Ambystoma maculatum


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Ambystoma maculatum
Species Authority: (Shaw, 1802)
Common Name(s):
English Spotted Salamander
Salamandra punctata Lacépède, 1788

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2004
Date Assessed: 2004-04-30
Assessor(s): Geoffrey Hammerson
Reviewer(s): Global Amphibian Assessment Coordinating Team (Simon Stuart, Janice Chanson, Neil Cox and Bruce Young)
Listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, presumed large population, and because it is unlikely to be declining fast enough to qualify for listing in a more threatened category.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: This species can be found throughout most of the eastern USA and adjacent southern Canada; west to eastern Iowa and eastern Texas (Conant and Collins 1991).
Canada; United States
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Total adult population size is unknown but surely is greater than 100,000 and might exceed 1,000,000. Overall, its populations are stable, though there are some local declines due to habitat loss.
Population Trend: Stable

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This species can be found in hardwood and mixed forests, vicinity of swamps and vernal pools; usually underground or under soil surface objects except during breeding period. In New York, distribution apparently is influenced by soil pH (Wyman 1988). Eggs usually are attached to submerged stems or other objects in vernal pools and semi permanent or permanent ponds in or adjacent to forest. In many areas, the species breeds mainly in ponds inaccessible to predatory fishes; however on the Atlantic Coastal Plain of the southeastern USA, spotted salamanders breed in sloughs or backwater lowland areas along streams that frequently contain or are easily colonized by predatory fishes that opportunistically feed on amphibian larvae (Semlitsch 1988). Eggs may be laid in ponds when they are ice-covered if salamanders already are present in the pond (States et al. 1988). Egg masses often exhibit an aggregated dispersion pattern.
Systems: Terrestrial; Freshwater

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Threats to local populations include intensive timber harvesting practices that reduce canopy closure, understorey vegetation, uncompacted forest litter, or coarse woody debris (moderately to well-decayed) in areas surrounding breeding sites (deMaynadier and Hunter 1999). Negative impacts of intensive timber harvesting extend at least 25-35m into uncut forest (deMaynadier and Hunter 1998). Many populations are becoming increasing isolated as deforestation and loss of vernal pools reduce gene flow among demes (Petranka 1998). This might result in inbreeding depression and reduce the probability of re-establishment of extirpated populations. Local populations might be heavily impacted by excessive mortality of adults caused by vehicles on roads near breeding sites. Roads negatively impact salamander abundance in roadside habitat and might serve as partial barriers to movement (deMaynadier and Hunter 2000). Embryo mortality generally decreases as pH deceases below 6.0, though in some areas successful reproduction has occurred at a relatively low pH (Cook 1983, Blem and Blem 1989). In central Pennsylvania, low pH was associated with deleterious sub lethal effects on larvae (Sadinski and Dunson 1992). High concentrations of various chemical elements, unfavourable temperatures, or low oxygen content might result in reproductive failure; see Blem and Blem (1991) and Albers and Prouty (1987). De-icing salts that contaminate roadside vernal pools result in reduced embryonic survival (Turtle 2000).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Needed conservation measures include protection of vernal pools and adjacent wooded areas up to at least 200-250m asl from the pools. Also, regulatory agencies should attempt to minimize forest fragmentation. The species could benefit from regulations that minimize acid deposition.

Bibliography [top]

Albers, P.H. and Prouty, R.M. 1987. Survival of spotted salamander eggs in temporary woodland ponds of coastal Maryland. Environmental Pollution: 45-61.

Anderson, J.D. 1967. Ambystoma maculatum. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles: 1-4.

Barbour, R.W. 1971. Amphibians and Reptiles of Kentucky. University Press of Kentucky, Lexington.

Blackburn, L., Nanjappa, P. and Lannoo, M.J. 2001. An Atlas of the Distribution of U.S. Amphibians. Ball State University, Muncie, IN, USA.

Blanchard, F.N. 1930. The stimulus to the breeding migration of the spotted salamander, Ambystoma maculatum (Shaw). American Naturalist: 154-167.

Blem, C.R. and Blem, L.B. 1989. Tolerance of acidity in a Virginia population of the spotted salamander, Ambystoma maculatum, (Amphibia: Ambystomatidae). Brimleyana: 37-45.

Blem, C.R. and Blem, L.B. 1991. Cation concentrations and acidity in breeding ponds of the spotted salamander, Ambystoma maculatum (Shaw) (Amphibia: Ambystomatidae), in Virginia. Brimleyana: 67-76.

Conant, R. and Collins, J.T. 1998. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians: Eastern and Central North America. Third edition, Expanded. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA, USA.

Cook, R.P. 1983. Effects of acid precipitation on embryonic mortality of Ambystoma salamanders in the Connecticut Valley of Massachusetts. Biological Conservation: 77-88.

