Tiger salamanders (Ambystoma tigrinum) are large land-dwelling salamander that live in deep burrows near ponds and are one of the few salamanders that can survive in desert-like climates. They range in size from about 8.5 inches to 12 inches in length and outside of their breeding season are hardly seen. Tiger salamanders range in color, but are usually brown (sometimes they are greenish or gray) and have yellow stripes, spots or splotches. They are primary nocturnal, hunting at night for insects, frogs, worms and sometimes they even other salamanders. Tiger salamanders range throughout most of the United States, southern Canada and eastern Mexico. They can live between 10-15 years in the wild.
An interesting trait of the tiger salamander is known as "neotony." Some populations of tiger salamanders, especially those in the western United States at higher altitudes (like the ones here at El Morro) are "neotonic." This means that even though the salamanders become sexually mature and can reproduce, they otherwise remain in their larval form and retain their gills (they don't go through a metamorphosis and develop lungs). Neotonic tiger salamanders are usually larger that normal terrestrial adults and can reach 15 inches in length.
Did You Know?
Early Spanish travelers called the questa El Morro, which is Spanish for the headland or the bluff. Subsequent American travelers referred to El Morro as Inscription Rock, but when it came to naming the National Monument in 1906, the earlier Spanish name persevered.