Yellow-eyed Ensatina

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An Ensatina is a type of lungless salamander found in coniferous forests, oak woodland and chaparral. I came across a few of them on my recent visit to California.

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One of their characteristics are their large, expressive eyes. They also feature a tail that is constricted at the base. A bright yellow patch on the eye gives this salamander its common name.

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This subspecies of Ensatina is orange-brown to dark brown above, with orange coloring below. They are typically 3-5 inches in total length.

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Since they are lungless, they conduct respiration through their skin, which requires them to live in damp environments on land and to move about on the ground only during times of high humidity.

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When feeling threatened, an Ensatina can drop its tail to distract the attention of a predator while the amphibian can crawl away to safety. The tail can grow back. As another defense behavior, an Ensatina will stand tall in a stiff-legged defensive posture with its back arched and its tail raised up and secrete a milky white poisonous substance, while swaying from side to side.

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These amphibians eat a wide variety of invertebrates, including worms, ants, beetles, spiders, scorpions, centipedes, millipedes, sow bugs and snails. They tend to catch their food with their sticky tongue, like a toad does.

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These are neat creatures to encounter and I had a great time seeing them in the field when herping California.

Third Eye Herp

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