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What Is a Bolitoglossa?

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  • Written By: Marjorie McAtee
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 26 July 2014
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Bolitoglossa is believed to be the largest genus of salamanders. The Bolitoglossa genus typically accounts for about 17 percent of all salamander species, and some experts consider Bolitoglossa to be a supergenus of as many as 13 genera. Most species in this genus are native to Central America, though Bolitoglossa species can also be found throughout tropical South America. Some species are considered threatened or endangered, while others are thriving. Many salamanders in this genus are tropical climbing salamanders, but web-footed salamanders are also common to this genus.

The giant palm salamander, or Bolitoglossa dofleini, is considered the largest salamander of the all the species in its genus. The females of the species are often quite a bit larger than the males. Males can reach an adult length of 2.75 inches (70 mm), while females can reach an adult length of 4.5 inches (114.8 mm). Females of this species will also generally have more teeth and shorter limbs.

This species generally inhabits the forest floor in regions of Honduras and Guatemala. Human encroachment, damage to their natural habitats, and pet-industry harvesting are believed to have damaged wild populations significantly. Lincoln's climbing salamander, which has a a blackish underside with a bright, mottled red back, is one species potentially threatened by human encroachment.

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Most species in this genera are nondescript in color. These salamanders are typically brownish or yellowish in hue, and some species may be mottled. The Mexican climbing salamander, with its dark brown underside and pale, mottled back, may be among the most distinctively marked of the Bolitoglossa species. Like salamanders of other genera, member species of the Bolitoglossa genus can protect themselves by shedding their tails to escape predators. The tail typically regenerates itself.

Salamanders of the genus Bolitoglossa typically feed on insects and other invertebrates. They are often fed upon, in turn, by snakes. Some species face threats due to loss of habitat and disease. Other species, like the giant palm salamander, are popular as pets, which has put their wild populations in some jeopardy.

Members of the genus Bolitoglossa are considered to be very diverse in their choice of habitats. Member species have been found at almost all elevations, in forests, and in grasslands. The genus Bolitoglossa may be the most widely distributed genus in terms of geography, since member species are found throughout Central American and most of the South American continent. Member species are believed to enjoy a high level of genetic diversity.

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