Pacific Giant Salamander
[ DICAMPTODON TENEBROSUS ]
The most abundant vertebrate predator in many coastal streams of Northern California hides by day in deep pools or in the cobbles of rushing rapids, emerging at night to feast on small invertebrates. The stolid Pacific giant salamander is so inscrutable that biologists who study it know little about its life history. No one has observed the animal's courtship behavior, and only a couple of nests have been found. But the biggest mystery is this: Why do so many aquatic larvae reach adult size, and breed, without transforming into terrestrial adults? In fact, the massive terrestrial adults -- 12 inches long, one of the largest salamanders in the world -- are quite rare.