Week 10, Day 2: Jemez Mountains Salamander

The Jemez Mountains salamander only lives in New Mexico’s Jemez Mountains. It has been found in parts of Los Alamos, Sandoval, and Rio Arriba counties. (Photo by Mark Watson)

Welcome to Take It Outside! This week, we are getting to know our local reptiles and amphibians, collectively known as herptiles — or herps!

We have our very own endemic species of salamander in the Jemez Mountains: the Jemez Mountains salamander. This species is found nowhere else in the world! Learn about this elusive and endangered creature in today’s post.

Blog Post:

Los Alamos National Laboratory wildlife biologist Chuck Hathcock gives us a look into the life of the Jemez Mountains salamander, and discusses some of the threats facing this small amphibian. Read his blog post here.


The Jemez Mountains salamander is a lungless salamander that breathes through its very thin, permeable skin. It’s crucial for this salamander to maintain moist skin, clear of chemicals and pollutants. Try this experiment demonstrating how pollutants can enter the skin of an amphibian. It uses hard-boiled eggs to model amphibians’ permeable skin.

Think about how environmental conditions can impact the survival of this endangered species.


Outdoor Challenge (Beginner):

Terrestrial amphibians like the Jemez Mountains salamander require moist soil to survive. Moist soil isn’t easy to come by here on the Pajarito Plateau! Go outside and see if you can find moist soil. Is it easier to find at the tops of hills or mesas, or at the bottoms of canyons and dips? Do you have to dig? How far down can you find moisture? Can you find it at all?

Outdoor Challenge (Advanced):

Titus is one of the two tiger salamanders that live at the Los Alamos Nature Center. Like Jemez Mountains salamanders, their skin needs to stay moist at all times. (Photo by Beth Cortright)

The Jemez Mountains Salamander is very rare and endangered, but there is another native salamander that is quite common in our area: the tiger salamander. Tiger salamanders have both aquatic and terrestrial life stages, and can be found in and around wetlands and small ponds throughout Northern New Mexico. The Los Alamos Reservoir is an example of a place where you can reliably see tiger salamanders during the aquatic part of their life cycle.

See if you can spot a tiger salamander! Send us a picture if you find one!


Want to Learn More?

Share Your Experience:

Tell us what you learn about our local reptiles and amphibians this week! We’d love to see your photos, too. Please send them to takeitoutside@peecnature.org or share them on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #peectakeitoutside.

Tomorrow, we’ll explore some of our local lizards!

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