Spotted Salamander
Ambystoma maculatum

Common Name:

Spotted Salamander

Scientific Name:

Ambystoma maculatum



Amby is Greek for "a cup", stoma is Greek for "a mouth"


maculatum is Latin for "spot" or "spotted"

Average Length:

4.4 - 7.8 in. (11.2 - 19.7 cm)

Virginia Record Length:

Record length:

9.8 in. (24.8 cm)

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: This species possesses a dorso-lateral series of rounded yellow or orange spots. The sides are dark gray or slate and the belly pale slate without spots or blotches. There are usually 12 costal grooves and the tongue has plicae radiating from the posterior field. The length of this species is up to 206 mm. The males are slightly slimmer than the females and in the breeding season they may be recognized by the protuberant vent. The females at this season have the ventral surfaces paler *850*.

REPRODUCTION: With first warm rains they breed in pools with egg masses up to 200. The eggs hatch in 30 to 55 days. During the summer and winter, adults live underground and in early spring they migrate at night to small woodland ponds to breed *854*. The critical environmental factors affecting the timing of migration appear to be temperatures above freezing in conjunction with moisture provided either by snow or rain *998,870,990*. Most of them arrive at a pond on a very few successive night or on each of a few nights separated by periods of no migration. Courtship occurs immediately upon arrival usually in shallow water near the pond's margin *854*. The courtship behavior involves elaborate rubbing movements directed towards stimulating the female to the point where she will pick up a spermatophore. It is frequently a mass court- ship involving hundreds of individuals. The males randomly rub females on both the dorsal and ventral surfaces. The females often nose and rub the males and during the height of activity, the male begins to deposit spermatophores on the bottom of the pond. He will deposit them in groups with or without an attendant female. The stimulated female may pick up a spermatophore dropped by the male who is courting her at the moment, or she may take another close by which had been deposited earlier *1009*. The female begins laying eggs a few days after migration begins. The egg masses are attached to submerged stems in the deeper portions of the pond *854*. 50% of the population arrives at the pond in the first 5 nights of migration *927*. It has been guessed that 50% of the population will have completed their courtship activities in the first 7-10 days of the courtship season, and that courtship in nearly the entire popula- tion will have been completed within 2-3 weeks. The adults then disperse from the pond and resume their fossorial lives. The larvae hatch a few weeks after oviposition and transform after a period of 57-144 days *991*. Several factors act in connection to promote extreme sexual competition among females. These factors promote sexual competition because each male is capable of inseminating more than 1 female simultaneously. Each female can effectively be inseminated by just one male. Sexual females are crowded in both time and space which increases the opportunity for sexual interference. Several males are usually found courting a female simultaneously. A third of the spermatophores are deposited on top of other spermatophores *854*. The females lay large globular egg masses attached to branches of plants or debris *976*. The number of eggs per mass varies from 12-250. The average is 125 and the total complement may be deposited in half a dozen masses or limited to 1 or 2 large ones. The incubation varies from 31-54 days, depending on the temperature of the water *850*. The adults require both moisture and a temperature of 12.8 C to trigger its spring breeding migation *857*.

BEHAVIOR: This species is most abundant in areas of deciduous and mixed forests where ponds, slow streams, or temporary ponds offer suitable breeding places *850,1014*. During the nonbreeding season, adults live underground and migrate to the breeding areas in the spring *854*. They tend to use the same pathway when approaching and leaving breeding ponds *862,972*.

ORIGIN:> This species is native *3304*.

References for Life History

  • 850 - Anderson, J.D., 1961, The courtship behavior of Ambystoma macrodactylum croceum, Copeia, Vol. 1961, pg. 132-139
  • 854 - Arnold, S.J., 1976, Sexual behavior, sexual interference, and sexual defense in the salamanders Ambystoma maculatum, Ambystoma tigrinum, and Plethodon jordoni, Z. Tierpsychol., Vol. 42, pg. 247-300
  • 857 - Baldauf, R.J., 1952, Climatic factors influencing the breeding migration of the spotted salamander, Ambystoma maculatum, Copeia, Vol. 1952, pg. 179-181
  • 862 - Barthalmus, G.T., E.D. Bellis, 1969, Homing in on the northern dusky salamander, Desmognathus fuscus fuscus (Rafinesque), Copeia, Vol. 1969, pg. 148-153
  • 870 - Blanchard, F.N., 1930, The stimulus to the breeding migration of the spotted salamander, Ambystoma maculatum (Shaw), Am. Nat., Vol. 64, pg. 154-167
  • 927 - Husting, E.L., 1965, Survival and breeding structure in a population of Ambystoma maculatum, Copeia, Vol. 1965, pg. 352-362
  • 972 - Smith, P.W., 1961, The amphibians and reptiles of Illinois , Illinois Nat. Hist. Surv. Bull., Vol. 28, Num. 1, pg. 1-298
  • 976 - Stille, W.T., 1957, The egg-laying habits of the salamander Ambystoma jeffersonianum, Copeia, Vol. 1957, pg. 141-142
  • 990 - Whitford, W.G., Vinegar, A., 1966, Homing, survivorship, and overwintering of larvae in spotted salamanders, Ambystoma maculatum, Copeia, Vol. 1966, pg. 515-519
  • 991 - Wilbur, H.M., J.P. Collins, 1973, Ecological aspects of amphibian metamorphosis, Science, Vol. 182, pg. 1305-1314
  • 998 - Wright, A. H., Allen, A. A., 1909, Early breeding habits of Ambystoma punctatum, Am. Nat., Vol. 43, pg. 687-692
  • 1009 - Bishop, S.C., 1943, Handbook of Salamanders, 555 pgs., Comstock Publ. Co., New York, NY
  • 1014 - Martof, B.S., Palmer, W.M., Bailey, J.R., Harrison, III J.R., 1980, Amphibians and Reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia, 264 pgs., UNC Press, Chapel Hill, NC
  • 3304 - Anderson, J.D., 1967, Ambystoma maculatum., Cat. Amer. Amphib. Rept., Vol. 51, pg. 51-1-51-4


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