DeGraaf, R.M. and Rudis, D.D. 1983. Amphibians and Reptiles of New England: Habitats and Natural History. University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, MA, USA.

deMaynadier, P.G. and Hunter, Jr., M.L. 1998. Effects of silvicultural edges on the distribution and abundance of amphibians in Maine. Conservation Biology: 340-352.

deMaynadier, P.G. and Hunter, Jr., M.L. 1999. Forest canopy closure and juvenile emigration by pool-breeding amphibians in Maine. Journal of Wildlife Management: 441-450.

deMaynadier, P.G. and Hunter, Jr., M.L. 2000. Road effects on amphibian movements in a forested landscape. Natural Areas Journal: 56-65.

Flageole, S. and Leclair, Jr., R. 1992. Etude demographique d'une population de salamandres (Ambystoma maculatum) a l'aide de la methode squeletto-chronologique. Canadian Journal of Zoology: 740-749.

Frost, D.R. 1985. Amphibian Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. Allen Press and the Association of Systematic Collections, Lawrence, Kansas.

Green, N.B. and Pauley, T.K. 1987. Amphibians and Reptiles in West Virginia. University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.

Ireland, P.H. 1989. Larval survivorship in two populations of Ambystoma maculatum. Journal of Herpetology: 209-215.

IUCN. 2004. 2004 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 23 November 2004.

Jones, T.R., Kluge, A.G. and Wolf, A.J. 1993. When theories and methodologies clash: a phylogenetic reanalysis of the North American ambystomatid salamanders (Caudata: Ambystomatidae). Systematic Biology: 92-102.

Kleeberger, S.R. and Werner, J.K. 1983. Post-breeding migration and summer movement of Ambystoma maculatum. Journal of Herpetology: 176-177.

Kraus, F. 1988. An empirical evaluation of the use of the ontogeny polarization criterion in phylogenetic inference. Systematic Zoology: 106-141.

Madison, D.M. 1997. The emigration of radio-implanted spotted salamanders, Ambystoma maculatum. Journal of Herpetology: 542-551.

Minton Jr, S.A. 1972. Amphibians and Reptiles of Indiana. Indiana Academy of Science Monographs 3, Indianapolis, IN, USA.

Mount, R.H. 1975. The Reptiles and Amphibians of Alabama. Auburn University Agricultural Experiment Station, Auburn, Alabama.

Phillips, C.A. 1992. Variation in metamorphosis in spotted salamanders Ambystoma maculatum from eastern Missouri. American Midland Naturalist: 276-280.

Phillips, C.A. and Sexton, O.J. 1989. Orientation and sexual differences during breeding migrations of the spotted salamander, Ambystoma maculatum. Copeia: 17-22.

Rothermel, B.B. and Semlitsch, R.D. 2002. An experimental investigation of landscape resistance of forest versus old-field habitats to emigrating juvenile amphibians. Conservation Biology: 1324-1332.

Rowe, C.L., Sadinski, W.J. and Dunson, W.A. 1994. Predation on larval and embryonic amphibians by acid-tolerant caddisfly larvae (Ptilostomis postica). Journal of Herpetology: 357-364.

Sadinski, W.J. and Dunson, W.A. 1992. A multilevel study of effects of low pH on amphibians of temporary ponds. Journal of Herpetology: 413-422.

Semlitsch, R.D. 1988. Allotopic distribution of two salamanders: effects of fish predation and competitive interactions. Copeia: 290-298.

Sexton, O.J., Phillips, C. and Bramble, J.E. 1990. The effects of temperature and precipitation on the breeding migration of the spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum). Copeia: 781-787.

Shaffer, H.B., Clark, J.M. and Kraus, F. 1991. When molecules and morphology clash: a phylogenetic analysis of the North American ambystomatid salamanders (Caudata: Ambystomatidae). Systematic Zoology: 284-303.

Shoop, C.R. 1965. Orientation of Ambystoma maculatum: movements to and from breeding ponds. Science: 558-559.

States, J.S., Gaud, W.S., Allred, W.S. and Austin, W.J. 1988. Foraging patterns of tassel-eared squirrels in selected ponderosa pine stands. In: Szaro, R., Severson, K. and Patton, D. (eds), Management of Amphibians, Reptiles and Small Mammals in North America, pp. 425-443. Proceedings of a symposium, General Technical Report RM-166. Fort Collins, CO; US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Range and Research Station.

Stout, B.M., III, Stout, K.K. and Stihler, C.W. 1992. Predation by the caddisfly Banksiola dossuaria on egg masses of the spotted salamander Ambystoma maculatum. American Midland Naturalist: 368-372.

Turtle, S.L. 2000. Embryonic survivorship of the spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) in roadside and woodland vernal pools in southeastern New Hampshire. Journal of Herpetology: 60-67.

Vogt, R.C. 1981. Natural History of Amphibians and Reptiles of Wisconsin. Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee, WI, USA.

Wyman, R.L. 1988. Soil acidity and moisture and the distribution of amphibians in five forests of southcentral New York. Copeia: 394-399.

Citation: Geoffrey Hammerson 2004. Ambystoma maculatum. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <>. Downloaded on 27 March 2015.
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