Key to Salamanders of Washington

    1. External gills and gill slits present (larvae) .....2
    2. External gills and gill slits absent (metamorphosed adults) .....8
    1. Dorsal fin begins above or behind hind limbs; gills short .....3
    2. Dorsal fin begins far forward of hind limbs; gills long .....5
    1. Eye large, horizontal diameter greater than distance from anterior corner of eye to tip of snout; back and sides with scattered black dots or spots; tail fin not mottled or barred; no light stripe behind eye; <44 mm snout-vent length .....torrent salamanders, Rhyacotriton spp.
    2. Eye small, horizontal diameter less than distance from anterior corner of eye to tip of snout; back and sides without black dots or spots; tail fin usually with light and dark mottling, especially on tip; light eyestripe may be present; large size, usually >44 mm snout-vent length .....4
    1. Head width more than 1/5 snout-vent length; adpressed limbs usually meet or overlap .....Pacific Giant Salamander, Dicamptodon tenebrosus
    2. Head width less than 1/5 snout-vent length; adpressed limbs do not meet .....Cope's Giant Salamander, Dicamptodon copei
    1. Back and sides blotched or mottled; maxillary teeth present; >8 gill rakers on anterior side of third gill arch .....6
    2. Back with one or two rows of light spots; maxillary teeth absent; <8 gill rakers .....Rough-skinned Newt, Taricha granulosa
    1. Parotoid glands and glandular ridge at base of upper tail fin evident .....Northwestern Salamander, Ambystoma gracile
    2. Glandular areas not evident .....7
    1. >13 (14-24) gill rakers on anterior face of third gill arch; often >80 mm total length .....Western Tiger Salamander, Ambystoma mavortium
    2. <13 (9-12) gill rakers .....Long-toed Salamander, Ambystoma macrodactylum
    1. Nasolabial groove running vertically from nostril to mouth (may require magnification to see); parasphenoid teeth present .....10
    2. No nasolabial groove; no parasphenoid teeth .....9
    1. Costal grooves and intercostal folds absent or indistinct; vomerine teeth in two longitudinal rows, diverging posteriorly .....Rough-skinned Newt, Taricha granulosa
    2. Costal grooves and intercostal folds distinct; vomerine teeth in transverse rows behind internal nares .....14
    1. Tail with ring-like constriction at base .....Ensatina, Ensatina eschscholtzi
    2. Tail without basal constriction .....11
    1. Outer toe on hind foot short, with only one phalanx .....Larch Mountain Salamander, Plethodon larselli
    2. Outer toe on hind foot longer, with two phalanges .....12
    1. Parotoid glands present; usually 14 costal grooves .....Van Dyke's Salamander, Plethodon vandykei
    2. Parotoid glands absent; usually 15-16 costal grooves .....13
    1. Dorsal stripe variable in color, extends to tip of tail; stripe not encroached upon along margins by ground color; flecks of stripe color not present along upper sides of body; usually 16 costal grooves .....Western Red-backed Salamander, Plethodon vehiculum
    2. Olive dorsal stripe extends onto tail but not to tip; stripe appears eroded along edges with an interdigitating of stripe and ground color; flecks and blotches of stripe color present along upper sides of body; usually 15 costal grooves .....Dunn's salamander, Plethodon dunni
    1. Eye large, horizontal diameter usually greater than distance from anterior corner of eye to tip of snout; males with squarish vent region; seldom over 100 mm total length .....15
    2. Eye smaller, horizontal diameter less than distance from anterior corner of eye to tip of snout; usually much longer than 100 mm total length .....17
    1. Typically with black spots above; southern Cascades .....Cascade Torrent Salamander, Rhyacotriton cascadae
    2. Without black spots above; occurs elsewhere .....16
    1. Line of demarcation between dorsal and ventral color usually distinct and wavy; from Grays Harbor north on Olympic Peninsula .....Olympic Torrent Salamander, Rhyacotriton olympicus
    2. Line of demarcation between dorsal and ventral color usually straight and relatively indistinct; south of Grays Harbor in coastal counties .....Columbia Torrent Salamander, Rhyacotriton kezeri
    1. Prominent parotoid glands and glandular ridge on top of tail .....Northwestern Salamander, Ambystoma gracile
    2. No parotoid glands or glandular ridge on tail .....18
    1. Longest toe of hind foot longer than sole of hind foot; middorsal stripe or series of blotches .....Long-toed Salamander, Ambystoma macrodactylum
    2. Longest toe of hind foot shorter than sole of hind foot; dorsum without stripe .....19
    1. A pair of tubercles on underside of feet .....Western Tiger Salamander, Ambystoma mavortium
    2. No such tubercles .....20
    1. Head width more than 1/5 snout-vent length; adpressed limbs usually meet or overlap .....Pacific Giant Salamander, Dicamptodon tenebrosus
    2. Head width less than 1/5 snout-vent length; adpressed limbs do not meet .....Cope's Giant Salamander, Dicamptodon copei

Modified from key in Amphibians & Reptiles of the Pacific Northwest, by R. A. Nussbaum, E. D. Brodie, Jr., and R. M. Storm, Univ. Press of Idaho, Moscow, 1983. Torrent salamanders from Amphibians of Washington and Oregon, by W. P. Leonard, et al., Seattle Audubon Society, 1993.

Dennis Paulson, January 1993. Names revised December 2013.