Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum)
Order: Caudata, Family: Ambystomatidae
The tiger salamander is named for its striped pattern.
It is the world's largest land-dwelling salamander.
The tiger salamander ranges from 6 to 13 inches long and is stout with a broad head and rounded snout. It has small, rounded eyes, and its feet have tubercles.
It is brownish-olive in color with black and yellow spots or blotches. Its underside is usually yellow.
The male tiger salamander tends to be longer with a more compressed tail and longer, stalkier hind legs than the female.
Larvae have yellowish-green or olive bodies with dark blotches and a stripe along each side. Their bellies are white.
II. GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE AND HABITAT:
- The tiger salamander is named for its striped pattern.
- It is the world's largest land-dwelling salamander.
- The tiger salamander ranges from 6 to 13 inches long and is stout with a broad head and rounded snout. It has small, rounded eyes, and its feet have tubercles.
- It is brownish-olive in color with black and yellow spots or blotches. Its underside is usually yellow.
- The male tiger salamander tends to be longer with a more compressed tail and longer, stalkier hind legs than the female.
- Larvae have yellowish-green or olive bodies with dark blotches and a stripe along each side. Their bellies are white.
- The tiger salamander's range encompasses most of the United States (minus the Appalachians, New England and far western states), southern Canada and eastern Mexico. It is the most widespread salamander species in North America.
- It lives in sagebrush deserts, dry coniferous forests and watersides located as high as 8,000 feet.
IV. LIFE CYCLE/SOCIAL STRUCTURE:
- Carnivorous, the tiger salamander feeds at night on worms, insects, snails and sometimes other salamanders.
- Larvae eat small crustaceans and insect larvae.
V. SPECIAL NOTES/ADAPTATIONS:
- From February through August, tiger salamanders are largely nocturnal and stay in underground burrows. The burrows are located about 2 feet below the surface, affording an escape from the extreme temperatures on the surface.
- Tiger salamanders breed during March and April (when desert rains fall) in temporary pools, ponds without fish, or other places with limited predation.
- During courting, a male may push a female away from a potential mate. He may also duplicate the female's courting behavior and then move his body over the other male's spermatophore only to deposit his own.
- When a male encounters a female, he nudges her along the length of her body, swings his head, lifts her venter, then taps her tail with his as he steps away; she responds by using her snout to touch his cloaca.
- Egg laying occurs at night, usually 24 to 48 hours after insemination. Females deposit the eggs on twigs, grass stems and leaves; each mass can contain up to 100 eggs. A female tiger salamander produces between 100 and 1,000 eggs per season, and eggs hatch in approximately 2 weeks.
- To ward off predators, the adult tiger salamander assumes a defensive position by arching and spreading its rear legs, then raising and waving its tail back and forth.
- Tiger salamanders live for about 10 to 16 years.
VI. ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT:
- The tiger salamander's skin contains numerous granular glands that secrete mucus to prevent moisture loss; mucus also helps to maintain the salamander's body-fluid level, as amphibians can absorb moisture through their skin. Some salamanders also secrete a substance that is toxic or irritating to other animals.
- The tiger salamander requires moist skin to survive. If its skin dries out, the salamander's respiratory system (larvae have gills, while adults have lungs) will fail.
- In addition to secreting mucus, the granular glands may also help the salamander retain nutrients. These glands, which contain a protein substance, enlarge in times of food deprivation. The salamander's body perhaps uses the substance when other nutritional sources are scarce.
- Rather than hibernate when the weather turns cold, the salamander slows its body temperature so that it is closer to the ambient environment. In longer periods of subzero weather, the salamander can freeze if it does not move to a warmer area.
- Tiger salamanders do not drink but absorb water through their skin while sitting in puddles, in wet sand or mud, or by flattening body on dew-covered rocks.
VII. POPULATION STATUS:
- The tiger salamander is an efficient predator of some insect pests.
- Its eggs and larvae are preyed upon by fish, water birds, insects, frogs and other salamanders; adult tiger salamanders are hunted by snakes, mammals such as skunks, badgers and raccoons, and owls.
- Deforestation and loss of habitat, acid rain and the pollution of ponds all adversely affect the tiger salamander population. Many of these salamanders are also hit each year by cars.