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Spotted Salamander

Ambystoma maculatum

 

Spotted salamander © Scott Gillingwater

Characteristics

This large, blue-black salamander has large yellow or orange spots. It can grow to well over 20 centimetres in length.

Spotted salamander © Joe Crowley

Similar Species

The blue-spotted and Jefferson’s salamanders, as well as their hybrids, are similar in shape and size to the spotted salamander, but their spots are blue rather than yellow or orange.

Habitat

Deciduous or mixed forests and hillsides around ponds are the preferred habitat of the spotted salamander. It breeds in shallow, temporary wetlands that are free of fish. Outside of the breeding season, spotted salamanders live underground in burrows or under logs. On rainy nights, they may be found foraging on the forest floor.

Spotted salamander © Scott Gillingwater

View an interactive map of the known ranges of spotted salamanders in Ontario.

Have you seen a spotted salamander?

Beaver River, Uxbridge © Sean Marshall

Biology

Spotted salamanders breed in early spring, often while there is still ice on ponds. Females lay up to 250 eggs and attach the egg mass to submerged vegetation. The mass quickly swells to the size and shape of a tennis ball. In one to two months, the larvae, which are just over 1 centimetre in length, emerge from the eggs. In another two to three months, they transform into salamanders that are from 2.5 to 3.5 centimetres long. Males take two to three years to reach maturity, while females may take three to five years to do so.

Like most salamanders, adult spotted salamanders are terrestrial carnivores that eat a variety of insects and other invertebrates, such as worms and slugs. Larval salamanders of this species are carnivorous and primarily eat aquatic insects and other invertebrates. Spotted salamanders can live for over 30 years in the wild.

Other names: yellow-spotted salamander, Lacerta maculata, Lacerta subviolacea

Juvenile spotted salamander © Stephanie Muckle

Threats and Trends

Spotted salamanders are known to be sensitive to the effects of acid rain. High acidity in ponds can prevent salamander eggs from hatching and affect the development of larvae. Forests, the habitat of adult salamanders, are lost to logging, agriculture and industrial and urban development. Many salamanders are killed on our roads every spring during their migration to breeding ponds. Reports of road-killed salamanders can be submitted to the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas and will help researchers identify their critical migration routes. Despite these threats, this species does not appear to be in any significant decline.

Juvenile spotted salamander © Scott Gillingwater

Current Status and Protection

Neither the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario nor the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada have assessed the status of the spotted salamander. The species has also been designated as a Specially Protected Amphibian under the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act which offers protection to individuals but not their habitat. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the global status of the spotted salamander as Least Concern. The species’ status was confirmed in January 2010.

Learn more about reptile and amphibian conservation and what you can do to help these species on our Reptile and Amphibian Stewardship page.

Spotted salamander © Scott Gillingwater

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