Spotted Salamander

Spotted salamander on deck

Genus: Ambystoma
Species: maculatum

Description:  A salamander's appearance differs depending on its life cycle stage. Adult spotted salamanders are black with yellow or orange rounded spots on their back and sides and have gray bellies. They have a broad head and smooth skin with vertical grooves on both sides of their torso.

In its larval stage, the spotted salamander lives in the water and has external gills. The back is closer to a dull greenish color with mottling on the tail and a pale belly.

Size:  Spotted salamander adults grow to 6 – 10 in (15 – 25 cm) long. When they hatch, larvae are approximately half an inch (13 mm) long.

Diet:  As larvae, spotted salamanders eat insects, small crustaceans and other aquatic invertebrates. Adults have a sticky tongue to catch earthworms, snails, spiders, centipedes, and other various invertebrates they find on the forest floor.

Typical Lifespan:  Adult spotted salamanders live about 20 years but some have been recorded as old as thirty. Most spotted salamanders die before they reach the land-dwelling juvenile stage due to predators, disease. Larvae in vernal pools – temporary or seasonal pools of water -- will die if the pool dries up before they grow into juveniles.

Habitat:  They live in hardwood and mixed forests close to stagnant (non-flowing) water sources like swamps, ponds and vernal pools.

Range:  Spotted salamanders can be found in the eastern United States all along the Atlantic Coast and throughout the southeastern states except for Florida. Their range extends west as far as Texas and north into eastern parts of Canada.

Life History and Reproduction:  Salamanders progress through several life stages – egg, larva, juvenile and adult. Salamander eggs are laid underwater, so when the larvae hatch they have external gills for breathing in their aquatic environment, a broad tail to help them swim and weak legs.

The larvae feed in the water while they grow into juveniles. Juvenile and adult salamanders live on land and have lungs and strong legs.

Spotted salamanders migrate to breeding ponds in late winter and early spring once temperatures begin to warm up and rain showers arrive.

  • Fun Fact
    Spotted salamander eggs sometimes contain green algae which will consume the carbon dioxide salamander embryos produce and turn it into oxygen that the embryos can use.


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