Salamanders of Guatemala
There are around 50 species of salamander found in Guatemala and they all belong to a family called the Plethodontidae, also known as the lungless salamanders. Having no lungs, they breathe by absorbing oxygen through their skin and mouth lining. This means that if they dry out they can no longer breathe, therefore they tend to be restricted to damp environments and microhabitats. This leads salamanders to becoming very secretive animals, either spending much of their time in log piles or in bromeliads and mosses up in the trees.
Many species, especially those found in the highlands, have restricted ranges. This makes them vulnerable to habitat loss and threat of emerging amphibian diseases such as salamander chytrid fungus, also known as BSal. One aim of Indigo Expeditions work in the Central Guatemalan Highlands of Alta Verapaz is to monitor the populations of salamander at our study site to help conserve the species present and, in partnership with Universidad de Valle de Guatemala (UVG) and CCFC, monitor the disease status of those populations.
So far Indigo Expeditions has confirmed that at least three species of salamanders are present at our site in the Alta Verapaz as part of our Xucaneb Amphibian Project, two of which (Bolitoglossa mulleri and B. helmrichi) are only known from a few populations in Guatemala.
It is likely that over time several more species will be confirmed here. We collected our first disease samples in 2016 and currently waiting with toe pads crossed to see the results of the analyses being carried out by biology students at UVG.
Bolitoglossa helmrichi – Only known from three mountain ranges in Guatemala. Also known as ‘climbing salamanders’ due to its ability to climb to heights.
Laguna del Tigre
Because the lowlands of Laguna del Tigre National Park are much drier, the diversity of its salamander fauna is much lower and only one species, the Mexican mushroom-tongue salamander (Bolitoglossa mexicana) is found there. While this species is probably a fairly common inhabitant of the Tropical Humid Forest of Laguna del Tigre, we do not encounter them regularly. Mexican mushroom-tongue salamanders seem to only appear above ground after recent rains, so the timing of our surveys is critical to finding them.
Bolitoglossa mexicana – This is the only species of salamander recorded in Laguna del Tigre and is highly variable in colour and pattern.
Xucaneb Amphibian Project
Guatemala has a rich diversity of salamanders, especially for such as small country, that range from some of the smallest in the world, between 2 – 3 cm snout-vent length in the case of species of Cryptotriton, to some of the largest that reach 14-15 cm in snout-vent length like the giant palm salamander, Bolitoglossa dofleini.
It is such a privilege to be able to work with these amazing and elusive animals.
Bolitoglossa dofleini – The giant palm salamander is the largest species of the genus Bolitoglossa.
If you want to find out how you can help us conserve Guatemala’s amazing salamanders check our Xucaneb Amphibian Project.