Tiger salamander

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Tiger salamander
Salamandra Tigre.png
Several in captivity
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Amphibia
Order: Urodela
Family: Ambystomatidae
Genus: Ambystoma
A. tigrinum
Binomial name
Ambystoma tigrinum
Green, 1825

The tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) is a species of mole salamander and one of the largest terrestrial salamanders in North America [2] .



These salamanders usually grow to a length of 6–8 in (15–20 cm) with a lifespan of around 12-15 years. [3] They are characterized by having markings varying in color on the back of their head, body, and tail. [4] The coloring of these spots range from brownish yellow to greenish yellow, while the rest of their back is black or dark brown. [2] They have short snouts, thick necks, strong legs, and lengthy tails. [5] Their diet consists largely of small insects, frogs, and worms, although it is not rare for an adult to turn cannibalistic and consume its own kind [4] . Cannibalism in these salamanders can almost always be traced back to a large volume of competing predators and lack of prey in the area. [6]

Illinois citizens voted for the eastern tiger salamander as state amphibian in 2004, and the legislature enacted it in 2005. [7]


Tiger salamanders habitats range from woodlands crowded with conifer and deciduous trees to grassy open fields [2] . These amphibians are secretive creatures who spend most of their lives underground in burrows, making them difficult to spot [3] . One significant requirement these salamanders need to thrive is loose soil for burrowing. [8] Tiger salamanders are almost entirely terrestrial as adults, and usually only return to the water to breed. The ideal breeding condition for tiger salamanders ranges from wetlands, such as cattle ponds and vernal pools, to flooded swamps [4] . This species is most commonly found on the Atlantic coast from New York down to Florida. [9] They are known, however, to be the widest ranging species of salamander in North America and have been found in smaller populations from coast to coast [5] .


Like all ambystomatids, they are extremely loyal to their birthplaces, and will travel long distances to reach them. However, a single tiger salamander has only a 50% chance of breeding more than once in its lifetime. The tiger salamander's ideal breeding period is somewhere between the late winter and early spring, once the ground is warm enough and the water is thawed. [10] Males nudge a willing female to initiate mating, and then deposit a spermatophore on the lake bottom. About 48 hours after insemination, the female is ready to deposit her eggs in the breeding pool [10] . She carefully attaches the eggs to secure twigs, grass, and leaves at the bottom of the pool to ensure her eggs safety [11] . In about 12-15 days time, the eggs will be fully hatched and ready to mature in the pool [11] . It takes a tiger salamander approximately 3 months to reach full maturity and leave the breeding pool [11] . Large-scale captive breeding of tiger salamanders has not been accomplished, for unknown reasons.

Tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) Tiger Salamander-Florida.jpg
Tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum)
Life cycle Tiger salamander cycle.jpg
Life cycle

The larva is entirely aquatic, and is characterized by large external gills and a prominent caudal fin that originates just behind the head, similar to the Mexican axolotl. Limbs are fully developed within a short time of hatching. Some larvae, especially in seasonal pools and in the north, may metamorphose as soon as feasible. These are known as small morph adults. Other larvae, especially in ancestral pools and warmer climates, may not metamorphose until fully adult size. These large larvae are usually known as 'waterdogs', and are used extensively in the fishing bait and pet trades. Some populations may not metamorphose at all, and become sexually mature while in their larval form. These are the neotenes, and are particularly common where terrestrial conditions are poor.


Although immune themselves, tiger salamanders transmit Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis , which is a major worldwide threat to most frog species by causing the disease chytridiomycosis. [12] Tiger salamanders also carry ranaviruses, which infect reptiles, amphibians, and fish. Using tiger salamander larvae as fishing bait appears to be a major source of exposure and transport to wild populations. Severe mortality of tiger salamander larvae sometimes occurs from recurring ranavirus infections.

The California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense) (listed at Vulnerable), the barred tiger salamander (A. mavortium), and the plateau tiger salamander (A. velasci) were all once considered subspecies of A. tigrinum, but are now considered separate species. Genetic studies made it necessary to break up the original A. tigrinum population, though some hybridization between groups occurs.

The axolotl is also a relative of the tiger salamander. Axolotls live in a paedomorphic state, retaining most characteristics of their larval stage for their entire lifespans. While they never metamorphose under natural conditions, metamorphosis can be induced in them, resulting in a form very similar to the plateau tiger salamander. This is not, however, their natural condition, and dramatically shortens their lifespan.

Related Research Articles

Salamander Order of amphibians (Urodela)

Salamanders are a group of amphibians typically characterized by a lizard-like appearance, with slender bodies, blunt snouts, short limbs projecting at right angles to the body, and the presence of a tail in both larvae and adults. All present-day salamander families are grouped together under the order Urodela. Salamander diversity is highest in the Northern Hemisphere and most species are found in the Holarctic realm, with some species present in the Neotropical realm.

