Marbled Salamander

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A black salamander with dark silver bands on its tail walks on a concrete pad.
Scientific Name
Ambystoma opacum
Family
Ambystomatidae (mole salamanders) in the order Caudata (salamanders)
Description

A small, stout salamander with silvery or white saddle-shaped marks on its body from head to tail. These crossbands vary in shape and also in color, from silver-white to gray. The back is generally shiny jet black while the belly is plain black. Adult males have white or silver crossbands; adult females have dull gray crossbands. There may be 11 or 12 riblike grooves on the side.

Size

Length: 3½–4½ inches.

Where To Find
Marbled Salamander Distribution Map

Mississippi Lowlands, the Ozark Plateau and the forested river hills of the Missouri River in eastern Missouri. Also an isolated report from St. Clair County.

This secretive salamander spends most of its time under rocks, logs or forest debris, preferring forested areas. It may also occur in open sandy woods and on rocky dry hillsides. This and many other amphibians require small, fishless, woodland ponds for reproduction. Ponds and pools with a gentle sloping bank are especially important for this species. Their breeding habitat can be enhanced by a providing logs along the edge of the water for egg-laying niches.

Probably consists of insects, worms, slugs and other invertebrates found under rocks or logs.

Locally common.

Life Cycle

In this species, breeding takes place in the autumn, and on land, near fishless, woodland ponds or swamps. Fertilization is internal, and each female may lay 50–200 eggs, usually in small depressions under logs, in leaf litter or under vegetation at the edge of the water. The female stays with the eggs until autumn rains cause the pond water to rise over the eggs. The larvae hatch and develop in the water, and metamorphosis takes place the following summer.

These salamanders are seldom encountered except during the autumn breeding season as they move toward ponds. When an animal isn’t seen very often, it becomes a genuine treat to discover in the wild.

Like other mole salamanders, marbled salamanders are predators of smaller creatures, but though they are voracious predators of insects, worms and slugs, they, along with their eggs and juvenile forms, provide food for many other hungry animals.

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About Reptiles and Amphibians in Missouri
Missouri’s herptiles comprise 43 amphibians and 75 reptiles. Amphibians, including salamanders, toads, and frogs, are vertebrate animals that spend at least part of their life cycle in water. They usually have moist skin, lack scales or claws, and are ectothermal (cold-blooded), so they do not produce their own body heat the way birds and mammals do. Reptiles, including turtles, lizards, and snakes, are also vertebrates, and most are ectothermal, but unlike amphibians, reptiles have dry skin with scales, the ones with legs have claws, and they do not have to live part of their lives in water.