Current project

Ecology and conservation biology of European cave salamanders, genus Hydromantes

The plethodontid salamander family is present in Europe with only the genus Hydromantes (sub-genera Speleomantes and Atylodes), which is endemic or sub-endemic to Italy. It consist of eight species distributed in Sardinia Island and in Apennine Peninsula. Thus, Sardinia harbours the highest number of European plethodontid species, which are limited to the South-East of the island; each species is restricted to one single or only few mountain massifs.

These fully terrestrial cave salamanders lack lungs and a larval stage. They require high moisture and cold temperatures, which in combination with their limited distributions makes them highly susceptible to risk of extinction. However, even basic information on the ecology of these cryptic species are still lacking. We here focus on diverse aspects of these salamander’s ecology with the purpose to improve the knowledge of the species for future appropriate conservation actions:


  • Eco-ethology: Understanding species preferences in both epigean and hypogean environments; 
  • Estimation of population size, trends, analysis on age and composition of population;
  • Diet;
  • Interaction with predators/parasites;
  • Population genetics.



  • Part of this project is funded by the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund.
  • Partners
  • Prof. Gentile Francesco Ficetola, Laboratoire d’Ecologie Alpine LECA, Université Grenoble-Alpes, France.
  • Dr. Raoul Manenti, BioScience, University of Milan, Italy.
  • Dr. Claudia Corti, Museum of Zoology and Natural History “La Specola” of University of Florence, Italy.

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Speleomantes flavus (© Enrico Lunghi)