Overview

Distribution

Small-mouthed salamanders occupy a range from northeastern Ohio west into Missouri and eastern Nebraska. The northern edge of the range is southeast Michigan and the southern range goes through western Kentucky and Tennessee to the Gulf of Mexico. They even inhabit several islands in southern Lake Erie.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

  • Harding, J. 1997. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Great Lakes Region. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
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Range Description

This species occurs in the USA. It can be found in Southern Michigan, southwestern Ontario (Pelee Island), Ohio, western West Virginia, western Kentucky, central Tennessee, and Alabama west to southern Iowa, eastern Kansas, and eastern Texas, south to Gulf Coast.
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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: (200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)) Southern Michigan, southwestern Ontario (Pelee Island), Ohio, western West Virginia, western Kentucky, central Tennessee, and Alabama to west to southern Iowa, eastern Kansas, and eastern Texas, south to Gulf Coast.

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Geographic Range

Small-mouthed salamanders are found from northeastern Ohio west into Missouri and eastern Nebraska. The northern edge of the range is southeast Michigan and the southern range goes through western Kentucky and Tennessee to the Gulf of Mexico. They are even found on several islands in southern Lake Erie.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

  • Harding, J. 1997. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Great Lakes Region. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
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Physical Description

Morphology

As its name suggests this species has a relatively small head with a blunt, short snout. The head tends to appear swollen behind the eyes and the lower jaw barely protrudes past the upper jaw. Coloration of the dorsum varies from pale gray to black. An irregular pattern of light blotches on the upper surface of specimen becoming darker on the sides and extending to the dark belly. During the breeding season small-mouthed salamanders may appear paler and have more conspicuous light markings. Adult length is normally between 11 and 17.8 cm (4.3 to 7 inches). Small-mouthed salamanders have 14 to 16 costal grooves. Males are smaller with longer and more compressed tails. Larvae usually have light bars or crossbands on an olive green or dark brown background. Near metamorphosis a dark pigment often obscures the light markings (Harding 1997).

Range length: 11 to 17.8 cm.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes shaped differently

  • Petranka, J. 1984. Breeding Migrations, Breeding Season, Clutch Size, and Oviposition of Stream-Breeding Ambystoma texanum. Journal of Herpetology, 18(2): 106-112.
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Physical Description

Small-mouthed salamanders have a small head with a blunt, short snout. The head tends to look swollen behind the eyes and the lower jaw barely goes beyond the upper jaw. The color of the back varies from pale gray to black. There is a pattern of light blotches on their backs, becoming darker on the sides and extending to the dark belly. During the breeding season small-mouthed salamanders may be more pale in color and have more obvious light markings. Adult length is normally between 11 and 17.8 cm (4.3 to 7 inches). Small-mouthed salamanders have 14 to 16 costal grooves (grooves along their sides, which show you where the ribs are). Males are smaller with longer and more compressed tails. Larvae usually have light bars or crossbands on an olive green or dark brown background.

Range length: 11 to 17.8 cm.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes shaped differently

  • Petranka, J. 1984. Breeding Migrations, Breeding Season, Clutch Size, and Oviposition of Stream-Breeding Ambystoma texanum. Journal of Herpetology, 18(2): 106-112.
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Size

Length: 14 cm

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Ecology

Habitat

Ambystoma texanum are most numerous in lowland floodplain woodlands. They can tolerate some human disturbances, such as habitat fragmentation and farming. They can even live in an open prairie as long as there are breeding ponds free of fish. Small-mouthed salamanders are more versatile in their breeding requirements than other Ambystoma. They can breed in woodland vernal ponds, runoff ponds, flooded areas, river backwaters, and roadside ditches. Ambystoma texanum does not travel far from breeding ponds, so good habitat near the pond is important.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
It tolerates a wide range of ecological conditions: tall grass prairie, moist pine woodland, flood plain forest, oak woodland, dense hardwood forest, and intensely farmed areas. Adults are usually found underground, under rocks, leaves, logs, in crayfish burrows, etc. Breeding sites variable, include forest ponds, temporary pools, ditches, spring-fed pools, and slow upper portions of streams. Typically breeds in ponds or other lentic habitats; attaches small clumps of eggs to vegetation or detritus in exposed sites; sometimes breeds in streams (recorded in Kentucky and Indiana); sometimes lays eggs cryptically as in A. barbouri; sometimes lays eggs singly (Kraus and Petranka 1989).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
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Comments: Tolerates a wide range of ecological conditions: tall grass prairie, moist pine woodland, flood plain forest, oak woodland, dense hardwood forest, and intensely farmed areas. Adults usually underground, under rocks, leaves, logs, in crayfish burrows, etc.

