus in the order Caudata consisting of approximately one-fourth of all known species of salamanders. Adult salamanders range anywhere from 45mm to 200mm in length depending on their specific species.[1] They are notorious for their webbed feet, as indicated from their name, and have significantly more webbing than any other species outside their genus with the exception of the Cave-dwelling Mexican Bolitoglossine Chiropterotriton magnipes.[2] Although webbed feet are a common characteristic of these salamanders, only about half of the species in this genus contain webbed feet.[1]


Hand and foot morphology[edit]

Hand and foot morphology is strikingly diverse in an otherwise morphologically uniform group. While just under half of these species contain webbing between their fingers and toes, the remaining species experience little to no webbing and undergo elongation of their fingers and toes throughout development. Ultimately, the variation of foot morphology within this genus is primarily due to natural selection. Derived characteristics correspond to arboreal vs. terrestrial salamanders.[2]

  • Webbed fingers – natural selection to improve terrestrial movement through water.
  • Elongated fingers – natural selection of increased suction efficiency, favoring a larger surface area of the foot. This also selects for a decreased body size, enabling the salamander to cling trees more easily.

Tail autotomy[edit]

Tail autotomy refers to the salamanders’ ability to release or lose their tail if necessary. This is a common characteristic of nearly all salamanders and lizards. (See autotomy). It is particularly helpful to the salamander in escaping attacks from its predators. Once the tail has been lost, it can regenerate one time. After this regeneration, the tail is incapable of separation with regeneration.[3]


B. rostrata and B. subpalmata are two rare examples of poisonous salamanders within their genus. The poison is secreted through their skin as an antipredator mechanism. It is particularly toxic to certain snake species, rendering them immobile and unresponsive to external stimuli upon initial contact. The common defense tactic of these two species is to remain still in the presence of the snake until it makes initial contact (usually by the flickering of its tongue), and then run away as the paralytic poison begins to take effect in the snake.[4]


Natural selection[edit]

Tropical adaptation of the Bolitoglossa genus is thought to have evolved from N. American Plethodontids. Natural selection is responsible for morphological changes shifting from those supporting temperate environments to those supporting tropical environments such as Panama and Costa Rica.[5] Natural selection is thought to have resulted in genetic changes from physical adaptation. The main differences that have developed from natural selection affect the skull and bones of the feet in these salamanders. Due to these primary changes, secondary changes are believed to have followed, including:

  • Body size
  • Additional ossification of bones
  • Webbing
  • Ear structure

Phylogeny of this genus is partially dependent on its variations in bone structure due to the effects of natural selection over a long period of time.[6]


The first documented case of hybridization in tropical salamanders occurred between B. frankini and B. resplendens. This hybridization has taken a pervasive effect on the morphology of B. resplendens, whereas B. frankini seemed to maintain its same physical structure.[7]


Derived characteristics of the genus Bolitoglossa has led to their classification based on this specific list of characters:

  • Tongue and hypobranchial apparatus
  • Epibranchial Number
    • embryos having a single epibranchial
  • Tail Autotomy
  • Brain stem motor control
  • Bone structure of Jaws, Cranial, and inner ear
  • Chromosome number
    • diploid number of chromosomes is 26
  • Development

Classification of this genus is primarily accomplished through analysis of the salamanders’ DNA. This has proven to be the most effective and accurate way of classifying this genus.[8]


117 species are currently assigned to this genus.

