Spotted Salamander – Ambystoma maculatum

General: The Spotted Salamander is one of the larger members of the mole salamander family reaching lengths of nearly 8 inches or more. The dorsal background color is black, dark brown or dark gray with a slate gray belly. Young individuals sometimes have a dark brown background color. The background color is broken up by the presence of yellow spots arranged in two irregular rows running along the sides from the head to the tail. The first pair of spots (from the head) are usually orange. They are most likely to be confused with the Eastern Tiger Salamander, but the yellow spots on this species are more irregular in both form and placement.

They have the ability to drop their tails, to distract predators. If a predator of the spotted salamander manages to dismember a part of a leg, tail, or even parts of the brain/head, then it can grow back a new one, although this takes a massive amount of energy. The spotted salamander, like other salamanders show great regenerative abilities, even being able to regenerate limbs and parts of organs. They have large poison glands around the back and neck, which release a toxic white liquid.

Average Size: Average size of an adult is 5-8 inches long, with some over 9 inches long

Life Span: Spotted salamanders may live more than 20 years

Diet: Spotted salamanders eat invertebrates such as earthworms and insects or anything else they can catch and swallow. So what other small frogs, newts etc would eat is what the spotted salamander would eat.

Habitat: Spotted salamanders are common in bottomland forests near floodplains, but also occur in upland forests and in mountainous regions. Like other closely related species of mole salamanders, spotted salamanders spend most of their lives on land and migrate to ponds for breeding. Nearly all of their time is spent underground in burrows of other animals. Occasionally, they are found above ground on damp or humid nights. The only time they are found above ground in numbers are during heavy spring and fall rains while they migrate to and from overwintering sites.

Normal Behavior and Interaction: Spotted salamanders are fairly solitary animals. Interaction is mostly during breeding season. The adults migrate to the breeding ponds during periods of heavy snowmelt, warm spring rains, or humid nights if there is no rain. The two pictures here were taken during a spring migration in Binghamton, New York. There were over one-hundred spotted salamanders attempting to cross a road – they were protected by a group of SUNY – Binghamton students that kept them from being run over by cars. It is thought this is not uncommon and that migrations appear to be synchronized.

Males court the females by nudging and rubbing them with their snouts. The male drops a spermatophore, which the female walks over and picks up with her cloacal lips. Males may drop nearly 100 spermatophores in a season. The breeding period lasts from a couple nights to over a week. The time varies by location. The females then lay from 1 to 200 eggs in a globular mass. The mass is attached to twigs or other underwater structures; very rarely they are laid on the bottom. The mass is covered with a jelly-like coating which may be clear or white. The eggs hatch in only a few weeks. The larvae actively feed and grow for 2 to 4 months. The larval stage varies based on geographic location and water temperature.

Larvae will transform into adults in two to four months. Until that time they will continue living in water, eating insect larvae, water fleas, and other small creatures. If there isn’t enough food, they will even eat each other.

When they leave the water as adults, the young salamanders are about two and a half inches long. They survive best in ponds that do not contain fish, which will eat larvae.

It has been written that acid rain has greatly diminished this species. The ponds have become too acid for eggs to develop thus causing whole areas to die out.

Territory: Spotted salamanders Range as far east as Maine – west to the Great Lakes, South to Louisiana and Georgia