The small-mouthed salamander (Ambystoma texanum) is dark brown to black on top with grey to greyish yellow patches. Its belly is black. This species can grow to over 14 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.
The small-mouthed salamander breeds in the early spring in streams, ponds and even ditches. One female can lay over 500 eggs, which are attached to submerged vegetation or the underside of rocks. The larvae transform into salamanders by midsummer.
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 both the Ontario Endangered Species Act, 2007 and 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 some protection to individuals and their habitat. 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 February 2021.
Learn more about reptile and amphibian conservation and what you can do to help these species on our Reptile and Amphibian Stewardship page.
What You Can Do
- Report a sighting
- Get involved in reptile and amphibian conservation on your property, on the road and in your community
- Donate to support reptile and amphibian conservation
- Watch for reptiles and amphibians on the road
- Don’t release pet reptiles and amphibians into the wild
- Read more about the small-mouthed salamander in the Ontario Reptile and Amphibians Atlas publication.