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Dicamptodon tenebrosus (Baird & Girard, 1852)
Coastal Giant Salamander
Family: Dicamptodontidae

Species account author: Brent Matsuda.


© Hugh Griffith     (Photo ID #268)


E-Fauna BC Static Map

Distribution of Dicamptodon tenebrosus in British Columbia in British Columbia
AmphibiaWeb US Distribution Map

Species Information

This large, thick-bodied and broad-headed salamander is the only member of the family Dicamptodontidae occurring in Canada. Both aquatic and terrestrial forms can grow very large, and this species is the largest salamander in Canada. A phenomenon called neoteny is common with giant salamanders in which larval aquatic forms continue to grow larger in size and eventually reach sexual maturity but never change their appearance or leave the water. Aquatic forms are slate-grey to black in colouration. They retain small gills compared to pond-dwelling salamanders of similar size as the fast-flowing stream environments in which they reside are high in oxygen compared to low-oxygen ponds which necessitate larger gills to increase surface areas for oxygen exchange. Individuals that metamorphose into terrestrial forms often have a beautiful gold and black mottled sheen, but can also be very dark in colour with little to no visible mottling.



Nests of 83 and 146 eggs, attended by females, have been found in rocky areas nears streams and seeps; egg deposition is in the spring (early May) and hatching may occur up to 9 months later (AmphibiaWeb 2009).

According to AmphibiaWeb (2009), small rodents such as shrews and mice are regular prey, as are other amphibians, insects, snails, and slugs.


The Coastal Giant Salamander is a denizen of cool flowing, mountain streams, typically in mature second growth and old growth conifer forests. They share several streams with Coastal Tailed Frogs and are known to predate them.


The Coastal Giant Salamander has a very restricted distribution in B.C., consisting of the Chilliwack River Valley and nearby tributaries south of the Fraser River (Johnston, 2004), particularly streams in and around Cultus and Chilliwack Lakes.


Conservation Concerns

In B.C. and elsewhere this salamander is susceptible to logging and associated stream siltation, and loss of canopy and ground cover. In clear-cut areas, the dispersal of adult terrestrial salamanders is thus limited. Adults associated with streams in clear-cuts tend to remain under cover and move relatively short distances, especially in periods of dry weather, compared to those associated with forested streams (Johnston and Frid, 2002).

Status Information

Origin StatusProvincial StatusBC List
(Red Blue List)
NativeS2S3BlueT (May 2014)

BC Ministry of Environment: BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer--the authoritative source for conservation information in British Columbia.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Amblystoma tenebrosum Baird and Girard, 1852
Ambystoma tenebrosum Baird and Girard, 1852
Dicamptodon ensatus Stejnger

Additional Range and Status Information Links

Species References

AmphibiaWeb: Information on amphibian biology and conservation. [web application]. 2009. Berkeley, California: AmphibiaWeb. Available: http://amphibiaweb.org/. (Accessed: Jul 24, 2009).

Johnston, B. Coastal Giant Salamander. 2004. Accounts for Managing Identified Wildlife. BC Ministry of Environment, Lands and Air Protection, Vancouver, BC.

Johnston, B. and L. Frid. 2002. Clearcut logging restricts the movements of terrestrial Pacific giant salamanders (Dicamptodon tenebrosus Good). Canadian Journal of Zoology 80: 2170-2177.

Additional Reading:

Matsuda, Brent, David M. Green, and Patrick T. Gregory. 2006. Amphibians and Reptiles of British Columbia. Handbook. Royal BC Museum, Victoria.

General References