Breeding sites variable, include forest ponds, temporary pools, ditches, spring-fed pools, and slow upper portions of streams. Typically breeds in ponds or other lentic habitats; attaches small clumps of eggs to vegetation or detritus in exposed sites; sometimes breeds in streams (recorded in Kentucky and Indiana); sometimes lays eggs cryptically as in A. BARBOURI; sometimes lays eggs singly (Kraus and Petranka 1989). Hatching success declined greatly at pH below 6.9 in Illinois, but in Texas hatching success remained high until pH dropped below 4.5 (J. Herpetol. 26:230-232).

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Small-mouthed salamanders are usually found in lowland forests. They can also live in more open habitats, like prairies, as long as there are breeding ponds without fish. Small-mouthed salamanders can breed in a bigger variety of breeding habitats than can many other salamander species. They can breed in temporary forest ponds, runoff ponds, flooded areas, river backwaters, and roadside ditches. They do not travel far from their breeding ponds, so good habitat near the pond is important.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest

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Migration

Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

Typically migrates to breeding sites in late winter or early spring (Kraus and Petranka 1989). During nonbreeding season, may live close to or distant from breeding site.

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Trophic Strategy

Adult small-mouth salamanders eat insects, other arthropods, slugs, worms, and sometimes aquatic crustaceans. Larvae are generalist predators (Maurer and Shi 1996). They eat small aquatic invertebrates including Daphnia, isopod hatchlings and even larvae of their own or another species of Ambystoma (Harding 1997).

Animal Foods: amphibians; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods; mollusks; terrestrial worms; aquatic crustaceans

Primary Diet: carnivore (Insectivore , Molluscivore , Vermivore)

  • Maurer, E., A. Sih. 1996. Ephemeral Habits and Variation in Behavior and Life History: Comparisons of Sibling Salamander Species. Oikos, 76: 337-349.
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Comments: Adults eat terrestrial invertebrates, especially earthworms. Larvae eat aquatic invertebrates. In Iowa, larvae ate zooplankton and benthic invertebrates (McWilliams and Bachman 1989).

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Food Habits

Adult small-mouth salamanders eat insects, spiders, slugs, worms, and aquatic crustaceans. Larva eat mostly small, aquatic invertebrates like Daphnia and young Isopoda. They even eat larvae of their own or other species of salamanders.

Animal Foods: amphibians; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods; mollusks; terrestrial worms; aquatic crustaceans

  • Maurer, E., A. Sih. 1996. Ephemeral Habits and Variation in Behavior and Life History: Comparisons of Sibling Salamander Species. Oikos, 76: 337-349.
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Associations

Small-mouthed salamanders are predators of small invertebrates and are preyed on by small to medium-sized predators, such as snakes, birds, and other salamanders. They are important members of healthy woodland and grassland communities. Small-mouthed salamanders are parasitized by some protozoan and helminth species, and by a cyclophyllidean cestode (Cylindrotaenia americana).

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Small-mouthed salamanders have concentrations of granular glands on the top of the tail. Salamanders confronted by potential enemies raise and undulate the tail and curl the head underneath the tail. This behavior is most often used when attacked by a snake. Larvae are preyed on by dragonfly larvae and tiger salamander larvae.

Known Predators:

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Ecosystem Roles

Small-mouthed salamanders are predators of small invertebrates and are preyed on by small to medium-sized predators, such as snakes, birds, and other salamanders. They are important members of healthy woodland and grassland communities.

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Predation

Small-mouthed salamanders have glands on the top of their tails that secrete a substance that either tastes bad or is poisonous. When they are threatened by a predator, small-mouthed salamanders raise and curl their tail in the predator's direction. They also hide their head under the tail. This behavior is most often used when attacked by a snake. Larvae are preyed on by dragonfly larvae and tiger salamander larvae.

