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Description

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Total length of males up to 112 mm, for females up to 120 mm. Adult males have a mental gland on the chin, which becomes more evident in mating season. Tail oval in cross section and slightly less than half the total length. Trunk on cross section square. Limbs well developed and hind legs slightly longer than front legs. Front feet with 4, hind feet with 5 flattened digits. Coloration as in other Hydromantes species highly variable, especially in the northern populations. Base color from light brown to black. Venter usually dark. Back often with spotted, blotched, striped or reticulated pattern. Pattern may be in red, yellow, gray or green and these colors can occur on the same animal, often with a metallic sheen. Different patterns can occur together in the same population. The populations in the provinces Bologna, Modena, Pistoia and Florence and southward usually have a typical "italicus"-like coloration, consisting of red or yellow/ochre spots or marbeled (Boehme et al 1999).

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Distribution and Habitat

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H. italicus is a northern and central Alpinnine endemic, ranging from the provinces of Reggio Emilia (Emillia-Romagna) and Lucca (Tuscany) southwards to the province of Pescara inclusive (Abruzzi). Specimens from Pian di Mugnone, just N of Florence, were introduced in 1983 naturalized in the cave "Buca del Nebbia". 11º14'11"E-43º20'09"N, 310m a.s.l., on the southern slope of Monte Maggio, near Monteriggioni, province of Siena (Tuscany). The altitudinal distribution ranges from 80 m a.s.l. in Garfagnana (near Anchiano, province of Lucca) up to 1594 m on Mount Corchia (Apuan Alps, province of Lucca) (Gasc 1997).

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Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors

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There is little data available on the reproduction of H. italicus in its natural habitat. The following account on the life history of H. italicus is derived from observations on H. ambrosii. A clutch contains 6-14 eggs of 5-6 mm in diameter. The females seem to keep in contact with their eggs. The eggs undergo direct development. After 5 months, the egg starts to swell due to increased water uptake. After 8 months, the egg has reached a diameter of 10mm. The egg then contracts until hatching after 10 months (all at 12º C). The young are 22-24 mm in length upon hatching. Development to sexual maturity takes 3 to 4 years. Direct observation in captivity has shown that this species may live up to six years. H. italicus seems to be an opportunistic hunter with a wide range of invertebrate prey (Boehme et al 1999).

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Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors

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The Mediterranean region is subject to increasing human habitation causing pollution, deforestation, fires, loss of surface waters and introduction of exotic species. Despite these factors, H. italicus is not endangered. This is mainly due to its relatively large distribution and its water-independent biology (Boehme et al 1999). H. italicusi is abundant in its range and should not be considered an endangered species. It is, however, less abundant or even relatively uncommon only in the province of Pescara, i.e. in the southernmost portion of its range (Gasc 1997).

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Relation to Humans

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Human activity has provided suitable habitats for this species in regions that are not so naturally rich in caves as the Karst area. Exploitation of "pietra serena" has yielded mounds of rocks near quarries and these and the rock walls used in traditional agriculture are now inhabited by the species.

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Italian cave salamander

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The Italian cave salamander (Speleomantes italicus) is a species of salamander in the family Plethodontidae. Endemic to Italy, its natural habitats are temperate forests, rocky areas, caves, and subterranean habitats (other than caves). It is threatened by habitat loss.

Description

The Italian cave salamander is a slender species with short limbs and grows to a length of about 12.5 cm (5 in) including a short tail. The head is broad with prominent eyes and there is a distinct groove between the nostrils and the edge of the lips. The feet are partially webbed. It is dark in colour with mottled reddish or yellowish markings and a dark belly. In the north of its range it is more variable in colour and sometimes hybridises with Ambrosi's cave salamander (Speleomantes ambrosii).[2]

Distribution and habitat

The Italian cave salamander is native to northern Italy where it is found in the northern and central Apennine Mountains. Its range extends from the Province of Lucca and Province of Reggio Emilia southwards to the Province of Pescara. It is found in wooded valleys, on rocky outcrops and in caves and underground waters, often in limestone areas, at altitudes of up to 1,600 metres (5,200 ft) above sea level.[1]

Behaviour

The Italian cave salamander is usually found in areas of limestone rock, but sometimes in sandstone or ophiolitic areas. It is agile, climbing on cave walls and rocky outcrops. The female lays a small clutch of eggs in a crevice and these hatch by direct development into miniature salamanders.[2]

Status

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has assessed the Italian cave salamander as being "near threatened". This is on the basis that, although it is common over much of its range, its total extent of occurrence is less than 20,000 square kilometres (7,700 sq mi) and suitable habitat may be declining locally.[1]

References

  1. ^ a b c Franco Andreone; Paul Edgar; Claudia Corti; Roberto Sindaco; Antonio Romano (2009). "Speleomantes italicus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2009: e.T20458A9201759. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2009.RLTS.T20458A9201759.en.
  2. ^ a b Arnold, E. Nicholas; Ovenden, Denys W. (2002). Field Guide: Reptiles & Amphibians of Britain & Europe. Collins & Co. pp. 50–52. ISBN 9780002199643.
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Italian cave salamander: Brief Summary

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The Italian cave salamander (Speleomantes italicus) is a species of salamander in the family Plethodontidae. Endemic to Italy, its natural habitats are temperate forests, rocky areas, caves, and subterranean habitats (other than caves). It is threatened by habitat loss.

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