Creature Feature – Spotted Salamander

Spotted Salamander

Ambystoma maculatum

Reptiles Alive Name:”Spot”spotted-salamander

Hissstory: Spot was donated to us by a nature center.

RA Diet: Spot eats earthworms, crickets, and meal worms.

Natural Diet: Adults eat worms, slugs, millipedes, termites, and other insects.  Larvae (tadpoles) eat aquatic insects including mosquito larva.

Range: Spotted salamanders are found in the eastern United States west to Texas and north to Canada.  They are native to the Washington DC area.

Habitat: Spotted salamanders live in hardwood forests where vernal pools form each year.

Size: They can grow to 4-7.75 inches, record length is 9.75 inches.

Lifespan: Spotted salamanders can live to 20 years.

Reproduction: Spotted salamanders emerge from hibernation in late winter and early spring.  They sometimes have to walk across snow to reach the vernal pools they breed in.   After mating in the water, the female salamanders lay egg masses of  consisting of around 100 eggs.  The eggs hatch depending on the temperature in the water.  Transformation (metamorphosis) takes places in 2 to 4 months.

Conservation: Acid rain can damage developing eggs, causing some populations to decline in certain areas.  Many salamanders are killed each year as they migrate over roadways in search of the vernal pools they were born in.  Spotted salamander populations in heavily urbanized areas have been mostly wiped out due to the destruction of the vernal pools they rely on for reproduction.

Cool Facts: Salamanders are an indicator species.  Amphibians need a clean and healthy habitat in order to survive.  Amphibians breathe through their skin, so toxins and pollution can easily kill them.  When salamanders disappear, it means something is wrong with the habitat they live in!   Salamanders can help scientists determine if an ecosystem is healthy or unhealthy.