Known Predators:

  • blue jays (Cyanocitta_cristata)
  • garter snakes (Thamnophis)
  • water snakes (Nerodia)
  • dragonfly larvae (Odonata)
  • tiger salamander larvae (Ambystoma_tigrinum)

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Population Biology

Global Abundance

100,000 - 1,000,000 individuals

Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but likely exceeds 100,000.

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Comments: Inactive during coldest and driest months. Larvae active day and night in Iowa; more secretive during daylight (McWilliams and Bachman 1989).

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Life Cycle

Larvae metamorphose to terrestrial salamanders in two to three months.

Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis

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Development

The larvae change (through metamorphosis) to terrestrial salamanders in two to three months after hatching.

Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis

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Life Expectancy

The lifespan of small-mouthed salamanders is not known.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
5.3 years.

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Lifespan/Longevity

The lifespan of small-mouthed salamanders is not known.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
5.3 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 13.8 years (captivity)
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Reproduction

Courtship consists of groups of males bumping and nudging the females and each other. Males will move away from the group and deposit spermatophores on the substrate or on a stick or leaf. Females then "collect" the spermatophores (Harding 1997).

Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)

Ambystoma texanum breeds very early in the year. The migration to breeding ponds seems to be stimulated by just a few days of rain in late winter, frequently while ice still covers portions of the ponds. They tend to stay closer to breeding ponds in summer and late winter than other salamander species. A sibling species, A. barbouri, has a different reproductive strategy. The two species were formerly considered two races of A. texanum but now are classified as different species. Ambystoma barbouri, the "stream form," breeds in ephemeral headwater regions in contrast to A. texanum, the "pond form," which breeds in ephemeral lenthic habitats, including road side ditches, flooded areas and small ponds (Maureer and Sih 1996). Breeding begins four to five weeks later for A. texanum, which is an explosive breeder (Petranka 1984). A single female can produce 300 to 700 eggs annually, which are deposited in small loose gelatinous masses of 3 to 30 eggs. The eggs hatch in 3 to 8 weeks. The young mature to breeding size usually in their second year (Harding 1997). Size at maturity is 60 to 70 mm length from their snout to their vent (Lanoo, 2006).

Breeding interval: Small-mouthed salamanders breed once each year.

Breeding season: Small-mouthed salamders breed in early spring.

Range number of offspring: 300 to 700.

Range time to hatching: 3 to 8 weeks.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 2 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); oviparous

Once a female deposits her eggs in the water, there is no further parental care.

Parental Investment: no parental involvement; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female)

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Breeding is concentrated in period of only a few weeks, largely late February-early April in Missouri, mid-February to mid-April in Iowa, December-February in Louisiana. Eggs may take several weeks to hatch. Larvae metamorphose in about 2 months.

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Males bump and nudge females and each other, they will then move away from the group and deposit small packages of sperm on the pond-bottom or on a stick or leaf. Females then come along and collect the sperm package.

Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)

Small-mouthed salamanders breed very early in the year. Migration to breeding ponds seems to be triggered by just a few days of rain in late winter, often even while ice still covers portions of breeding ponds. They tend to stay closer to breeding ponds in summer and late winter than other salamander species. A single female can produce 300 to 700 eggs each year, which are placed in small, loose gelatinous masses of 3 to 30 eggs. The eggs hatch in 3 to 8 weeks; young mature to breeding size in their second year.

Breeding interval: Small-mouthed salamanders breed once each year.

Breeding season: Small-mouthed salamders breed in early spring.

Range number of offspring: 300 to 700.

Range time to hatching: 3 to 8 weeks.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 2 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); oviparous

Once a female deposits her eggs in the water, there is no further parental care.

Parental Investment: no parental involvement; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female)

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Ambystoma texanum

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


No available public DNA sequences.

