Mole Salamander

Ambystoma talpoideum
Species of Conservation Concern
Family

Ambystomatidae (mole salamanders) in the order Caudata (salamanders)

Description

A salamander with a large head, small body and tail, and large limbs. There are 10 or 11 costal grooves (vertical grooves on the sides of the body). It is usually dull gray or brown. Most individuals have white or light gray flecks over most of the body, limbs, and tail.

Size

Length: 3–4 inches.

Habitat and conservation

Lives in lowland forests, taking shelter under logs, leaf litter, and in the soil. Mole salamanders are associated with marbled and small-mouthed salamanders. They are seldom encountered because they rarely venture above ground, except during breeding season.

Foods

Mole salamanders eat a variety of small insects, worms, and land snails.

image of Mole Salamander Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Restricted to the Mississippi Lowlands in southeastern Missouri. The overall range extends into Virginia, Florida, and Texas, with isolated populations in some southern states.

Status

A Species of Conservation Concern in Missouri. It requires natural swamps and lowland forests to survive. This habitat has been greatly reduced in southeastern Missouri, and the remaining swamps and forests should be protected.

Life cycle

Breeding occurs in leaf-littered ephemeral or semipermanent pools and woodland ponds. Adults move to breeding ponds and pools in bottomland forests in late autumn or early winter, where breeding likely takes place between December and February. Courtship occurs in the water. A female may produce 200 to over 500 eggs, which are loosely attached to submerged twigs or leaves in small clumps of 4–20 eggs. The larval stage usually lasts 3–4 months, sometimes much longer.

Human connections

As humans pursue our own needs, such food, territory, shelter, and money, we tend to destroy and fragment natural landscapes. The swamplands of the Bootheel were mostly destroyed for cotton farming. The natural swamps that remain should be carefully protected.

Ecosystem connections

Adults of most salamanders in this family spend most of their time in the soil, often in burrows made by small mammals. Their welfare is therefore linked to the activities of mice, moles, shrews, and other animals.