Overview

Comprehensive Description

Description

This salamander is sexually dimorphic. Both males and females have black dorsal ground coloring; the bands on the female are gray or silver, while those on the male are white. The sides and the venter are black as well. They are generally short-tailed, stocky, and broad-headed (Bartlett & Bartlett 1999).

A. opacum is the most strongly dimorphic of the ambystomatids. They are capable of burrowing, but they prefer to remain closer to the surface except for seasons of extended drought (Bartlett & Bartlett 1999).

  • Bartlett, R. D., and Bartlett, P. P. (1999). A Field Guide to Texas Reptiles and Amphibians. Gulf Publishing Company, Houston, Texas.
  • DeGraaf, R. M. and Rudis, D. D. (1983). Amphibians and Reptiles of New England. The University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst.
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Distribution

endemic to a single nation

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National Distribution

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)) Range extends from southern New Hampshire southward to northern Florida, west through southeastern New York to the southern Lake Michigan region, and south to eastern Oklahoma, eastern Texas, and the Gulf Coast. The species is absent from most of the Appalachian Mountains.

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Range Description

This species occurs in the eastern USA from New Hampshire southward to northern Florida, west through southeastern New York to Lake Michigan region, south to eastern Oklahoma and eastern Texas. It is absent from most of the Appalachian Mountains.
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Geographic Range

Ambystoma_opacum, the marbled salamander is found throughout most of the eastern United States, from Massachusetts west to central Illinois, southeastern Missouri and Oklahoma and eastern Texas, south to the Gulf of Mexico and the Carolina coast. It is absent from peninsular Florida. Disjunct populations are found in eastern Missouri, central Illinois, in northwest Ohio/northeast Indiana, and along the southern edges of Lake Michigan and Lake Erie.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

  • Petranka, J. 1998. Slamanders of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press.
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Distribution and Habitat

The general distribution of the marbled salamander spans from southern New Hampshire and central Massachusetts, central Pennsylvania west to south Illinois, south Missouri and east Texas, south to north Florida.

A. opacum inhabits sandy and gravelly areas of mixed deciduous woodlands (especially oak-maple and oak-hickory). They require ponds or swamps in wooded areas for breeding, and during the breeding season, they can be found under logs and rocks - areas that are generally drier (DeGraaf & Rudis 1983).

  • Bartlett, R. D., and Bartlett, P. P. (1999). A Field Guide to Texas Reptiles and Amphibians. Gulf Publishing Company, Houston, Texas.
  • DeGraaf, R. M. and Rudis, D. D. (1983). Amphibians and Reptiles of New England. The University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst.
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Geographic Range

Ambystoma opacum, the marbled salamander is found throughout most of the eastern United States, from Massachusetts west to central Illinois, southeastern Missouri and Oklahoma and eastern Texas, south to the Gulf of Mexico and the Carolina coast. It is absent from peninsular Florida. Disjunct populations are found in eastern Missouri, central Illinois, in northwest Ohio/northeast Indiana, and along the southern edges of Lake Michigan and Lake Erie.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

  • Petranka, J. 1998. Slamanders of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Ambystoma_opacum is a smaller member of the "mole salamanders" (a family of salamanders including the Ambystoma tigrinum, Ambystoma maculatum, Ambystoma laterale salamanders, etc.). It attains an adult length of approximately 9-10.7 cm. Sometimes called the banded salamander, because of its white or light gray bands across the head, back, and tail. Males have silvery white crossbands, which become very white during the breeding season. The female, being the larger of the two, has silvery gray crossbands.

Range length: 9 to 10.7 cm.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry ; poisonous

Sexual Dimorphism: female larger; sexes colored or patterned differently

  • Conant, R., J. Collins. 1998. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America: Third edition, expanded. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Physical Description

Ambystoma opacum is one of the smaller species in the Ambystomatidae family. It attains an adult length of approximately 9-10.7 cm (Conant and Collins 1998). It is sometimes called the banded salamander, because of its white or light gray crossbands across the head, back, and tail. Considered sexually dimorphic, males are smaller than females, and have silvery white crossbands. During the breeding season, the crossbands become very white and glands around the male's cloaca become swollen. Females are larger, and have silvery gray crossbands.

