Spotted Salamander Facts

Leave the Tail Behind: Facts About the Spotted Salamander

There are 500 species of salamanders, of which one is the spotted salamander. These salamanders are quite difficult to find, simply because of their secretive nature. They hide in crevices, logs, burrows, etc., during the day and come out only at night ...
Spotted salamanders are scientifically called Ambystoma maculatum, wherein Ambystoma stands for 'blunt mouth', while maculatum stands for 'spotted'. They happen to spend most of their time underground, hiding beneath logs, rocks, etc., except for feeding at night and in early spring when scores of them travel to breeding ponds for mating.
Spotted salamanders are currently widespread and found in large numbers in southeastern United States. They are also predominantly found in eastern Canadian regions as well, especially in the low lying forests near the floodplains.
Appearance ...
These are 6-7 inches long, large, bluish-black salamanders featuring bright yellow to orange spots scattered from the head to the tail. What's fascinating about them is that each one has a unique pattern of spots on its body. While most feature two rows of yellow-orange spots, others feature a random distribution of spots across the body. The underside of the salamander is mostly slate gray.
Feeding Habits ...
Spotted salamanders love to dwell near rivers and streams, however, remain underground most of the time, hiding in crevices and burrows made by other creatures. At night, these nocturnal amphibians come out in search of food. They snack on a variety of insects such as spiders, worms, millipedes, centipedes, slugs, etc. The tiny salamander larvae are found munching on beetle and mosquito larvae.
Self Defense ...
Snakes, crows, fish, muskrats, foxes, and even bears hunt for spotted salamanders. However, these spotted salamanders, like their salamander cousins secrete a milky, toxic substance from glands situated at the end of their tails. In case a predator gets hold of them, they lash their tail back and forth and release the toxin. If the toxin fails to salvage the salamander, the salamander detaches its tail and scurries away. The detached tail diverts the predator's attention, giving our salamander friend just enough time to rush to safety. Soon another tail will grow to replace the lost one.
Breeding...
The first rain in early spring is the signal for spotted salamanders to hit the breeding ponds. A female spotted salamander lays about 100 - 200 eggs on underwater vegetation. A jelly-like substance holds the eggs together and protects them from drying out until it is time for them to hatch.
Often algae are found colonizing these egg masses and it is believed that a symbiotic relationship exists between the eggs and the algae. The eggs receive essential oxygen required for embryonic development from the algae, while in return for the oxygen, the eggs provide a safe substrate for the algae to grow on.
Life Cycle ...
Adults return to their hiding places in the next few days, leaving the eggs to hatch in the pond. They come back the same time next year, to mate and breed. Salamander eggs hatch within 3-7 weeks after they have been laid. Tiny greenish-yellow or brownish-orange salamander larvae with tiny dark spots emerge out of the tiny eggs and begin scurrying their way in the water.
These larvae possess external gills that they use for breathing underwater. Since they need water for their survival, larvae salamanders live in ponds until they develop into adults. These larvae feed on larvae of other insects like beetles, mosquitoes, etc., for the next few months. By this time, the external gills disappear and young salamanders emerge. These juvenile salamanders then leave the water and begin hiding in logs, crevices, etc. A spotted salamander's average life span is about 20 - 30 years.
As of today, spotted salamanders are found in large numbers and are thankfully not endangered. However, habitat loss, pesticide use, etc., are also gradually affecting their population. Spotted salamanders are very sensitive to ecological changes, thus rising pollution levels will have drastic effects on these lovely creatures.