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Spotted Salamander

Ambystoma maculatum

Photo: A spotted salamander among stones and pebbles

Photo: A spotted salamander among stones and pebbles (View larger version)

Photograph by George Grall

Published

Despite being fairly large and having an extremely broad range, the spotted salamander is actually pretty hard to, well, spot.

They can reach 9 inches (23 centimeters) in length and are prevalent in mature deciduous forests from eastern Canada throughout the eastern and midwestern United States. But these secretive salamanders spend almost their entire lives hidden under rocks or logs or in the burrows of other forest animals.

They will populate upland forests and mountainous regions, but are most common in moist, low-lying forests near floodplains.

They emerge from their subterranean hiding spots only at night to feed and during spring mating. They will actually travel long distances over land after a heavy rain to mate and lay their eggs in vernal pools and ponds.

Visually striking, these stout salamanders are bluish-black with two irregular rows of yellow or orange spots extending from head to tail. Like many other salamanders, they secrete a noxious, milky toxin from glands on their backs and tails to dissuade predators. Their diet includes insects, worms, slugs, spiders, and millipedes.

Spotted salamanders' numbers are generally stable throughout their range, but they are very sensitive to changes in their ecology, and rising water acidity in certain habitats is negatively affecting their population. The pet trade and habitat loss also take a toll.

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