Monte Albo cave salamander (Speleomantes flavus)

Also known as: Stefani's salamander
GenusSpeleomantes (1)
SizeMale length: up to 12.7 cm (2)
Female length: up to 14.6 cm (2)
Average male length: 11 cm (2)
Average female length: 11.5 cm (2)

The Monte Albo cave salamander is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

One of four of the Plethodontidae family endemic to Sardinia (3), the Monte Albo cave salamander (Speleomantes flavus) is highly variable in appearance both within and between populations. It is dark brown-black with a pattern of yellow, yellow-brown, grey-green or very rarely flesh-coloured spotting on the upperparts. Some individuals are not patterned, instead having a uniformly yellow upper side. The underparts are bright and occasionally slightly transparent, showing the internal organs through the skin. The bright colouration of the Monte Albo cave salamander may have evolved to warn predators that it is distasteful (2).

The body of the Monte Albo cave salamander is long and slender (4), and the limbs are well developed, with five digits on the longer hind limbs and four on the front (2). The eyes are fairly prominent (4). All species in the Plethodontidae family are characterised by two slight grooves, known as nasolabial grooves, running from the nostril to the upper lip, the function of which is to carry waterborne odours from the ground into the nasal cavity (4).

The Monte Albo cave salamander is endemic to the Monte Albo Massif in north-eastern Sardinia, Italy (1) (2).

The Monte Albo cave salamander inhabits caves, crevices and forested areas in damp mountain regions, often in the vicinity of streams with a good covering of moist moss (1). This species lives on the surface during wet, cool seasons and uses underground areas during periods of unfavourable conditions, such as inadequate water supply and high temperatures (3) (5).

The Monte Albo cave salamander is generally found between elevations of 40 and 1,050 metres (2).

Very little is known about the biology of the Monte Albo cave salamander. However, like other Plethodontidae species, a spermatophore is likely to be deposited by the male, which is then up taken from the substrate by the female and fertilised internally (4). The female lays the eggs on land, and the eggs hatch into minature versions of the adult, rather than going through a larval stage (1).

The Plethodontidae are named the ‘lungless salamanders’ due to the evolution of a respiratory system which lacks lungs. Instead, oxygen enters the bloodstream through gas exchange across the surface of the skin and mouth lining (4).

Many salamanders have evolved deadly methods of protection from predators (4). The Monte Albo cave salamander secretes a toxin from glands on its back, deterring any potential attackers (2). Although the exact diet of this species is unknown, salamanders in general feed on small invertebrates (4).

Deforestation has affected a large proportion of the range of Monte Albo cave salamander, creating large expanses of rocky fields out of what was once oak forest (2). As well as habitat loss, this species is at risk from illegal collection, and it also occupies a very limited range (1). However, none of these are thought to be significant threats at present (1) (2).

The Monte Albo cave salamander is listed on Appendix II of the Bern Convention, which aims to conserve wild flora and fauna and their natural habitats (6). It is also listed on Annex IV of the EU Habitats Directive, which protects over 1,000 animals and 200 habitat types within Europe (7). The range of the Monte Albo cave salamander includes Parco Geominerario Storico ed Ambientale della Sardegna in Sardinia, which is a protected area. The population status of this species needs to be monitored for an appropriate conservation plan to be implemented (1).

More information on the Monte Albo cave salamander and other amphibian species:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2011)
  2. AmphibiaWeb (November, 2011)
  3. Brizzi, R., Calloni, C. and Delfino, G. (1991) Tail base glands in European plethodontid salamanders with some comments on their biological and phylogenetic significance. Amphibia-Reptilia, 12: 357-372.
  4. Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. van der Meijden, A., Chiari, Y., Mucedda, M., Carranza, S., Corti, C. and Veith, M. (2009) Phylogenetic relationships of Sardinian cave salamanders, genus Hydromantes, based on mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequence data. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 51: 399-404.
  6. Council of Europe: Bern Convention (November, 2011)
  7. EU Habitats Directive (November, 2011)