Axolotl Species of salamander (Ambystoma mexicanum)

The axolotl, Ambystoma mexicanum, also known as the Mexican walking fish, is a neotenic salamander related to the tiger salamander. Although the axolotl is colloquially known as a "walking fish", it is not a fish, but an amphibian. The species was originally found in several lakes, such as Lake Xochimilco underlying Mexico City. Axolotls are unusual among amphibians in that they reach adulthood without undergoing metamorphosis. Instead of developing lungs and taking to the land, adults remain aquatic and gilled.

Mole salamander genus of amphibians

The mole salamanders are a group of advanced salamanders endemic to North America. The group has become famous due to the presence of the axolotl, widely used in research due to its paedomorphosis, and the tiger salamander which is the official amphibian of many states, and often sold as a pet.

Spotted salamander Species of amphibian

The spotted salamander or yellow-spotted salamander is a mole salamander common in eastern United States and Canada. The spotted salamander is the state amphibian of Ohio and South Carolina. This salamander ranges from Nova Scotia, to Lake Superior, to southern Georgia and Texas. Its embryos have been found to have symbiotic algae living inside them, the only known example of vertebrate cells hosting an endosymbiont microbe.

California tiger salamander species of amphibian

The California tiger salamander is a vulnerable amphibian native to California. It is a mole salamander. Previously considered to be a subspecies of the tiger salamander, the California tiger salamander was recently designated a separate species again. The California tiger salamander distinct population segment (DPS) in Sonoma County and the Santa Barbara County DPS are listed as federally endangered, while the Central California DPS is listed as federally threatened. The Sonoma County, south San Joaquin, and the Santa Barbara County DPS have diverged from the rest of the California tiger salamander populations for over one million years, since the Pleistocene and they may warrant status as separate species.

Vernal pool Seasonal pools of water that provide habitat for distinctive plants and animals

Vernal pools, also called vernal ponds or ephemeral pools, are seasonal pools of water that provide habitat for distinctive plants and animals. They are considered to be a distinctive type of wetland usually devoid of fish, and thus allow the safe development of natal amphibian and insect species unable to withstand competition or predation by fish. Certain tropical fish lineages have however adapted to this habitat specifically.

Jefferson salamander species of amphibian

The Jefferson salamander is a mole salamander native to the northeastern United States, southern and central Ontario, and southwestern Quebec. It was named after Jefferson College in Pennsylvania.

Blue-spotted salamander species of amphibian

The blue-spotted salamander is a mole salamander native to the Great Lakes states and northeastern United States, and parts of Ontario and Quebec in Canada. Their range is known to extend to James Bay to the north, and southeastern Manitoba to the west.

Northwestern salamander species of amphibian

The northwestern salamander is a species of mole salamander that inhabits the northwest Pacific coast of North America. These fairly large salamanders grow to 8.7 in (220 mm) in length. It is found from southeastern Alaska on May Island, through Washington and Oregon south to the mouth of the Gulala River, Sonoma County, California. It occurs from sea level to the timberline, but not east of the Cascade Divide. Its range includes Vancouver Island in British Columbia and The San Juan Islands, Cypress, Whidbey, Bainbridge, and Vashon Islands in Washington.

Mabees salamander species of amphibian

Mabee's salamander is a species of mole salamander found in tupelo and cypress bottoms in pinewoods, open fields, and lowland deciduous forests, pine savannahs, low wet woods, and swamps. It usually burrows near breeding ponds. Eggs are attached to submerged plant material or bottom debris of acidic, fishless ponds in or near pine stands. In Virginia, it breeds in fish-free vernal pond in a large clear-cut area and in ephemeral sinkhole ponds up to 1.5 m deep, within bottomland hardwood forest mixed with pine. Larvae develop in the ponds. Distances moved into terrestrial habitat are unknown, but probably are greater than 150 metres (490 ft).

Long-toed salamander species of amphibian

The long-toed salamander is a mole salamander in the family Ambystomatidae. This species, typically 4.1–8.9 cm (1.6–3.5 in) long when mature, is characterized by its mottled black, brown, and yellow pigmentation, and its long outer fourth toe on the hind limbs. Analysis of fossil records, genetics, and biogeography suggest A. macrodactylum and A. laterale are descended from a common ancestor that gained access to the western Cordillera with the loss of the mid-continental seaway toward the Paleocene.

Santa Cruz long-toed salamander subspecies of amphibian

The Santa Cruz long-toed salamander is an endangered subspecies of the long-toed salamander, which is found only close to a few isolated ponds in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties in California. It has a black body, broken yellow or orange irregular striping along its spine, and a tail fin well evolved for swimming. Like other mole salamanders, it is found near pools or slow-moving streams and has a very secretive lifestyle, making it difficult to find.

