A medium-sized, black or dark brown salamander with a small head and mouth. The body, limbs, and tail may be mottled with small, irregular flecks of tan, grayish yellow, or gray. The belly is usually black, but small flecks may be present. There are 14 or 15 costal grooves (vertical grooves on the sides of the body).
Ambystomatidae (mole salamanders) in the order Caudata (salamanders)
Length: 4½–5½ inches.
Where To Find
Found throughout Missouri except for most of the Ozark Plateau.
Small-mouthed salamanders live under rocks, rotten logs, and piles of dead leaves, or in burrows in the soil. They live in a variety of habitats, including rocky hillsides, swamps, woodlands, prairies, river floodplains, and even farmlands. They sometimes live in mole burrows and crayfish burrows.
Earthworms, slugs, and insects.
Breeding occurs from late February to early April. Large numbers may congregate at a suitable breeding pond, slough, or flooded ditch. Eggs are laid in clumps in still water, on submerged leaves or twigs. Each female may deposit from 300 to more than 800 eggs. The eggs may take several weeks to hatch into gilled, pond-type larvae.
For most of us, finding a salamander is not an everyday occurrence. When we see an unusual animal, we tend to take pictures of it, post them on our social media pages, and try to find it in a field guide. There is an inherent pleasure in learning about the natural world.
As predators, small-mouthed salamanders help to limit populations of worms, slugs, and insects. As prey, they and their eggs and young feed a variety of snakes, mammals, and other creatures. Mole salamanders benefit from moles and other animals that dig burrows the salamanders later occupy.
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.