Blotched Tiger Salamander

A pair of blotched tiger salamanders in dirt.

The blotched tiger salamander is the only salamander in Yellowstone.

NPS/Arnold

 

Scientific Name

Ambystoma tigrinum melanostictum

Identification

  • The only salamander in Yellowstone.
  • Adults range up to about 9 inches, including the tail.
  • Head is broad, with a wide mouth.
  • Color ranges from light olive or brown to nearly black, often with yellow blotches or streaks on back and sides; belly is dull lemon yellow with irregular black spots.
  • Larvae, which are aquatic, have a uniform color and large feathery gills behind the head; they can reach sizes comparable to adults but are considerably heavier.

Habitat

  • Breeds in ponds and fishless lakes.
  • Widespread in Yellowstone in a great variety of habitats, with sizable populations in Lamar Valley.

Behavior

  • Adult salamanders come out from hibernation in late April to June, depending on elevation and migrate to breeding ponds where they lay their eggs.
  • Mass migrations of salamanders crossing roads are sometimes encountered, particularly during or after rain.
  • After migration, return to their moist homes under rocks and logs and in burrows.
  • Feed on adult insects, insect nymphs and larvae, small aquatic invertebrates, frogs, tadpoles, and even small vertebrates.
  • Preyed upon by a wide variety of animals, including mammals, fish, snakes, and birds such as sandhill cranes and great blue herons.
 

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