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Ambystoma texanum

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 7
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

Ambystoma texanum is common through much of its range. The success of small-mouthed salamanders is connected to their habitat tolerance. On the edges of their range, where numbers are low, management for this species would be beneficial--such as in Michigan, where it is listed as endangered. Management for A. texanum should be preservation of areas with known populations and maintenance of adjacent fish free ponds.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: endangered

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2004

Assessor/s
Geoffrey Hammerson

Reviewer/s
Global Amphibian Assessment Coordinating Team (Simon Stuart, Janice Chanson, Neil Cox and Bruce Young)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, tolerance of a broad range of habitats, presumed large population, and because it is unlikely to be declining fast enough to qualify for listing in a more threatened category.
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National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N1 - Critically Imperiled

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable

Environmental Specificity: Narrow. Specialist or community with key requirements common.

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Small-mouthed salamanders are common through much of their range. They are tolerant of many different kinds of habitats. On the edges of their range, where numbers are low, management for this species would be beneficial, such as in Michigan, where small-mouthed salamanders are listed as endangered. To protec small-mouthed salamanders, areas with known populations should be protected and breeding ponds should be protected from invasion by fish species, which eat the eggs and larval salamanders.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: endangered

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Population

Population
Total adult population size is unknown but probably exceeds 100,000. Overall, its populations are stable, though there are some local declines due to habitat loss.

Population Trend
Stable
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Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable to decline of 30%

Comments: See Bogart and Licht (1991 COSEWIC report) for information on status in Canada.

Global Long Term Trend: Increase of 10-25% to decline of 30%

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Threats

Major Threats
The biggest threat is conversion of bottomland habitat to agricultural uses (Petranka 1998).
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Degree of Threat: Unknown

Comments: The biggest threat is conversion of bottomland habitat to agricultural uses (Petranka 1998).

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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Needed conservation measures include protection of bottomland forest habitat that includes vernal ponds (Petranka 1998).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

There are no negative impacts of small-mouthed salamanders on humans.

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Small-mouth salamanders eat slugs and worms and help keep pest species numbers down. In turn they are food for other animals.

Positive Impacts: controls pest population

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Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no negative impacts of small-mouthed salamanders on humans.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Small-mouth salamanders eat slugs and worms and help keep pest species numbers down. In turn they are food for other animals.

Positive Impacts: controls pest population

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Wikipedia

Small-mouth salamander

The small-mouth salamander (Ambystoma texanum) is a species of mole salamander found in the central United States, from the Great Lakes region in Michigan to Nebraska, south to Texas, and east to Tennessee, with a population in Canada, in Pelee, Ontario. It is sometimes referred to as the Texas salamander, porphyry salamander, or the narrow-mouthed salamander. The Kelley’s Island salamander (Ambystoma nothagenes) was synonymized with A. texanum in 1995.

Description[edit]

The small-mouth salamander grows from 4.5 to 7.0 in. It is typically black or dark brown in color with light-grey or silvery-colored flecking, or grey blotching. It has a fairly small head, relative to its body, and a long tail. Males are typically smaller than females. Their bellies are black, often with tiny flecks, and have 14 to 15 costal grooves.

Behavior[edit]

Small-mouth salamanders are nocturnal, often subterranean, preferring moist habitats near permanent bodies of water. Breeding occurs in the spring, with groups of salamanders congregating near the water. Females can lay up to 700 eggs, which they attach in small clumps of up to 30 eggs at a time, to rocks or vegetation under the water. Their diets include insects, slugs, and earthworms. Larvae hatch at 0.5 in (13 mm); they metamorphisize in May to June at about 1.6 in (40 mm). When disturbed, the small-mouth salamander raises its tail and waves it back and forth. Being shy and sensitive, it shares breeding pools with larger spotted salamanders and marbled salamanders.

Habitat and range[edit]

Small-mouth salamanders live in moist pine woodlands and deciduous forest bottomlands, tallgrass prairies, farming areas, near temporary ponds, and along streams. Their range is from Ohio south to the Gulf of Mexico, west to Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.

References[edit]

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: See Bogart et al. (1987), Kraus (1985), Bogart and Licht (1987), Kraus et al. (1991), Morris and Brandon (1984), and Spolsky et al. (1992) for information on the involvement of texanum in hybridization with other Ambystoma. Ambystoma barbouri formerly was included in this species (Kraus and Petranka 1989). See Kraus (1988), Shaffer et al. (1991), and Jones et al. (1993) for phylogenetic analyses of North American Ambystoma.

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