Range length: 9 to 10.7 cm.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry ; poisonous

Sexual Dimorphism: female larger; sexes colored or patterned differently

  • Conant, R., J. Collins. 1998. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America: Third edition, expanded. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Size

Length: 13 cm

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Ecology

Habitat

Comments: Marbled salamanders live in various wooded habitats, near swamps or vernal pools. They are more tolerant of dry habitats than are most salamanders and can be found on rocky bluffs and slopes and wooded sand dunes. Adults are entirely terrestrial and spend most of their time under surface objects or underground. Eggs are laid in forest depressions such as vernal pool basins and sometimes at the edges of permanent ponds, swamps, and slow-moving streams, in sites that lack standing water in late summer or early fall but are inundated by fall rains and generally hold standing water through winter and into at least early summer of the next year. Oviposition sites typically are in mineral soil beneath protective cover of leaf litter, logs, detritus, or rocks.

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
It can be found in various wooded habitats, vicinity of swamps and vernal pools. More tolerant of dry habitats than are most salamanders; can be found on rocky bluffs and slopes and wooded sand dunes. Adults are entirely terrestrial and are usually found under surface objects or underground. Eggs are laid in forest depressions such as vernal pool basins and sometimes at the edges of permanent ponds, swamps, and slow-moving streams; in areas likely to be flooded by fall rain. Oviposition sites typically are in bare mineral soil beneath protective cover of leaf-litter, log, detritus, or rock.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
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Adult marbled salamanders live in damp woodlands, often close to ponds or streams. These salamanders are occasionally can be found around dry hillsides, but never far from a moist environment.

Unlike most other Ambystomidae, this species does not breed in water. Adult marbled salamanders breed only in dried up pools, ponds, and ditches, and females lay their eggs under the leaves there. The eggs hatch after the ponds refill.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest

Aquatic Biomes: temporary pools

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Adult marbled salamanders live in damp woodlands, often close to ponds or streams. These salamanders are occasionally can be found around dry hillsides, but never far from a moist environment.

Unlike most other mole salamanders, this species does not breed in water. Adult marbled salamanders breed only in dried up pools, ponds, and ditches, and females lay their eggs under the leaves there. The eggs hatch after the ponds refill.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest

Aquatic Biomes: temporary pools

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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.

Adults migrate seasonally between upland nonbreeding habitat and breeding sites. Migration distances generally are less than a few hundred meters. Individuals may migrate a short distance from a pool immediately after breeding, then continue migration after a period of winter inactivity.

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Trophic Strategy

Comments: Adults eat virtually any small terrestrial invertebrate that is slow enough to be captured. Larvae eat aquatic invertebrates and amphibian larvae.

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Food Habits

Even with its small size, an adult Ambystoma_opacum is a voracious, carnivorous predator, consuming large amounts of food. Small worms, insects, slugs, and even snails, make up its diet. Attracted to movement as well as odor, this species will not eat dead prey.

Marbled salamander larvae are also active predators, and may be the dominant predators in their temporary ponds. They eat zooplankton (mainly copepods and cladocerans) when they first hatch, but add other prey to their diet as they grow, including larger crustaceans (isopods, fairy shrimp), aquatic insects, snails, oligochaete worms, and the larvae of amphibians, sometimes even other marbled salamanders. In woodland ponds larger larvae sometimes feed heavily on caterpillars that fall into the water.

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

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Food Habits

Even with its small size, an adult Ambystoma opacum is a voracious, carnivorous predator, consuming large amounts of food. Small worms, insects, slugs, and even snails, make up its diet. Attracted to movement as well as odor, this species will not eat dead prey.

Marbled salamander larvae are also active predators, and may be the dominant predators in their temporary ponds. They eat zooplankton (mainly copepods and cladocerans) when they first hatch, but add other prey to their diet as they grow, including larger crustaceans (isopods, fairy shrimp), aquatic insects, snails, oligochaete worms, and the larvae of amphibians, sometimes even other marbled salamanders. In woodland ponds larger larvae sometimes feed heavily on caterpillars that fall into the water.

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

Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats non-insect arthropods)

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Associations

Predation

Marbled salamanders are preyed upon by various woodland predators (snakes, owls, raccoons, skunks, shrews, weasels).

Poison glands located on the tail provide a degree of protection.

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Predation

Marbled salamanders are preyed upon by various woodland predators (snakes, owls, raccoons, skunks, shrews, weasels).

Poison glands located on the tail provide a degree of protection.

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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: > 300

Comments: Many and/or large occurrences exist throughout most of the range.

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Global Abundance

100,000 to >1,000,000 individuals

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

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Comments: Inactive most of winter. Young larvae diurnal, older larvae nocturnal. Adults most active during rains at night during breeding period.

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
3.5 years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
4.0 years.

