Golden alpine salamander (Salamandra atra aurorae)

Golden alpine salamander
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Golden alpine salamander fact file

Golden alpine salamander description


The golden alpine salamander (Salamandra atra aurorae) is small and robust with large parotoid glands visible on the head. It is jet black in colour with whitish, greyish-yellow or intense yellow markings along the back that vary from restricted diffuse spotting to a broad, irregular band (1). The yellowish markings are usually the dominant colour, although a new population (discovered in the Pasubio Massif) consists of predominantly black salamanders (11). Captive observations have shown that the yellowish colour can change within four months to dark brown-black (8).

Total length: up to 13 cm including tail (3).

Golden alpine salamander biology

Studies on specific biological aspects of this fully terrestrial salamander are lacking. It is likely that life-history characteristics are similar to those of the subspecies Salamadra atra atra, in which one embryo develops in each of the two uteri. Gestation takes 3 years at altitudes of 1,400 to 1,700 metres. Young are born fully metamorphosed and terrestrial; they are around 4 - 5 cm long. The golden alpine salamander lives for at least 10 years (1).


Golden alpine salamander range

The golden alpine salamander is known only from an area between Trento and Asiago in northeastern Italy. This subspecies (Salamander atra aurorae) occupies a highly restricted range (less than 50 km²) at the southern boarder of the larger area (3). Recently, a new but also isolated population has been discovered in the Pasubio Massif, southeast of Rovereto (6). This population may in fact represent a distinct subspecies and at present is only known from an area of less than 1km² (11).


Golden alpine salamander habitat

The golden alpine salamander is found in subalpine regions; associated with open forests where the fir Abies alba dominates, and where there is herbaceous ground vegetation (11).


Golden alpine salamander status

The golden alpine salamander is classified as Least Concern (LC ) (as Salamandra atra) on the IUCN Red List (10). It is also listed on Appendix II of the Bern Convention  (9), Annexes II (priority) and IV of the EC Habitats Directive (2).


Golden alpine salamander threats

Due to its small distribution area, habitat destruction (in the form of deforestation) is the main threat to the golden alpine salamander. The collection of specimens for scientific studies or private keeping can also significantly affect the vulnerable small populations (7), and the drainage of water from the area is a further threat to survival (11).


Golden alpine salamander conservation

The collection of the golden alpine salamander is prohibited and visitors are forbidden from leaving the paths in the core habitat area of Bosco del Dosso (11).


Find out more

For more information on slamanders see:



Information supplied by Sergé Bogaerts and Kurt Grossenbacher.



An abrupt physical change from the larval to the adult form.
Parotoid gland
In some amphibians, a pair of wart-like glands that appear behind the eyes or on the neck or shoulders.
A different race of a species, which is geographically separated from other populations of that species.


  1. Trevian, P. (1982) A new subspecies of alpine salamander. Boll. Zool., 49: 235 - 239.
  2. IUCN Red List (April, 2003)
  3. Berne Convention (April, 2003)
  4. Habitats Directive (February, 2002)
  5. Arnold, E.N. & Ovenden, D. (2002) Collins Field Guide: Reptiles and Amphibians of Britain and Europe. [2nd edn.] Harper Collins, London.
  6. Grossenbacher, K. (July, 2003) Pers. comm.
  7. Steinfartz, S. (1998) Über eine interessante Farbkleidveränderung bei Salamandra atra aurorae. Salamandra, 34: 69 - 72.
  8. Bonato, L. (2000) A new interesting population of the Alpine salamander, Salamandra atra in the Venetian Alps. Atti. Mus. Civ. Stor. Nat, Venezia, 50: 231-239.
  9. Grossenbacher, K. (1995) Was ist mit Salamandra atra aurorae los? Elaphe (N.F.), 3: 6 - 8.

Image credit

Golden alpine salamander  
Golden alpine salamander

© Sergé Bogaerts

Dr Sergé Bogaerts
Honigbijenhof 3
NL-6533 RW Nijmegen
Tel: +31 (24) 3558806


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