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Species Description

Mole Salamander

Ambystoma talpoideum


Species Image

Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Amphibia
Order: Caudata
Family: Ambystomatidae

Description

This salamander has a dark back that may be black, brown, or gray, and a lighter gray belly. The back is covered with bluish-white specks that make it appear dusty. 7 - 10 cm (3 - 4 in) This is a small, nondescript salamander with a stout body and limbs, and a short, stocky tail. Its head is large, and it has 10 or 11 costal grooves.

Life Cycle

Like other Ambystoma this is a winter-breeding salamander, cued to the rains of December through February. Fertilization is internal. Females attach small clumps of 10-50 eggs to submerged vegetation in shallow winter pools. Larvae transform into adults the following summer. This nocturnal salamander spends the majority of its time in a burrow or hidden beneath forest debris. It is an opportunistic feeder, hunting a variety of small invertebrates. The Mole Salamander is found in pine woodlands and bottomland forests where there is abundant debris on the forest floor. It requires loose soils for burrowing. Annually flooded wetlands are necessary for successful reproduction.

Range

Mole Salamander Region Map The Mole Salamander is common in the Coastal Plain, with a few isolated populations in northwest Georgia.

Conservation Status

Although it is seldom seen, this is a common salamander in Georgia. Tennessee lists this species as needing management, and the species is Of Special Concern in Virginia and North Carolina. The Mole Salamander has very irregular distributions in these states, a fact that has contributed to these listings. Coastal Plain wetlands must be preserved because the Mole Salamander requires shallow, heavily-vegetated, temporary pools for successful breeding. Soil disruption by machinery also affects this species.

Similar Species

Most other salamanders in Georgia have some obvious color patterns to distinguish them. Some Lungless Salamander (Family Plethodontidae) have the Mole Salamander's unexceptional coloration but their body form is much leaner, with thin legs and a small head.