eastern tiger salamander

(Ambystoma tigrinum)

Conservation Status
eastern tiger salamander
Photo by Bill Reynolds
  IUCN Red List

LC - Least Concern

     
  NatureServe

N5 - Secure

S5 - Secure

     
  Minnesota

not listed

     
           
           
           
           
 
Description
 
 

Eastern tiger salamander is a large, terrestrial, mole salamander. It is the largest terrestrial salamander in Minnesota. Only the mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus), an aquatic salamander, is larger. Adults are usually 6¾ to 8 in length but they can be much larger. In 1994 one was found in Minnesota that was 13¾ long. Males tend to be larger than females.

The body is stout with four well-developed limbs that project sidewards. The trunk is cylindrical. There are 11 to 14 prominent vertical depressions (costal grooves) between the forelimbs and the ventral area. The skin is soft, moist, and black with dull yellow, irregularly sized and spaced blotches. The belly is black with yellow splotches. The color pattern is highly variable and may be geographically distinct. Juveniles are mostly black with small yellow spots. As the salamander ages, the spots usually become larger and fuse together, increasingly obscuring the black background. The tail is long and tapered.

The head is large, short and wide with a broad, rounded snout. The lower lip and throat are usually yellow. The eyes are small, round, and protruding.

The legs are short and stout, with broad feet. The hind legs have five toes. The fore legs have four toes. The toes are short, broad at the base, and tapered to the tip.

The larvae have a paler background color, dark splotches, dark lateral stripes, and a whitish belly. They have long, filamentous, external gills and a wide tail fin (caudal fin) that extends from just behind the head on the upper side to the ventral area on the underside, wrapping around the tail.

 
     
 

Size

 
 

6¾ to 8

 
     
 

Similar Species

 
  Spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) background color is gray. The spots are more regularly rounded and occur in two irregular rows. The spots on the head may be orange. The belly is gray with no spots. It has been recorded only in Pine and Carlton Counties.  
     
 
Habitat
 
 

Prairies, agricultural fields, woodlands, and residential areas, all near permanent or semi-permanent bodies of water.

 
     
 
Biology
 
 

Behavior

 
 

Eastern tiger salamander, like all salamanders, is rarely encountered. It spends the day in a burrow, usually one that it has dug itself, sometimes in one dug by rodent, shrew, or other animal. The burrow may be up to 40 deep. The salamander comes out at night to feed. It is sometimes encountered by humans in window wells and damp basements. It is sometimes seen aboveground at night during and after a rainfall, moving to or from a breeding pond, during the spring breeding and migration season.

The skin exudes a milky, unpleasant tasting liquid in response to a predator.

 
     
 

Lifespan

 
 

16 years

 
     
 

Life Cycle

 
 

Breeding takes place in the early spring, often before the ice has cleared from the surface of the pond. Adults migrate up to about 330 yards to a pond or other suitable body of water.

To initiate breeding, the male will nudge a female to separate it from other salamanders. It then deposits a sperm capsule on the pond bottom, the female picks up the sperm capsule, and the process is repeated. At night, usually 24 to 48 hours after fertilization, the female lays fragile masses of up to 100 eggs and attaches them to twigs, grass stems, and decayed leaves on the bottom of the pond. She may lay up to 1,000 eggs.

The eggs hatch in 2 to 5 weeks, depending on the temperature. Larvae may metamorphose into sexually mature adults in their first or second summer, or they may become sexually mature without metamorphosis. The sexually mature, non-metamorphosed adult is known as a waterdog.

Adults overwinter in burrows or under logs or other debris. Their lifespan is about 16 years in the wild, up to 25 years in captivity.

 
     
 

Tadpole Food

 
 

Small crustaceans and insect larvae, when young; also other salamander and small fish when older. Some are also cannibalistic, feeding on other salamander larvae.

 
     
 

Adult Food

 
 

Earthworms, insects, snails, and slugs, and any other small animal that can be captured and swallowed.

 
     
 
Distribution
 
 

Distribution Map

 

Sources

11, 14, 24, 29, 29, 73.

The map at left includes records from before 1960. There are no records of this species in the arrowhead region after 1960.

