What Is It Wednesday: Spotted Salamander

Name: Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum)

Also known as: Yellow-spotted Salamander

The Spotted Salamander can be found in Canada from Ontario to the East Coast. It is a carnivorous amphibian that can grow larger than 20 cm in length and is dark blue or black with yellow spots randomly distributed across its body. In the wild, this species can generally live upwards of 20-30 years. Males take 2-6 years to mature and females take 3-7 years to mature. They are also known for their sensitivity to acid rain, which can negatively affect larval development and the ability of their eggs to hatch.

The preferred habitat of the Spotted Salamander is deciduous or mixed forests that are in close proximity to water bodies suitable for breeding. Typically, they breed in shallow temporary or permanent bodies of water that contain no fish. When not breeding, Spotted Salamanders spend a lot of time underground or under leaf litter, logs, and other covering objects for foraging and rest. You’re most likely to see a Spotted Salamander on rainy nights during the breeding season (i.e. early spring) when they migrate to breeding ponds and at night when they come out to feed. Insects, worms, slugs, spiders, and millipedes make up most of the Spotted Salamanders diet.

Although populations seem to be stable, the Spotted Salamander faces many threats. Habitat destruction and fragmentation from logging and urban development, road mortality, and high acidity in water bodies are the main threats to their survival. Toxins are also easily absorbed through their skin, so herbicides, agricultural effluent, and road salt have detrimental effects.

Fun Fact: The larvae of the Spotted Salamander looks kind of like a salamander version of a lion with its array of feathery gills behind its head.

First Photo by Daria Koscinski; Second Photo by Jane Bowles; Third Photo by Brian Gratwicke from DC, USA - Spotted Salamander Larva A. maculatum, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28966978