Pacific giant salamander

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Pacific giant salamanders
Dicamptodon tenebrosus 2.JPG
Dicamptodon tenebrosus
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Amphibia
Order: Urodela
Family: Dicamptodontidae
Genus: Dicamptodon
Ruiz-Carranza & Lynch, 1991

four extant species

Pacific giant salamanders (Dicamptodontidae) are a family of large salamanders from the United States and Canada.


Dicamptodon tenebrosus

Specimens are up to 30 cm (12 in) long, and are found in the western United States and southwestern British Columbia. Except for their size, they are similar to the mole salamander family (Ambystomatidae), in which they were originally included.[1]

While most salamanders are silent, the Pacific giant salamander is one of several salamanders that have vocal abilities. When startled, these salamanders may respond with a croaky-sounding cry similar to that of a barking dog. Members of this family can either be terrestrial or aquatic as adults.


The family includes only a single genus, Dicamptodon. The genus was formerly thought to contain two species, Cope's giant salamander (D. copei) on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington, and the Pacific giant salamander (D. ensatus) which consisted of three geographic populations, an Idaho isolate, a group in northern California, and a group in Oregon and Washington.[2] In 1989, genetic studies showed D. copei to be a distinct species, and the D. ensatus populations to consist of three species: the Idaho giant salamander (D. aterrimus) in Idaho, and two highly divergent species with a narrow hybrid zone in California, the coastal giant salamander (D. tenebrosus) (ranging from northern California to Washington), and the California giant salamander (D. ensatus) (limited only from Santa Cruz County to Mendocino County in California).[3]


Dicamptodon aterrimus

Dicamptodon copei

Dicamptodon ensatus

Dicamptodon tenebrosus

Extant Species[edit]

Image Scientific name Common Name Distribution
Dicamptodon aterrimus Idaho giant salamander forested watersheds from lake Coeur d’Alene to the Salmon River, and in two locations in Montana around Mineral County, Idaho
Dicamptodon copei larva.jpg Dicamptodon copei Cope's giant salamander Olympic Peninsula to northern Oregon
Dicamptodon ensatus 3.jpg Dicamptodon ensatus California giant salamander Northern California
Dicamptodon tenebrosus 2.JPG Dicamptodon tenebrosus Coastal giant salamander Northern California, Oregon, Washington, and southern British Columbia.


  1. ^ Frost, Darrel R., Grant, Taran, Faivovich, Julián, Bain, Raoul H, Haas, Alexander, Haddad, Celio F. B, De Sa, Rafael O, Channing, A, Wilkinson, Mark, Donnellan, Stephen C, Raxworthy, Christopher J., Campbell, Jonathan A., Blotto, Boris L., Moler, Paul., Drewes, Robert C., Nussbaum, Ronald A., Lynch, John D., Green, David M., Wheeler, Ward C. 2006. The amphibian tree of life. Bulletin of the AMNH; no. 297 (
  2. ^ Ronald A. Nussbaum (1976-04-23). "Geographic variation and systematics of salamanders of the genus Dicamptodon Strauch (Ambystomatidae)" (PDF). Miscellaneous Publications Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan, No. 149. Retrieved 2011-09-29.
  3. ^ David A. Goode (July 1989). "Hybridization and Cryptic Species in Dicamptodon (Caudata: dicamptodontidae)". Evolution. 43: 728–744. doi:10.2307/2409302. JSTOR 2409302.

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