Order Caudata

Caudates are the tailed amphibians we commonly refer to as salamanders, newts, sirens, and amphiumas.  These secretive amphibians belong to the order Caudata, which is the second most diverse of the three living orders of amphibians with more than 700 species.  Caudates are principally distributed in the tropical, subtropical, temperate, and subartic regions in the Northern Hemisphere, being found in America, Europe, and Asia.  One family, that of the lungless salamanders (Plethodontidae) makes it through Central America into South America, where the only representatives of this order are known to exist in the Southern Hemisphere. The highest diversity of families, genera, and species is found in the United States of America.  Central America is also an extremely species diverse region, but with representatives of only one family, the lungless salamanders of the family Plethodontidae.    Plethodontidae is the most diverse family in the order Caudata, with nearly 500 species.  In Central America two countries stand out with their impressive diversity of lungless salamanders, Guatemala with more than 60 species, and Costa Rica with more than 50 species.  Although Guatemala has more total diversity, Costa Rica is known to have the highest diversity density of salamanders in the world with more than 50 species within a mere 51,032 km2 national territory.

The family Plethodontidae is the most diverse group of amphibians in Costa Rica by currently having more than 50 species recognized from within the republic.  Although Costa Rica has a large diversity of species known to inhabit the national territory, most are extremely secretive.  Apart from a few of the more common species, most of Costa Rica’s salamanders are only rarely  observed due to their highly specialized habitat preference and in some cases the remote sites where they are found.  Observing Costa Rican salamanders most often requires lots of patience and time dedicated to carefully searching for individuals in their appropriate habitats.

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