Natural Area Preservation

Spotted Salamander

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Ambystoma maculatum

Natural History
This brightly colored salamander can be locally abundant where forested habitat remains intact, but quickly declines or disappears when woodlands are cleared or disturbed by cutting or invasive species. Moist, closed canopy woodlands are preferred habitat. They tend to avoid swamp forests subject to flooding, and are absent in disturbed forests that have been recently grazed, burned, or harvested for timber. Temporary or semi-permanent ponds either within or adjacent to the woods are critical habitat elements. Spotted Salamanders spend most of their time in burrows underground – up to four feet below the surface.  They are occasionally found under or within rotting logs, leaf litter, and other moist places. Hibernation occurs on land, usually near breeding ponds. They have granular glands that produce secretions which can repel some predators.  Most glands are located behind the eyes and on the tail.

Reproduction and Growth
Migration to breeding ponds occurs in late May to mid-April, and is triggered by thawing of the ground and higher humidity.  This species returns to the same breeding ponds each year, and uses established routes when traveling to and from breeding ponds – even entering and leaving ponds at same point each time. Eggs are laid one to several days after sperm transfer. The female can lay 50-300 eggs in one large mass or several smaller clusters attached to sticks or vegetation, egg masses form a symbiotic relationship with some types of algae – algae provide larvae with additional oxygen, while benefiting from carbon dioxide released by embryos. 

Eggs hatch in 20-60 days and metamorphose in 60-90 days, although some larvae may over-winter. Females reach sexual maturity at 3-5 years old, while males reach maturity at 2-3 years old. They may live more than 20 years.

Their future depends on presence of undisturbed woodlands and associated temporary and semi-permanent ponds Any human activity that opens forest canopies (i.e. elective logging) can lower humidity creating unsuitable conditions Construction of roads running between wooded uplands and lowland breeding sites can lead to mass mortality of migratory salamanders. Sometimes collected for biological supply and the pet trade, persistent exploitation could threaten local populations. Acidic precipitation is another concern as eggs and larvae may be sensitive to pond acidification.

Habitat Type

  • Ephemeral wetlands.
  • Permanent wetlands.
  • Forests.

​​​​Natural Area Preservation
3875 E. Huron River Dr.
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

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Remy Long​
  Deputy Manager
Tina Stephens
  Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator
Becky Hand
  Stewardship Specialist
Michael Hahn
  Stewardship Specialist