 
  9/29/2015      
         
 

Occurrence

 
 

Common and widespread

 
         
 
Taxonomy
 
  Class Amphibia (amphibians)  
  Superorder Batrachia (amphibians)  
  Order Caudata (salamanders)  
  No Rank Urodela  
  Suborder Salamandroidea  
 

Family

Ambystomatidae (mole salamanders)  
 

Genus

Ambystoma (mole salamanders)  
       
 

There is disagreement among taxonomists about the use of the names Caudata and Urodela. The crown group includes the extant (still living) species, the most recent common ancestor of the extant species, and all descendants of that ancestor. The pan group or total group is the crown group plus all extant organisms most closely related to it. Some taxonomists use Caudata for the crown group and Urodela for the pan group. Most use Urodela for the crown group and Caudata for the pan group. That is the ranking followed here.

 
       
 

Subordinate Taxa

 
 

Until recently, there were eight subspecies recognized. Three were raised to full species; California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense); barred tiger slamander (Ambystoma mavortium); and plateau tiger salamander (Ambystoma velasci). Five others were placed as subspecies of barred tiger slamander: Arizona tiger salamander (A. m. nebulosum), barred tiger salamander (A. m. mavortium); blotched tiger salamander (A. m. melanostictum); gray tiger salamander (A. m. diaboli); and Sonoran tiger salamander (A. m. stebbinsi). There are currently no subspecies of eastern tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) recognized.

 
       
 

Synonyms

 
 

Ambystoma tigrinum tigrinum

Salamandra tigrina

 
       
 

Common Names

 
 

eastern tiger salamander

tiger salamander

 
       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glossary

Costal groove

On salamanders: vertical grooves along the side of a salamander between the forelegs and the groin, each corresponding to the space between ribs, that aid in keeping the skin moist by transporting water over the surface of the body.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
Visitor Photos
 
           
 

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Molly and Robert Power

 
 

Not sure what type of salamander this is, but we were surprised to see it crossing our driveway!

 
    eastern tiger salamander      
 

Luciearl

 
 

Stopped to help this little one cross a busy road.

 
    eastern tiger salamander      
 

Anna

 
 

Found this cutie walking on the gravel road outside of sleepy eye!

 
    eastern tiger salamander      
 

Julie

 
 

Not sure if this is a tiger salamander. Found it walking across a dirt road late morning.

 
    eastern tiger salamander   eastern tiger salamander  
 

Bill Reynolds

 
    eastern tiger salamander      
           
 
MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos
 
 

 

 
           
           

 

Camera

     
 
Slideshows
 
Ambystoma tigrinum (Tiger Salamander)
Allen Chartier
  Ambystoma tigrinum (Tiger Salamander)  
Ambystoma tigrinum (Eastern Tiger Salamander)
John Clare
  Ambystoma tigrinum (Eastern Tiger Salamander)  
     

 

slideshow

       
 
Visitor Videos
 
       
 

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Other Videos
 
  Eastern Tiger Salamander (Ambystomatidae: Ambystoma tigrinum tigrinum) with Excavation
Carl Barrentine
 
   
 
About

Uploaded on Sep 13, 2011

This specimen was found excavating a burrow beneath some moss in a grassy area. Photographed at Fisher, Minnesota (12 September 2011).

   
  Tiger Salamander Larva (Ambystomatidae: Ambystoma tigrinum) Close-up
Carl Barrentine
 
   
 
About

Uploaded on Jul 7, 2010

"Without reverence, we cannot explain why we should treat the natural world with respect." --Paul Woodruff Photographed at the Glacial Ridge NWR, Minnesota (07 July 2010).

   
       

 

Camcorder

 
 
Visitor Sightings
 
           
 

Report a sighting of this amphibian.

 
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Simply email us at info@MinnesotaSeasons.com.
Be sure to include a location.
 
  Anna
9/25/2019

Location: Sleepy Eye, Minnesota

Found this cutie walking on the gravel road outside of sleepy eye!

eastern tiger salamander

 
  Pelon
9/10/2019

Location: Garfield, Mn

Every year seems to meet one around this area...fun to watch with kidoz...

 
  Julie
10/19/2018

Location: Wadena County

Not sure if this is a tiger salamander. Found it walking across a dirt road late morning.

eastern tiger salamander

 
  Molly and Robert Power
11/14/2017

Location: Albany MN

eastern tiger salamander

 
  JoDawn
8/17/2017

Location: Cass County, MN

Found in a fold of black plastic that I had spread on my garden area. Moved it to a marshy area a few hundred feet from where I found it. Approximately 6" long. Did not get photo.

 
  Luciearl
10/22/2015

Location: Crow Wing County

Stopped to help this little one cross a busy road.

eastern tiger salamander

 
  Bill Reynolds
6/21/2010

Location: Pennington Co., MN

eastern tiger salamander

 
           
 
MinnesotaSeasons.com Sightings
 
 

 

 

 

 

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