The California Tiger Salamander is a stocky salamander with a broad, rounded snout. Its eyes are relatively small but protruding, with black irises. The base dorsal color is black, and the dorsal side is commonly marked with bold patches of lemon-yellow spots that are concentrated along the sides of the animal. The belly is generally gray in color, and may display a few small spots of white or yellow color. Adults generally have 12 costal grooves.
Recent molecular research has supported full species status for A. californiense, in contrast to its previous status as a subspecies of Ambystoma tigrinum (Shaffer and McKnight 1996). Full species status for A. californiense is also supported by its geographical isolation plus differences in coloration and natural history seen in A. californiense, as compared to other members of the A. tigrinum complex(Petranka 1998).
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- Fisher, R. N., and Shaffer, H. B. (1996). "The decline of amphibians in California's Great Central Valley." Conservation Biology, 10(5), 1387-1397.
- Petranka, J. W. (1998). Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington and London.
- Shaffer, H. B., and McKnight, M. L. (1996). ''The polytypic species revisited: differentiation and molecular phylogenetics of the Tiger Salamander Ambystoma tigrinum (Amphibia: Caudata) complex.'' Evolution, 50, 417-433.