The reptile and amphibian fauna found at Quail Ridge Reserve is a relatively rich subset of the California herpetofauna. Of the 141 species that occur in this state72, 20 have been documented at Quail Ridge and at least another four likely are found there. The richest group at Quail Ridge is the snakes, with 10 recorded and four probable species (of a total of 33 species in California), whereas the most poorly represented is the turtles, with only the western pond turtle found here (although only three species are found state-wide). Falling between these extremes are the salamanders (three recorded and one probable), the frogs and toads (two recorded), and the lizards (four recorded and two probable). See the full reptile and amphibian list.

Quail Ridge lies at the boundary between two major biogeographic regions, the Pacific Border and Sierra Madrean65. The Pacific Border herpetofauna is centered along the Pacific Coast from the Coast Range of California to southeast Alaska. The climate of this region is mild and very moist, and reaches its southeastern extreme at about the latitude of Quail Ridge. A major component of this faunal group is the amphibians, primarily salamanders. All of the salamanders of Quail Ridge are members of this group.

Treefrog larvae; Photo by Mike BenardIn contrast to the Pacific Border region, the Sierra Madrean region has its origin in the warm and dry region of central Mexico. The range of this fauna includes Mexico, parts of Arizona, southern California, and California’s Central Valley65. Thus, Quail Ridge is found at the northwestern edge of this region. The Sierra Madrean group is dominated by a variety of species of lizards and snakes.

An interesting statewide pattern in the herpetofauna of California is the ring around the Central Valley. Following the prevailing climate and vegetation patterns, many species are found in narrow bands that circle the Valley. Pacific Border species are restricted to cooler and moister climates than are found in the Central Valley and thus have expanded from the north along both the Coast Ranges and the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. A particularly well-studied example of this is the ensatina, Ensatina eschscholtzii, a species of lungless salamander69.

While some Sierra Madrean species were able to move over the Tehachapi Mountains into the San Joaquin Valley, other species require a more mountainous environment. Some of these entered the lower elevation hills surrounding the Central Valley, either from the south around the Coast Range and Sierra Nevada, or from the northeast, moving south down these mountain ranges61. One example of this pattern is the southern alligator lizard (Elgaria multicarinatus)61. Thus, the ring distribution that characterizes a number of species in California was achieved via radically different routes by different species.

California newt; Photo by Karen MabryOnly one species in the Quail Ridge herpetofauna is endemic to California. The California newt (Taricha torosa) occurs throughout the Coast Ranges and Sierra Nevada but fails to reach into any other state69.

The herpetofauna of the Quail Ridge Reserve represents a largely untapped wealth of research opportunities for studies in evolution, ecology, and behavior. There are many common species easily found and observed over a broad range of habitats.

Photo Credits: Title, Treefrog and Larvae (Mike Benard), Newt (Karen Mabry). For more pictures see:

This page last updated: July 5, 2005  

Contact: Dr. Virginia Boucher
John Muir Institute of the Environment
109 The Barn, University of California, Davis, CA 95616
Phone: 530-752-6949; email:

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