Marbled Salamander

Ambystoma opacum
Marbled Salamander

NPS Photo

Family: Ambystomatidae

Ambystoma opacum

Marbled Salamander

Size: 9 to 12.7 cm long (3 ½" to 5")

General Description: Stocky body, dark gray to black with white or silvery crossbands on back. Cross bands may be irregular, incomplete, encircling dark spots or run together. On rare occasion there may be a light mid-dorsal stripe or stripe parallel to the mid-dorsal line. Black belly. Juveniles are dark gray to brown in color with light flecks and typically 4.4 to 7.1 cm (1 ¾ to 2 ¾ "). Males are brighter than females. 11 to 12 Costal grooves. Larvae have bushy gills, dorsal fins that may extend almost as forward as the front limbs and are drab or blackish in color, sometimes developing mottling and lighter yellowish green tints as they age. Newly transformed juveniles tend to be brown or blackish with light colored flecks that start developing into the adult pattern within a couple months. Uses habitats close to water or wetlands.

Similar Species: Ringed and Flatwoods Salamanders, A. annulatum and A. cingulatum respectively, have narrower crossbands or rings and more slender bodies.

Reproduction: Breeds October to December in South and September to October in North.

Habitat: Woodlands and hillsides ranging from low swampy areas to relatively dry in moisture content.

Behavior: Female deposits her eggs in a shallow depression and will guard them until they hatch when the depression fills with water from a good rain. Hatching is induced by hypoxia, typically when water covers the eggs, reducing the amount of oxygen available and causing the embryo to release enzymes that dissolve the egg capsule and release the hatchling. Larvae may eat other tadpoles or larvae of the same or different species in ponds where density is high. Adults will secrete a milky substance to repel predators when molested. Defensive posturing includes lowering the head, pushing up the tail and hind quarters with the rear limbs, and lashing with the tail at predators or attackers.

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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