Salamandra lanzai


Description: Salamandra atra has a slightly larger but otherwise very similar cousin called Salamandra lanzai who is endemic to the Cottian Alps in Piedmont. S. lanzai is a middle-sized, completely black, viviparous salamander. Males are on average between 14 and 15 cm long, while females are slightly bigger. The body is relatively slim; the torso shows 12 rip grooves. The coloration on the upper side is gleaming black, sometimes brownish to black, the underside is dark grey to black.

Distribution: The typical habitat of S. lanzai are alpine meadows and open larch woods in the Cottian Alps in Piedmont, from 1200 to over 2600 m, thus reaching higher habitats than S. atra. S. lanzai is distributed in the Monviso Massif, the Pellice valley, the Germanasca valley, the upper Sangone valley and the Guil valley in Queyras. The whole distribution area of S. lanzai is about 300 km² large.

Differentiation of S. atra: Compared to S. atra, S. lanzai is on average 3 cm longer, the head is flatter and the tip of the tail is rounded, not pointed. The parotid glands are smaller in males than in females – that´s not the case in S. atra. S. lanzai also doesn´t have the two lines of glands above the backbone.

Reproduction: S. lanzai is viviparous, like S. atra. The mating season of S. lanzai is from June to July. These salamanders reach sexual maturity when 6 years old at 2100 m high sites and when 4 at 1500 m. The embryonic phase and the larval phase last up to 4 years. S. lanzai often gives birth to 4 young salamanders, such a big litter is very rare in S. atra, that usually gives birth to 2 young only. (Grossenbacher et al. 2003, Andreone et al. 2004)

Behavior and activity: S. lanzai is territorial and higly philopatric, with the individual habitat areas between 100 and 120 m². A population usually occupies a range between 2500 and 9500 m². As the single populations are very isolated, the gene flow between them is apparently very low. The animals find their shelter also by olfactory hints. The salamanders are more active (from 8am to 2pm) during cloudy or rainy days, while on sunny or windy days the salamanders are active only during the night. The maximum of the yearly activity is shown at the end of July.


Andreone, F., Clima, V. and S. de Michelis, 1999. On the ecology of Salamandra lanzai. Nascetti, Andreone, Capula & Bullini, 1988. Number and movement of individuals, and influence of climate on activity in a population of the upper Po Valley. Herpetozoa 12 (1/2), 3-10

Andreone, F., Miaud, C., Bergò, E.P., Doglio, S., Stocco, P., Riberon, A. and P. Gautier, 2004. Living at high altitude: testing the effects of life history traits upon the conservation of Salamandra lanzai (Amphibia, Salamandridae). Ital. J. Zool., 71, 35-34

Miaud, C., Andreone, F., Ribéron, A., De Michelis, S., Clima, V., Castanet, J., Francillon-Vieillot, H. and R. Guyétant, ,2001. Variations in age, size at maturity and gestation duration among two neigbouring populations of the alpine salamander (Salamandra lanzai). J. Zool, Lond 254, 251-260

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