Binomial Name
and Author
Common Name
B. adspersa
Peters, 1863
Peter's Climbing Salamander
B. alberchi
García-París, Parra-Olea, Brame & Wake, 2002
Alberch's Salamander
B. altamazonica
Cope, 1874
Nauta Salamander
B. alvaradoi
Taylor, 1954
Alvarado's Salamander
B. anthracina
Brame, Savage, Wake & Hanken, 2001
Coal-black Salamander
B. biseriata
Tanner, 1962
Two-lined Climbing Salamander
B. borburata
Trapido, 1942
Carabobo Climbing Salamander
B. bramei
Wake, Savage & Hanken, 2007
Brame's Climbing Salamander
B. capitana
Brame & Wake, 1963
Orphan Salamander
B. carri
McCranie & Wilson, 1993
Cloud Forest Salamander
B. cataguana
Townsend, Butler, Wilson & Austin, 2009
B. celaque
McCranie & Wilson, 1993
Celaque Climbing Salamander
B. centenorum
Campbell et al., 2010
B. cerroensis
Taylor, 1952
Millville Climbing Salamander
B. chica
Brame & Wake, 1963
Hotel Zaracay Salamander
B. chinanteca
Rovito, Parra-Olea, Lee & Wake, 2012
Chinanteca Salamander
B. colonnea
Dunn, 1924
La Loma Salamander
B. compacta
Wake, Brame & Duellman, 1973
Cerro Pando Salamander
B. conanti
McCranie & Wilson, 1993
Conant's Salamander
B. copia
Wake, Hanken & Ibáñez, 2005
El Cope Giant Salamander
B. cuchumatana
Stuart, 1943
Oak Forest Salamander
B. cuna
Wake, Brame, & Duellman, 1973
Camp Sasardi Salamander
B. daryorum
Campbell et al., 2010
B. decora
McCranie & Wilson, 1997
Monte Escondido Salamander
B. diaphora
McCranie & Wilson, 1995
El Cusuco Salamander
B. digitigrada
Wake, Brame & Thomas, 1982
Rio Santa Rosa Salamander
B. diminuta
Robinson, 1976
Quebrada Valverde Salamander
B. dofleini
Werner, 1903
Doflein's Salamander
B. dunni
Schmidt, 1933
Dunn's Climbing Salamander
B. engelhardti
Schmidt, 1936
Engelhardt's Climbing Salamander
B. epimela
Wake & Brame, 1963
Tapanti Climbing Salamander
B. equatoriana
Brame & Wake, 1972
Ecuadorian Climbing Salamander
B. eremia
Campbell et al., 2010
B. flavimembris
Schmidt, 1936
Yellow-legged Climbing Salamander
B. flaviventris
Schmidt, 1936
Yellow-belly Climbing Salamander
B. franklini
Schmidt, 1936
Franklin's Climbing Salamander
B. gomezi
Wake, Savage & Hanken, 2007
Gómez's Web-footed Salamander
B. gracilis
Bolaños, Robinson & Wake, 1987
Rio Quiri Salamander
B. guaramacalensis
Schargel, García-Pérez & Smith, 2002
Guaramacal Salamander
B. hartwegi
Wake & Brame, 1969
Hartweg's Climbing Salamander
B. heiroreias
Greenbaum, 2004
Holy-Mountain Salamander
B. helmrichi
Schmidt, 1836
Coban Climbing Salamander
B. hermosa
Papenfuss, Wake & Adler, 1984
Guerreran Climbing Salamander
B. hiemalis
Lynch, 2001
Winter Climbing Salamander
B. huehuetenanguensis
Campbell et al., 2010
B. hypacra
Brame & Wake, 1962
Paramo Frontino Salamander
B. indio
Wake, et al., 2008
B. insularis
Wake, et al., 2008
B. jacksoni
Elias, 1984
Jackson's Climbing Salamander
B. kaqchikelorum
Campbell et al., 2010
B. la
Campbell et al., 2010
B. lignicolor
Peters, 1873
Camron Climbing Salamander
B. lincolni
Stuart, 1943
Lincoln's Climbing Salamander
B. longissima
McCranie & Cruz, 1996
Longest Climbing Salamander
B. lozanoi
Acosta-Galvis & Restrepo, 2001
Lozano's Salamander
B. macrinii
Lafrentz, 1930
Oaxacan Climbing Salamander
B. magnifica
Hanken, Wake & Savage, 2005
Magnificent Web-footed Salamander
B. marmorea
Tanner & Brame, 1961
Crater Salamander
B. medemi
Brame & Wake, 1972
Finca Chibigui Salamander
Binomial Name
and Author
Common Name
B. meliana
Wake & Lynch, 1982
Meliana Climbing Salamander
B. mexicana
Duméril, Bibron & Duméril, 1854
Mexican Climbing Salamander
B. minutula
Wake, Brame & Duellman, 1973
Dwarf Climbing Salamander
B. mombachoensis
Köhler & McCranie, 1999
Mombacho Salamander
B. morio
Cope, 1869
Cope's Climbing Salamander
B. mulleri
Brocchi, 1883
Muller's Climbing Salamander
B. nicefori
Brame & Wake, 1963
San Gil Climbing Salamander
B. nigrescens
Taylor, 1949
Cordillera Central Salamander
B. ninadormida
Campbell et al., 2010
B. nussbaumi
Campbell et al., 2010
B. nympha
Campbell et al., 2010
B. oaxacensis
Parra-Olea, Garcia-Paris & Wake, 2002
Atoyac Web-footed Salamander
B. obscura
Hanken, Wake & Savage, 2005
Tapantí Giant Salamander
B. occidentalis
Taylor, 1941
Southern Banana Salamander
B. odonnelli
Stuart, 1943
O'donnell's Climbing Salamander
B. omniumsanctorum
Stuart, 1952
B. oresbia
McCranie, Espinal & Wilson, 2005
Zarciadero Web-footed Salamander
B. orestes
Brame & Wake, 1962
Culata Climbing Salamander
B. pacaya
Campbell et al., 2010
B. palmata
Werner, 1897
Amazon Climbing Salamander
B. pandi
Brame & Wake, 1963
Pandi Climbing Salamander
B. paraensis
Unterstein, 1930
Para Climbing Salamander
B. peruviana
Boulenger, 1883
Peruvian Climbing Salamander
B. pesrubra
Taylor, 1952
Red-footed Climbing Salamander
B. phalarosoma
Wake & Brame, 1962
Medellin Climbing Salamander
B. platydactyla
Gray in Cuvier, 1831
Broadfoot Climbing Salamander
B. porrasorum
McCranie & Wilson, 1995
Pijol Salamander
B. psephena
Campbell et al., 2010
B. pygmaea
Bolaños & Wake, 2009
Pygmy Web-footed Salamander
B. ramosi
Brame & Wake, 1972
Ramos' Climbing Salamander
B. riletti
Holman, 1964
Rilett's Climbing Salamander
B. robisoni
Bolaños & Wake, 2009
Robinson's Web-footed Salamander
B. robusta
Cope, 1894
Robust Climbing Salamander
B. rostrata
Brocchi, 1883
Long-nosed Climbing Salamander
B. rufescens
Cope, 1869
Northern Banana Salamander
B. salvinii
Gray, 1868
Salvin's Salamander
B. savagei
Brame & Wake, 1963
Savage's Salamander
B. schizodactyla
Wake & Brame, 1966
Cocle Salamander
B. silverstonei
Brame & Wake, 1972
Silverstone's Salamander
B. sima
Vaillant, 1911
Northwestern Climbing Salamander
B. sombra
Hanken, Wake & Savage, 2005
Shadowy Web-Footed Salamander
B. sooyorum
Vial, 1963
Cordillera Talamanca Salamander
B. spongai
Barrio & Fuentes, 1999
Azulita Salamander
B. striatula
Noble, 1918
Cukra Climbing Salamander
B. stuarti
Wake & Brame, 1969
Stuart's Salamander
B. subpalmata
Boulenger, 1896
La Palma Salamander
B. suchitanensis
Campbell et al., 2010
B. synoria
McCranie & Köhler, 1999
Cerro Pital Salamander
B. tatamae
Acosta-Galvis & Hoyos, 2006
Tatama Climbing Salamander
B. taylori
Wake, Brame & Myers, 1970
Taylor's Salamander
B. tica
García-París, Parra-Olea & Wake, 2008
Tico Salamander
B. tzultacaj
Campbell et al., 2010
B. vallecula
Brame & Wake, 1963
Yarumal Climbing Salamander
B. veracrucis
Taylor, 1951
Veracruz Salamander
B. walkeri
Brame & Wake, 1972
Walker's Salamander
B. xibalba
Campbell et al., 2010
B. yucatana
Peters, 1882
Yucatán Salamander
B. zacapensis
Rovito, Vásquez-Almazán & Papenfuss, 2010
Zacapa Salamander
B. zapoteca
Parra-Olea, Garcia-Paris & Wake, 2002
Zapotec Salamander


