Order: Urodela
(Salamanders and Newts)

The following taxonomic list will link you to the individual species.

Family: Ambystomatidae
(Mole Salamanders)
  The family Ambystomatidae is distinguished from other Idaho families of salamanders by the presence of transverse vomerine teethClick word for definition.  More obvious characteristics are the presence of costal grooves (vertical creases along the body), and the absence of nasolabial groovesClick word for definition (grooves running from the nostril to the lip). There are two representatives of the family Ambystomatidae here in Idaho: the Long-toed Salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum) and the Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum).
Long-toed Salamander
Ambystoma macrodactylum
Long-toed Salamander

Tiger Salamander

Ambystoma tigrinum
Tiger Salamander

Family: Dicamptodontidae
(Pacific Mole Salamanders)

  Until recently, the species in this family were lumped into the family Ambystomatidae.  David Good (1989) proposed that the species Dicamptodon ensatus (which is the species described in Nussbaum et al. 1983) be split into three species.   The new species are D. tenebrosus, and D. aterrimus.    Representatives of this family are the largest terrestrial salamanders in the Pacific Northwest. The species found in Idaho, Dicamptodon aterrimus is the largest Idaho salamander.  Some differences that separate the family Dicamptodonitdae are less apparent costal groovesClick word for definition, and three segments in the fourth toe of the hind foot, as opposed to 4 segments (Stebbins 1985).  Although not a useful distinguishing character, the family Dicamptodontidae has an endemicClick word for definition (Pacific Northwest) origin.

Idaho Giant Salamander

Family: Plethodontidae
(Lungless Salamanders)

  The family Plethodontidae is the largest and most diverse family of salamanders. Lungless salmanders occupy a wide variety of habitats.  In the Pacific Northwest, there are four genera and twelve species (Leonard et al. 1993).  Idaho  has a single representative of this family, the Couer d'Alene Salamander (Plethodon idahoensis).  Until recently this species was considered a subspecies of the Van Dyke's Salamander (Plethodon vandykei), in fact the species is listed as such in Amphibians and Reptiles of the Pacific Northwest by Nussbaum et al. (1983).  Characteristics of Plethodontid salamanders are the presence of nasolabial grooves and parasphenoid teethClick word for definition, and the absence of pterygoid bonesClick word for definition and lungs.

Coeur d'Alene Salamander

Family: Salamandridae

  This is primarily an old world family with six representatives in North America (Stebbins 1985), one of which can be found in Idaho, Taricha granulosa (Rough-skinned Newt). Characteristics of the family include vomerine teeth in two long rows (Goin and Goin 1971),the absence of a nasolabial groove, no parasphenoid_teethClick word for definition and no maxillary teethClick word for definition in the larvae (Nussbaum et al. 1983).

Rough-skinned Newt

Written by John Cossel Jr., 1997
Photos by Charles R. Peterson