Ambystoma maculatum 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Amphibia Caudata Ambystomatidae

Scientific Name: Ambystoma maculatum
Species Authority: (Shaw, 1802)
Common Name(s):
English Spotted Salamander
Salamandra punctata Lacépède, 1788
Taxonomic Source(s): Frost, D.R. 2014. Amphibian Species of the World: an Online Reference. Version 6 (27 January 2014). New York, USA. Available at: (Accessed: 27 January 2014).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2015-08-25
Assessor(s): IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group
Reviewer(s): Stuart, S.N.
Contributor(s): Hammerson, G.A.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Green, C., Sharp, D. & Garcia Moreno, J.

Listed as Least Concern in view of the large extent of occurrence, large number of subpopulations and locations, large population size, and use of varied and altered habitats.

Previously published Red List assessments:
2004 Least Concern (LC)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species occurs throughout most of the eastern USA and adjacent southern Canada; west to eastern Iowa and eastern Texas (Conant and Collins 1991).
Countries occurrence:
Canada (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Québec); United States (Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin)
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Total adult population size is unknown but is very large, surely greater than 100,000 and probably exceeds 1,000,000. Overall, its sub-populations are relatively stable, though there are some local declines due to habitat loss.
Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

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 the breeding period. In New York, distribution apparently is influenced by soil pH (Wyman 1988). Eggs are usually 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

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: There are no records of this species being utilized.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Threats to local sub-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 25-35 m into uncut forest (deMaynadier and Hunter 1998). Many sub-populations are becoming increasingly 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 sub-populations. Local sub-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: Conservation Needed
Needed conservation measures include protection of vernal pools and adjacent wooded areas extending up to at least 200-250 meters from the pools. Also, regulatory agencies should attempt to minimize forest fragmentation. The species could benefit from regulations that minimize acid deposition. 

Research Needed 
Better information on trends would be useful.

Classifications [top]

1. Forest -> 1.4. Forest - Temperate
suitability: Suitable season: resident major importance:Yes
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.7. Wetlands (inland) - Permanent Freshwater Marshes/Pools (under 8ha)
suitability: Suitable season: resident major importance:Yes
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.8. Wetlands (inland) - Seasonal/Intermittent Freshwater Marshes/Pools (under 8ha)
suitability: Suitable season: resident major importance:Yes
15. Artificial/Aquatic & Marine -> 15.2. Artificial/Aquatic - Ponds (below 8ha)
suitability: Suitable season: resident 
1. Land/water protection -> 1.2. Resource & habitat protection
2. Land/water management -> 2.1. Site/area management

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
1. Residential & commercial development -> 1.1. Housing & urban areas
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

4. Transportation & service corridors -> 4.1. Roads & railroads
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

5. Biological resource use -> 5.3. Logging & wood harvesting -> 5.3.5. Motivation Unknown/Unrecorded
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

9. Pollution -> 9.5. Air-borne pollutants -> 9.5.1. Acid rain
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

9. Pollution -> 9.5. Air-borne pollutants -> 9.5.4. Type Unknown/Unrecorded
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

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. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

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: IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group. 2015. Ambystoma maculatum. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T59064A56540295. . Downloaded on 26 November 2015.
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