Overview

Comprehensive Description

The mudpuppy (N. m. maculosus, sometimes called the common mudpuppy) is rusty brown to grey dorsally, with a gray venter that ranges from unspotted to densely spotted.A large, aquatic salamander with well-developed, maroon colored gills, broad flat head with small eyes, and a fin-like tail. Adults are olive colored and can attain total lengths of 200-430 mm. Many larval salamanders possess gills, and are often incorrectly referred to as mudpuppies. (Harding, 2000)

  • Harding, J. 2000. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Great Lakes Region. Ann Arbor, Michigan: The University of Michigan Press.
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Distribution

occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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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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Physical Description

Size

Sexual Differences

The sexes are alike in form and color but there are some slight differences. The head of all mudpuppies is flat and the tail is short and laterally compressed for swimming. The head of the males is on average a little longer than that of the female. Four toes are present on each of four well-developed limbs. Male cloacae have two prominent papillae directed backward. In the breeding season, males have swollen cloacae. Female cloacae are slit-like and usually surrounded by light coloration. Young mudpuppies are black with longitudinal yellow stripes. (Bishop, 1926) (Conant and Collins 1998)

  • Bishop, Sherman C., 1926. New York State Museum: Note on the Habitat and Development of the Mudpuppy. Albany The University State of New York.
  • Conant, R., J. Collins. 1998. A field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians. NY: Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Ecology

Habitat

They are found in Southern central Canada, through the midwestern US, east to North Carolina and south to Georgia and Mississippi. In clear- open waters of lakes and streams where there is no plant growth but also in shallow weed-choked bays and streams. Depending on the season mudpuppies are not always found in the same part of a stream or lake. They have been known to go as deep as 90 feet. (Bishop, 1926)

  • Bishop, Sherman C., 1926. New York State Museum: Note on the Habitat and Development of the Mudpuppy. Albany The University State of New York.
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Trophic Strategy

Mudpuppies eat a many aquatic organisms. Some may consider them opportunistic feeders and will eat whatever they can catch. They also eat Insecta, small fish, fish eggs, aquatic worms, Gastropoda, and other Amphibia are also eaten. They will also eat carrion and are often caught in traps that are baited with dead fish. (Cook, 1984; Harding, 2000) When they are in captivity they also feed on raw liver. (Bishop, 1926)

  • Bishop, Sherman C., 1926. New York State Museum: Note on the Habitat and Development of the Mudpuppy. Albany The University State of New York.
  • Cook, F. 1984. Introduction to Canadian Amphibians and Reptiles. Ottawa, Canada: National Museum of Canada.
  • Harding, J. 2000. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Great Lakes Region. Ann Arbor, Michigan: The University of Michigan Press.
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Mudpuppies are completely aquatic. They are usually nocturnal, although in murky or weedy water, they may be active during the day. Mudpuppies are solitary animals, coming together only to reproduce in the fall. They do not hibernate. Individuals do not appear to migrate in streams, although they travel to deeper water in winter and summer and prefer shallow waters in spring and fall. Mudpuppies usually walk along the bottoms of lakes and rivers, but can also produce a swimming-like movement of their bodies. (Conant and Collins, 1998; Harding, 2000)

  • Conant, R., J. Collins. 1998. A field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians. NY: Houghton Mifflin Company.
  • Harding, J. 2000. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Great Lakes Region. Ann Arbor, Michigan: The University of Michigan Press.
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Reproduction

Mating occurs in the autumn or fall season. Fertilization might be accomplished means of spermatophores deposited in water. Courtship does occur between a male and female with the female holding herself erect by supporting the body on her hind legs and tail. The male swims around the female mostly around her tail region. Females pick up the spermatophores in their cloaca, where it is stored until spring. (Bishop, 1926) (Cook 1984)

Female mudpuppies lay their eggs in nest type structures or nest cavities that they dig in sheltered areas beneath rocks and logs. Nest openings usually face downstream. The eggs are attached to the roof of the nest and the females remains with them until they hatch which is usually between 1 and 2 months. (Harding, 2000)

  • Bishop, Sherman C., 1926. New York State Museum: Note on the Habitat and Development of the Mudpuppy. Albany The University State of New York.
  • Cook, F. 1984. Introduction to Canadian Amphibians and Reptiles. Ottawa, Canada: National Museum of Canada.
  • Harding, J. 2000. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Great Lakes Region. Ann Arbor, Michigan: The University of Michigan Press.
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Lifespan

Mudpuppies have been known to live upwards of 20 years. (Petranka,1998)

  • Petranka, J. 1998. Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press.
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Physiology and Cell Biology

Physiology

Respiration

The gills are kept in constant motion in poorly aerated water or in warmed waters. In clear, cold, well-aerated water they are often held motionless for long periods against the sides of the neck. Under these conditions the blood supply is restricted, the bright crimson fades to a duller red. They also raise to the surface to gulp air when the oxygen levels are lower. Part of the air passes out through the gills and the rest goes into the lungs. The skin also functions in respiration and is well supplied with blood, particularly in the tail region. When they are exposed to air, complete drying of the skin is prevented for a considerable time by the production of slime, which is, excreted from the dermal glands and completely envelopes the body.(Bishop 1926)

  • Bishop, Sherman C., New York State Museum: Note on the Habitat and Development of the Mudpuppy. Albany The University State of New York. 1926.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Necturus maculosus maculosus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: T5 - Secure

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Mudpuppies have little economic importance. They are sometimes collected and used in research and education. They are important members of native aquatic ecosystems. (Harding, 2000)

  • Harding, J. 2000. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Great Lakes Region. Ann Arbor, Michigan: The University of Michigan Press.
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