The small-mouthed salamander is dark brown to black on top with grey to greyish yellow patches. Its belly is black. This species can grow to over 15 centimetres in length, including the long tail.
The mottled appearance of this species is somewhat similar to the related Jefferson salamander complex, but the small-mouthed salamander lacks the bluish flecks and also has a proportionally smaller head. Hybrids of small-mouthed and Jefferson complex salamanders have been recorded and are difficult to distinguish. The small-mouthed salamander also hybridizes with the spotted salamander.
This salamander is found in a variety of habitat types ranging from deciduous bottomlands to moist pine forests. As adults, small-mouthed salamanders typically live in the leaf litter on the forest floor but can sometimes be found near temporary ponds or along streams. These salamanders spend the vast majority of their time underground or under rocks, leaves and rotting logs.
To view an interactive map of the known ranges of small-mouthed salamanders in Ontario, click here.
The small-mouthed salamander breeds in the early spring in streams, ponds and even ditches. One female can lay up to 700 eggs, which are attached to submerged vegetation or the underside of rocks. The larvae are just over one centimetre in length when they hatch, and they transform into salamanders by midsummer. Small-mouthed salamanders sometimes interbreed with the spotted salamander where their distributions overlap, and the young produced are fertile.
Outside of the breeding season, adult small-mouthed salamanders are terrestrial carnivores and eat a variety of invertebrates, especially earthworms. When threatened, this salamander will raise and wave its tail. This behaviour presumably distracts a predator toward the tail rather than the rest of the animal.
Other names: Ambystoma nothagenes, Salamandra texana, smallmouth salamander
Threats and Trends
The small-mouthed salamander is at the northern limit of its range on Pelee Island, where it has declined as a result of habitat loss and degradation. Even modest human disturbance or natural catastrophes can have a severe negative effect on species whose populations are small and localized.
Current Status and Protection
The small-mouthed salamander is currently listed as Endangered under the Ontario Endangered Species Act, 2007 and Endangered under the federal Species at Risk Act. The species has also been designated as a Specially Protected Amphibian under the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. These acts offer protection to individuals and their habitat. The habitat of this species is further protected in Ontario by the Provincial Policy Statement under the Planning Act. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the global status of the small-mouthed salamander as Least Concern. The species’ status was last confirmed in January 2010. Additional detail about legal protection for species at risk in Ontario is available on our Legal Protection page.
Learn more about reptile and amphibian conservation and what you can do to help these species on our Reptile and Amphibian Stewardship page.