  1. ^ a b Alberch, Pere. "Convergence and Parallelism in Foot Morphology of the Neotropical Salamander Genus Bolitoglossa." Evolution 35.1 (1981): 84-100.
  2. ^ a b "Jaekel, Martin, and David Wake. "Developmental processes underlying the evolution of a derived foot morphology in salamanders." PNAS 104.51 (2007): 20437-20442."
  3. ^ Brodie, Edmund, and Peter Ducey. "Salamanders Respond Selectively to contacts with Snakes: Survival Advantage of Alternative Antipredator Strategies." Copeia 1983.4 (1983): 1036-1041.
  4. ^ Brodie, Edmund, Jr. and Peter K. Ducey. "Antipredator Skin Secretions of Some Tropical Salamanders (Bolitoglossa) are Toxic to Snake Predators." Biotropica 23.1 (1991): 58-62.
  5. ^ Ortega, Jesus E., John Murry Monares-Riano, and Martha Patricia RamIrez-Panilla. "Reproductive Activity, Diet, and Microhabitat Use in Bolitoglossa nicefori (Caudata: Plethodontidae)." Journal of Herpetology 43.1 (2009): 1-10. BioOne Online Journals. Web. 6 Dec. 2010.
  6. ^ Alberch, Pere. "Morphological Variation in the Neotropical Salamander Genus Bolitoglossa." Evolution 37.5 (1982): 906-919.
  7. ^ Wake, David B., Suh Y. Yang, and Theodore J. Papenfuss. "Natural Hybridization and its Evolutionary Implications in Guatemalan Plethodontid Salamanders of the Genus Bolitoglossa." Herpetologica 36.4 (1980): 334-344.
  8. ^ Devitt, Tom and David Wake. 2007. supergenus Bolitoglossa. Version 09 March 2007 (under construction). in The Tree of Life Web Project,

External links[edit]