Sardinian cave salamander (Atylodes genei)

Sardinian cave salamander on moss
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Sardinian cave salamander fact file

Sardinian cave salamander description

GenusAtylodes (1)

The Sardinian cave salamander (Atylodes genei) is the smallest and darkest of the European cave salamanders (4). The upperparts of this species are mainly dark brown or black (2) (4), with a lighter marbled pattern of brown, olive-green, grey-green and, on rare occasions, ochre. This lighter pattern is sometimes covered with randomly distributed white spots (2), or may even be completely absent (3). The underside of the Sardinian cave salamander is whitish (5), and has a marbled or speckled pattern (2) (5).

The Sardinian cave salamander is a member of the Plethodontidae family. Plethodontids are long and slender, with a narrow head and grooves running along the side of the body (4). The tongue of the Sardinian cave salamander is shorter than in other Sardinian salamander species (3).

The tail of the Sardinian cave salamander is cylindrical, and measures just less than half of the total body length (2) (6). This species has well-developed legs, with the hind legs being slightly longer than those at the front. The front feet have four flattened, stubby digits (2) (6) (7), while the hind feet have five toes (2) (7), which are much longer and webbed for almost half their length (6).

Also known as
Gene's cave salamander.
Geotriton genei, Hydromantes genei, Salamandra genei, Speleomantes genei.
Male length: up to 115 mm (2)
Female length: up to 124 mm (2) (3)

Sardinian cave salamander biology

Little information is available on the biology of the Sardinian cave salamander (2). However, as in other cave salamander species, the Sardinian cave salamander does not have lungs, but instead absorbs oxygen through the skin, as well as the lining of the mouth and throat, which all have a rich blood supply (4) (7). As the skin needs to be moist at all times for oxygen absorption to occur, this species tends to emerge only in wet weather, typically at night, to breed or search for food (4).

The Sardinian cave salamander eats small invertebrates, including insects, which it catches by quickly flicking out its tongue (6). This species has brief periods of activity, followed by lengthy periods of inactivity, and therefore has low energy requirements. In general, cave salamanders do not need to feed very often, and are able to store a lot of what they eat as fat (4).

Very little is known about the breeding habits of the Sardinian cave salamander, but the male has been observed straddling its mate and clasping the female’s neck and sides with its legs. Fertilisation is internal (6), and the female Sardinian cave salamander lays and protects relatively few, large terrestrial eggs (7) (9).


Sardinian cave salamander range

The Sardinian cave salamander is endemic to the province of Cagliari in south-western Sardinia (2) (8).


Sardinian cave salamander habitat

Occurring in the humid forests of south-western Sardinia, the Sardinian cave salamander is found in karst formation habitats which are characterised by subterranean limestone caverns (3). It can be found in caves and under rocks (2), as well as along brooks and in fissures within rocky ravines (3) (9).

The Sardinian cave salamander has been recorded at elevations between 8 and 650 metres above sea level (1) (3) (8), although it is also thought to occur at even higher elevations (2).


Sardinian cave salamander status

The Sardinian cave salamander is listed as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Sardinian cave salamander threats

It is thought that the threats which affect most amphibian species also affect the Sardinian cave salamander, including habitat modification from deforestation, urbanisation and mining (1) (2) (9).


Sardinian cave salamander conservation

The Sardinian cave salamander is listed on Annex IV of the EU Habitats Directive (10), as well as on Appendix II of the Bern Convention, which means that it should be strictly protected (11).

The Sardinian cave salamander can be found in at least four protected areas; however, given its extremely limited range there is a need for close monitoring of its population status (9).


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A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
The fusion of gametes (male and female reproductive cells) to produce an embryo, which grows into a new individual.
Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones) and echinoderms.
Karst formation
An area of irregular limestone in which erosion has produced fissures, sinkholes, underground streams, and caverns.
Living underground, in caves or groundwater.


  1. IUCN Red List (October, 2011)
  2. AmphibiaWeb - Hydromantes genei (October, 2011)
  3. Raffaëlli, J. (2007) Hydromantes genei. In: Les Urodèles du Monde. Penclen Édition, France. Available at:
  4. Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. Arnold, E.N. (2002) A Field Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Britain and Europe. HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., London.
  6. Steward, J.W. (1970) The Tailed Amphibians of Europe. Taplinger, USA.
  7. Burnie, D. (Ed.) (2001) Animal. Dorling Kindersley, London.
  8. Frost, D.R. (2011) Amphibian Species of the World: An Online Reference. American Museum of Natural History, New York. Available at:
  9. Stuart, S.N., Hoffmann, M., Chanson, J.S., Cox, N.A., Berridge, R.J., Ramani, P. and Young, B.E. (Eds.) (2008) Threatened Amphibians of the World. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
  10. EU Habitats Directive (October, 2011)
  11. Council of Europe: Bern Convention (October, 2011)

Image credit

Sardinian cave salamander on moss  
Sardinian cave salamander on moss

© Jan Van Der Voort

Jan Van Der Voort
Antoon Wolfsstraat 24/1


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