Marbled salamander species of amphibian

The marbled salamander is a species of mole salamander found in the eastern United States.

The Puerto Hondo stream salamander or Michoacan stream salamander, Ambystoma ordinarium, is a mole salamander from the Cordillera Volcánica within the Mexican state of Michoacán.

Boreal chorus frog species of amphibian

The boreal chorus frog is a species of chorus frog native to Canada from central Quebec to eastern British Columbia and north to the Northwest Territories and the southern portion of the Yukon Territory. It occurs in the USA throughout Montana, northwestern Wisconsin, northeastern Arizona, northern New Mexico, and southwestern Utah.

Small-mouth salamander species of salamander

The small-mouth salamander is a species of mole salamander found in the central United States, from the Great Lakes region in Michigan to Nebraska, south to Texas, and east to Tennessee, with a population in Canada, in Pelee, Ontario. It is sometimes referred to as the Texas salamander, porphyry salamander, or the narrow-mouthed salamander. The Kelley's Island salamander was synonymized with A. texanum in 1995.

<i>Ambystoma talpoideum</i> species of amphibian

Ambystoma talpoideum, the mole salamander, is a species of salamander found in much of the eastern and central United States, from Florida to Texas, north to Illinois, east to Kentucky, with isolated populations in Virginia and Indiana. Older sources often refer to this species as the tadpole salamander because some individuals remain in a neotenic state. This salamander lives among the leaf litter on the forest floor, migrating to ponds to breed.

Barred tiger salamander species of amphibian

The barred tiger salamander or western tiger salamander is a species of mole salamander found from southwestern Canada in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, south through the western United States to Texas and northern Mexico.

Sacramento Mountain salamander species of amphibian

The Sacramento Mountain salamander is a species of salamander in the family Plethodontidae. It is endemic to mountainous regions of New Mexico in the United States. Its natural habitat is temperate forests where it is threatened by habitat loss.

Golden toad extinct toad

The golden toad is an extinct species of true toad that was once abundant in a small, high-altitude region of about 4 square kilometres (1.5 sq mi) in an area north of the city of Monteverde, Costa Rica. It was endemic to elfin cloud forest. Also called the Monte Verde toad, Alajuela toad and orange toad, it is commonly considered the "poster child" for the amphibian decline crisis. This toad was first described in 1966 by herpetologist Jay Savage. The last sighting of a single male golden toad was on 15 May 1989, and it has since been classified as extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).


  1. IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group (2015). "Ambystoma tigrinum (errata version published in 2016)". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species . 2015: e.T83293207A105179324. doi: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2015-4.RLTS.T83293207A3076038.en .CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link){{cite iucn}}: error: |doi= / |page= mismatch (help)
  2. 1 2 3 Smith, Hobart M. (Hobart Muir), 1912-2013. (1978). Amphibians of North America : a guide to field identification. New York: Golden Press. ISBN   978-0-307-63662-1. OCLC   4875093.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. 1 2 "Tiger Salamander". National Wildlife Federation. Retrieved 2019-11-29.
  4. 1 2 3 Niemiller and Reynolds, Matthew L. and R. Graham (2011). The Amphibians of Tennessee. Knoxville, Tennessee: The University of Tennessee Press/ Knoxville. pp. 88, 89, 90. ISBN   978-1-57233-762-6.
  5. 1 2 "Tiger Salamander | National Geographic". Animals. 2010-09-10. Retrieved 2019-11-29.
  6. McKlean, K.I. (January 2016). "Cannibalistic-morph Tiger Salamanders in Unexpected Ecological Contexts". American Midland Naturalist. no.1: 64–65 via EBSCOhost.
  7. "State Symbols". Illinois.gov. Retrieved 2019-05-20.
  8. Wentz, Alissa. "Ambystoma tigrinum (Eastern Tiger Salamander)". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved 2019-12-04.
  9. "Tiger Salamanders". amphibianfoundation.org. Retrieved 2019-12-03.
  10. 1 2 Wentz, Alissa. "Ambystoma tigrinum (Eastern Tiger Salamander)". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved 2019-12-04.
  11. 1 2 3 "Eastern Tiger Salamander | Chesapeake Bay Program". www.chesapeakebay.net. Retrieved 2019-12-04.
  12. Verbrugghe, Rooij, Favoreel, Martel, and Pasmans, Elin, Pascale Van, Herman, An, and Frank (November 2019). "In Vitro Modeling of Batrachochytrium Dendrobatidis Infection of the Amphibian Skin". PLoS ONE. 14: 1–3 via EBSCOhost.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)