hidden treasures of Drake Bay, Costa Rica with Tracie "The Bug Lady" .
Meet the Bug
Tales from the
Facts about Drake Bay, Costa Rica
Travel To Drake Bay
Drake Bay Area Map
Tips for Travelers
Although rare to see, salamanders inhabit the rainforest undergrowth
of Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula. They are very easily distinguished from all other amphibians
by their long tail. Despite the very rich variety of frog
families represented in Costa Rica, there is only one salamander
family: Plethodontidae. Plethodontidae is the world's largest
salamander family containing about 240 species. This is about 60
percent of all known salamanders.
Forty-three species have been recorded in Costa Rica so far and diversity
is greatest in the highlands. In January 2008 three species of
salamander new to science were discovered in La Amistad
International Park. La Amistad is Costa Rica's largest National Park
and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Four species of salamander
are known from the Osa Peninsula, two of which are
featured on this page.
The two species pictured here, Oedipina alleni and Oedipina pacificensis,
are know as worm salamanders. Why they are called worm salamanders
is strikingly obvious when looking at one. With their very narrow
build, long tail, tiny legs and feet, these salamanders resemble
earthworms at first glance. They will also quickly squirm for cover
like little worms when startled.
these exceptional creatures on the Night Tour is always a very lucky
encounter. They spend most of their lives on the forest floor
underneath the leaf litter or hiding under logs and rocks. Given
their small size and cryptic coloration, a run in with a salamander
is always an exciting and uncommon event. It seems they are more easily
encountered moving about in the open during or after a heavy rain.
are an extraordinary group. Worldwide, there are many variations in
their lifestyles, reproductive habits, and development. Most
salamanders inhabit the Northern Hemisphere with only a handful of
species drifting south of the Equator. On this page, we will
concentrate solely on Costa Rican salamanders.
Rican salamanders are lungless and gas exchange is believed to take
place through their very thin skin membrane, as well as mucous
membranes in the mouth and throat. Also, Costa Rican
Salamanders have interesting receptors called nasolabial
grooves. These little grooves run from the salamander's nostril to
their upper lip and are believed to pick up chemical cues from their
surroundings. A salamander may use this "sixth sense" in order to
find a mate, avoid predators, or locate food.
Another weapon Costa Rican Salamanders employ while hunting is their
very long projectile tongue. In some species the tongue may measure
up to 80 percent of the salamander's body length and its tip is
designed for gripping, almost like a hand. It only takes
about ten milliseconds for salamanders to shoot their tongue out and
snatch their unsuspecting prey!
When not in use, the tongue is rolled up and stored in the same cavity where the salamanders originally
kept their lungs, which they have lost through evolution. A worm
salamander's tiny legs and feet are another feature believed to have
been brought about by evolution, to enhance their fossorial lifestyle.
The two worm salamanders featured here, Oedipina alleni and Oedipina pacificensis,
are closely related. Adults normally measure between 108 and 175
millimeters, with Oedipina pacificensis being slightly longer. They are mainly fossorial
and spend much of their time burrowing. For such small animals,
salamanders are extremely long lived.
In Costa Rica, individuals have lived as long as 20 years. In one
study group, males did not even reach sexual maturity until they
were six years old and females at twelve years of age! This is
remarkable for such small, delicate animals.
species of lungless salamanders are able to breed within six months
to three and a half years of hatching.
During their breeding season, male salamanders will go through
complex courtship rituals to attract females. Male salamanders don't call
in an attempt to attract a mate, so courtship is a proactive venture.
This may include pursuit of the female,
ritualistic dances, and caressing of the female by the male. Each
species of salamander has its own unique mating dance.
male will also make a small incision on the female's skin where he
will rub her with his "mental gland". This gland is located
underneath the male's chin and secretes pheromones designed to
entice her to mate. Once
she has been induced to mate, the male will lay his cone-shaped
sperm packet, called a spermatophore, on the ground and she will pick it up with her cloaca.
female can store this sperm packet internally for up to two months.
When she decides to lay her eggs they will be fertilized internally, as they
leave the cloaca. Generally, females will lay from 9 to 37 eggs
individually in a moist area on the ground. In some species the
mother will curl around the eggs and guard her offspring. Parental
care has never been recorded among the two species pictured here.
With every Costa Rican
salamander, all of the larval development takes place inside the
egg and the little salamander that hatches out is a miniature
version of the adult. No metamorphosis takes place after hatching.
Costa Rican salamanders are fully terrestrial and don't ever have an
perhaps their most incredible attribute is their ability for
regeneration. As with many lizards, a salamander will drop its tail
when gripped by it in order to escape a predator. But unlike
lizards, salamanders will regenerate their tail complete with all
Still not fully understood
by science, this amazing skill is
currently under heavy scrutiny by researchers. If
one day scientists are able to solve this puzzle, could that mean a
cure for severe spinal injuries in humans?
Oedipina alleni and Oedipina pacificensis are only known from
southwestern Costa Rica and adjoining western Panama.
The other two species of salamander living on the Osa Peninsula,
which are not pictured here, are Bolitoglossa colonnea and
Janzen, D. 1983 Costa Rican Natural History
University of Chicago Press
2001 A Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of Costa Rica
Savage, J. 2002 The Amphibians and Reptiles of
Costa Rica University of Chicago Press
Weldon Owen Pty
Limited 1993 Encyclopedia of Animals Barnes &