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Lifespan/Longevity

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
3.5 years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
4.0 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 11.3 years (captivity)
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Reproduction

Mating and egg deposition occur in late summer or early fall (August-November; earlier in the north than in the south). Mating often occurs before the female arrives at pond-basin nesting areas (Krenz and Scott, 1994, Herpetologica 50:46-50). Females deposit single clutches of up to about 250 eggs, which are attended by the female until the nest is flooded (female commonly deserts nest if disturbed before flooding). Larvae hatch in fall (usually) or as late as spring, depending on when rains flood the nest. Larvae metamorphose in spring or early summer and move into upland habitats. Most first-time breeders are at least a few years old. Maximum life-span is at least 11-12 years.

In South Carolina, reproductive success varied among different years; little or no recruitment occurred during drought periods (Pechmann et al. 1991). Food limitation may reduce individual female reproductive output (Scott and Fore 1995, Herpetologica 51:462-471).

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Unlike other mole salamanders which breed underwater during the spring, The Ambystoma opacum has a very unusual reproductive strategy. Instead of breeding ponds or other water sources, in spring months, Ambystoma_opacum is a fall breeder, and breeds entirely on land.

After finding his mate, the male will court with the female, often moving in a circular fashion with her. After mating the female will leave and select a small depression in the ground. This depression is usually a drying up pond or ditch. The female will lay a clutch of between fifty and one hundred eggs. Once laid, the female will remain with them to keep them moist, until nests are flooded by rain water. As soon as the autumn rains come the eggs will hatch in the depression they were laid in. If rain never comes the eggs will survive over the winter, if temperatures do not fall too low, then hatch the following spring.

Once hatched the gray colored larvae (1 cm) grow very quickly by constantly eating plankton. Large larvae, however, will eat amphibian larvae and eggs. It takes larvae marbled salamanders between 2 and 9 months to leave the water. Young juveniles are approximately 5 cm, and attain adulthood in about 15 months after leaving water.

Breeding interval: Marbled salamanders breed once per year.

Breeding season: Breeding starts in the late summer in the northern part of the range, and extends into November in the southern part.

Range number of offspring: 50 to 100.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 17 to 26 months.

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

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)

Sex: female:
1460 days.

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Unlike most others in this family, Ambystoma opacum has a very unusual reproductive strategy. Instead of breeding ponds or other permanent water sources, in spring months, the marbled salamander is a fall breeder, and breeds entirely on land.

After finding his mate, the male will court with the female, often moving in a circular fashion with her. The male will then proceed to undulate his tail, and raise his body. Following this, the male will deposit a spermatophore onto the ground. If interested, the female will then proceed to pick it up with her cloacal lips (Petranka 1998). After mating the female will venture off and select a small depression in the ground. This depression is usually a reduced pond, or dried bed of a ditch or temporary pond (Petranka 1998). The female will lay a clutch of between fifty and one hundred eggs. Once deposited the female will remain with them to keep them moist, until nests are flooded. As soon as the autumn rains come the eggs will hatch in the depression they were originally laid in. If rain never comes the eggs will remain dormant through the winter if temperatures do not fall too low, then hatch the following spring (Flank 1999).

Once hatched the gray colored larvae (1 cm) grow extremely quickly, eating primarily macrozooplankton. Large larvae, however, will eat amphibian larvae and eggs (Petranka 1998). The timing on metamorphosis depends on geographic location. Those that are found in the South can go through metamorphosis in as little as two months. Those in the northern climates generally take between eight to nine months (Petranka 1998). Young juveniles are approximately 5 cm, and attain sexual maturity in about 15 months, after metamorphosis (Flank 1999).

Breeding interval: Marbled salamanders breed once per year.

Breeding season: Breeding starts in the late summer in the northern part of the range, and extends into November in the southern part.

Range number of offspring: 50 to 100.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 17 to 26 months.

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

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)

Sex: female:
1460 days.

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Ambystoma opacum

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 5
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Large extent of occurrence in eastern United States; high abundance, many stable populations throughout the range.

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable

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

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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, 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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This species is listed as threatened by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). In other areas it is not considered threatened and can be locally common.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: threatened

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This species is listed as threatened by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). In other areas it is not considered threatened and can be locally common.

Declining populations in the Great Lakes region can be attributed to both declining habitat but more so the effects of widespread temperature cooling after a warmer postglacial climate brought them into the area.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: threatened

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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

Comments: Many local breeding sites have been eliminated by conversion of habitat to intensive human uses, and such loses are ongoing (Petranka 1998). However, a large number of stable populations exist, the overall rate of decline probably is less than 10 percent over 10 years or three generations.

