Comments: The following information pertains to the Ambystoma cingulatum/bishopi complex as a whole.
Post-larval individuals inhabit mesic longleaf pine (Pinus palustris)-wiregrass (Aristida stricta) flatwoods and savannas. The terrestrial habitat is best described as a topographically flat or slightly rolling wiregrass-dominated grassland having little to no midstory and an open overstory of widely scattered longleaf pine. Low-growing shrubs, such as saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), gallberry (Ilex glabra) and blueberries (Vaccinium spp.), co-exist with grasses and forbs in the groundcover. Groundcover plant diversity is usually very high. The underlying soil is typically poorly drained sand that becomes seasonally inundated.
Slash pine flatwoods is often cited as the preferred terrestrial habitat of the flatwoods salamander (e.g., Conant and Collins 1991). This may be the result of an error made by Martof (1968) in which he referred to longleaf pine as slash pine (Pinus elliottii). In addition, slash pine now dominates or co-occurs with longleaf pine in many pine flatwoods communities as a result of fire suppression and preferential harvest of longleaf pine (Avers and Bracy 1975). Historically, however, fire-tolerant longleaf pine dominated the flatwoods, whereas slash pine was confined principally to wetlands (Harper 1914, Avers and Bracy 1975). Post-larval individuals are fossorial (live underground) and occupy burrows (Goin 1950, Neill 1951, Mount 1975, Ashton 1992). Presumably, they remain underground during the lightning-season (May through September). Adults are rarely encountered under cover objects at or near breeding sites (J. Palis, pers. obs.).
Breeding occurs in acidic (pH 3.6-5.6 (Palis, unpubl. data)), tannin-stained ephemeral wetlands (swamps or graminoid-dominated depressions) that range in size from 0.02 to 9.5 ha, and are usually not more than 0.5 m deep (Palis, unpubl. data). The overstory is typically dominated by pond cypress (Taxodium ascendens), blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica var. biflora) and slash pine, but can also include red maple (Acer rubrum), sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana), and loblolly bay (Gordonia lasianthus). Canopy coverage ranges from near zero to almost 100% (Palis, unpubl. data). The midstory, which is often very dense, is most often composed of young of the aforementioned species, myrtle-leaved holly (Ilex myrtifolia), Chapman's St. John's-wort (Hypericum chapmanii), sandweed (Hypericum fasciculatum), titi (Cyrilla racemiflora), storax (Styrax americana), popash (Fraxinus caroliniana), sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia), fetterbush (Lyonia lucida), vine-wicky (Pieris phillyreifolia), and bamboo-vine (Smilax laurifolia). Depending on closure of the canopy and midstory, the herbaceous groundcover of breeding sites can range from about 5% to nearly 100% (Palis, unpubl. data). The groundcover is dominated by graminaceous species, including beakrushes (Rhynchospora spp.), sedges (Carex spp.), panic grasses (Panicum spp.), bluestems (Andropogon spp.), jointtails (Manisurus spp.), three-awned grass (Aristida affinis), plumegrass (Erianthus giganteus), nutrush (Sclera baldwinii) and yellow-eyed grasses (Xyris spp.). The floor of breeding sites is riddled with the burrows of crayfish (genus Procambarus). Breeding sites are typically encircled by a wiregrass-dominated graminaceous ecotone. Breeding sites can include roadside ditches (Anderson and Williamson 1976; Palis, pers. obs.) and borrow pits (D. Stevenson, pers. comm.). Breeding sites often harbor fishes, the most typical species include pygmy sunfishes (Elassoma spp.), mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrookii), and banded sunfish (Enneacanthus obesus) (Palis, unpubl. data). Favorable breeding habitat lacks large predatory fishes.
Before breeding sites fill with water, eggs are deposited singly or in small groups on the ground beneath leaf litter, under logs and Sphagnum mats, at the base of grasses, shrubs or trees, or at the entrance to crayfish burrows (Anderson and Williamson 1976). In wetlands that fill incrementally, eggs are deposited amid graminaceous vegetation at the edge (J. Palis, pers. obs.). Egg deposition in shallow water also has been reported (Ashton 1992). Larvae hide amid inundated graminaceous vegetation by day, but will enter the water column at night (J. Palis, pers. obs.).