Large alpine salamander (Salamandra lanzai)

Large alpine salamander
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Large alpine salamander fact file

Large alpine salamander description

GenusSalamandra (1)

The large alpine salamander was first described as recently as 1988 (3). It is a little-known species, that is generally similar in appearance to the alpine salamander (Salamandra atra). It differs in its larger size (2), the fact that it has a rounded tail tip, whereas the alpine salamander has a pointed tail, and the absence of glandular pores on the back (2). It is black in colour, has a flattened head and web-like skin between the digits (3).

Also known as
Lanza’s alpine salamander.
Length: 160 mm (2)

Large alpine salamander biology

Little is known of the ecology of this unusual alpine amphibian. It is active during summer, from May to October when it is typically nocturnal or crepuscular. In times of heavy rain it may become active during the day (2). It is a territorial species (4) and feeds on a broad range of land invertebrates, sometimes also living in the water (6). In periods of bad weather, individuals take refuge under rocks or in crevices (2).

Very little is known of the reproductive behaviour of this salamander. They are thought to mate towards the end of summer. Between one and six young are produced, after a gestation period of up to three years (5). There is no ‘tadpole’ stage; instead, the young salamanders are immediately adapted to terrestrial life (2). Sexual maturity is reached at around eight years of age (4) and individuals can live for over 20 years (7).


Large alpine salamander range

This species occurs in a restricted range consisting of just a few sites in the southwestern Alps of south-east France and north-west Italy (Cottian Alps) (2).


Large alpine salamander habitat

Found in alpine meadows, typically close to brooks (2). Its elevation distribution goes from about 1200 up to 2600 m (5).


Large alpine salamander status

This species is classified as Vulnerable (VU C2a) by the IUCN Red List 2003 (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Large alpine salamander threats

The main threats facing this vulnerable species are thought to include habitat loss, drainage of habitats, disturbance by vehicles, over-collecting and genetic problems resulting from the very small sizes of populations (2). The small geographic distribution of this species means that it is very vulnerable to chance events, such as extreme weather. In some cases, erosion by alpine streams can be a problem for the survivorship of some populations (8).


Large alpine salamander conservation

Surprisingly, this unique and vulnerable European alpine salamander is not included in important European conservation legislation or Red Lists, including the Habitats Directive. Regular monitoring and further research into this species are essential in order to inform future conservation actions (2) (8).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more



Authenticated (3/6/2004) by Franco Andreone. Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali, Torino, Italy.



Active at twilight and/or just before sunrise.
Active at night.


  1. European Reptile & Amphibian Specialist Group 1996. Salamandra lanzai. In: IUCN 2003. 2003 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. (March, 2004)
  2. Amphibia Web- Salamander lanzai (July, 2010)
  3. Newts and Salamanders of Europe (March, 2004)
  4. Andreone, F. (2004) Pers. comm.
  5. Gautier, P., Lena, J. and Miaud, C. (2003) Responses to conspecific scent marks and the ontogeny of territorial marking in immature terrestrial salamanders. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 55: 447 - 453.
  6. Andreone, F., De Michelis, S. and Clima, V. (1999) A montane urodele and its feeding habits: Salamandra lanzai (Amphibia, Urodela, Salamandridae) in the Alps of northwestern Italy. Italian Journal of Zoology, 66: 45 - 49.
  7. Miaud, C., Andreone, F., Ribéron, A., De Michelis, S., Clima, V., Castanet, J., Francillon-Vieillot, H. and Guyétant, R. (2001) Variations in age, size at maturity and gestation duration among two neighbouring populations of the alpine salamander (Salamandra lanzai). Journal of Zoology, London, 254: 251 - 260.
  8. Andreone, F., Miaud, C., Bergò, P., Doglio, S., Stocco, P., Ribéron, A. and Muratet, P. (1/1/0001 12:00:00 AM) Living at high altitudes: testing the natural history traits upon the conservation of Salamandra lanzai. Italian Journal of Zoology,.

Image credit

Large alpine salamander  
Large alpine salamander

© Sergé Bogaerts

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


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