Global Long Term Trend: Relatively stable to decline of 50%

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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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Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors

A. opacum start to migrate to their breeding areas in the fall (generally in September). An average of 100 egss are laid in shallow depressions under surface material. They are then washed into the water to hatch. The eggs hatch at different times under different conditions. If the eggs are submerged, they will hatch in the fall or early winter. If there is no rain, the eggs will hatch in the spring. The larval period is affected by differing conditions as well. If the eggs hatch in the spring, their metamorphosis will be slower, transforming into their terrestrial form in late May to June. If there is a higher temperature and an abundance of food, metamorphosis will be hastened (DeGraaf & Rudis 1983).

Diet consists of arthropods, worms and mollusks. Larvae eat insects, crustaceans, and other small invertebrates. They can also be cannibalistic (DeGraaf & Rudis).

  • Bartlett, R. D., and Bartlett, P. P. (1999). A Field Guide to Texas Reptiles and Amphibians. Gulf Publishing Company, Houston, Texas.
  • DeGraaf, R. M. and Rudis, D. D. (1983). Amphibians and Reptiles of New England. The University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst.
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Threats

Degree of Threat: Medium

Comments: Threats to local populations likely include intensive timber harvesting practices that reduce canopy closure, understory vegetation, uncompacted forest litter, or coarse woody debris (moderately to well-decayed) in areas surrounding breeding sites (deMaynadier and Hunter 1999). Breeding sites are vulnerable to destruction and degradation through draining and filling, and many are being isolated by habitat fragmentation, which could eventually result in deleterious levels of inbreeding and reduced chances of reestablishment of locally extripated populations. Thousands of local populations already have been eliminated by habitat loss, and more will be lost in the future (Petranka 1998).

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Major Threats
Threats to local populations likely include intensive timber harvesting practices that reduce canopy closure, understorey vegetation, uncompacted forest litter, or coarse woody debris (moderately to well-decayed) in areas surrounding breeding sites (deMaynadier and Hunter 1999). Breeding sites are vulnerable to destruction and degradation through draining and filling, and many are being isolated by habitat fragmentation, which could eventually result in deleterious levels of inbreeding and reduced chances of re-establishment of locally extirpated populations. Thousands of local populations already have been eliminated by habitat loss, and more will be lost in the future (Petranka 1998). This species is sometimes found in the international pet trade but at levels that do not currently constitute a major threat.
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Management

Global Protection: Very many (>40) occurrences appropriately protected and managed

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Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Needed conservation measures include protection of vernal pools and adjacent wooded areas up to at least 200-250m from the pools. Also, regulatory agencies should attempt to minimize forest fragmentation.
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© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Marbled salamanders have no economic importance.

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© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: BioKIDS Critter Catalog

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Marbled salamanders have no economic importance.

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Source: Animal Diversity Web

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Wikipedia

Marbled salamander

The marbled salamander (Ambystoma opacum) is a species of mole salamander found in the eastern United States.

Description[edit]

The marbled salamander is a stocky, boldly banded salamander. The bands of females tend to be gray, while those of males are more white. Adults can grow to about 11 cm, (4 in), small compared to other members of its genus. Like most of the mole salamanders, it is secretive, spending most of its life under logs or in burrows

Habitat and range[edit]

Marbled salamanders are found in the eastern United States, from southern New England to northern Florida, and west to Illinois and Texas. They have been found as far north as New Hampshire, though only two sightings have been reported there. Their habitats are damp woodlands, forests, and places with soft and wet soil. Seasonally flooded areas are essential for breeding, but the salamanders do not normally enter the water. They are not poisonous like many other salamanders.

Lifecycle[edit]

Adults spend most of their lives underground, and in deep leaf litter, but wander at night during the breeding season. Adults usually tend to come out more when it is rainy and/or snowy. Breeding takes place in fall, typically September to December. Females lay eggs in clusters of up to 120 under logs or in clumps of vegetation in low areas that are likely to flood during winter rains. They dig a small depression in soft soil and lay the eggs in it. Eggs hatch the same fall or winter if rains come, but they may overwinter and hatch the following spring. The embryos hatch soon after the nest is inundated with the rising waters of the seasonal pool. The marbled salamander larvae gain a size advantage by feeding and growing for several months before the Jefferson salamanders and spotted salamanders hatch later in the spring. Larvae typically mature as quickly as two months in the southern part of their range, but take up to six months to mature in the northern part. Marbled salamanders, like other members of this genus, are reported to have relatively long life spans, 8–10 years or more.

Feeding[edit]

Adults take terrestrial invertebrates, such as worms, insects, centipedes, and mollusks (snails, slugs). Larvae take small aquatic animals (zooplankton), but larger individuals will take eggs and larvae of other amphibians, as well.

References[edit]

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: See Kraus (1988), Shaffer et al. (1991), and Jones et al. (1993) for phylogenetic analyses of North American AMBYSTOMA.

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© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

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