Pseudotriton montanusMud Salamander

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Geographic Range

Mud salamanders (Pseudotriton montanus) are found in the southeastern United States. The species is found as far north as southern New York and as far south as northern Florida. Mud salamanders are found from the Atlantic coast in the east to Kentucky and Tennessee in the west. (Conant, 1958; Petranka, 1998)

Habitat

Peudotriton montanus prefers habitats near freshwater, including swamps, bogs, springs and streams that provide a muddy regions for burrowing. Present at elevations below 700 m, these salamanders sometimes inhabit unoccupied crayfish holes. (Bartlett, 2003; Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, 2005; Petranka, 1998; Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, 2004)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • rivers and streams
  • Range elevation
    0 to 700 m
    0.00 to 2296.59 ft

Physical Description

Mud salamanders have a stocky body with a short tail, and range in length from 7.5 to 16 cm. Females tend to be larger than males. Body color varies geographically. Most of the adults are red or reddish-brown with round black spots or blotches on the dorsal side. Color becomes darker with age. Mud salamanders generally have 16 to 17 costal grooves found along the dorsal side. (Bartlett, 2003; Conant, 1958; Petranka, 1998; Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, 2004)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • Range length
    7.5 to 16 cm
    2.95 to 6.30 in

Development

Eggs are deposited on stalks near water, in cracks near streams, in burrows, or in leaf litter. The eggs are deposited singly or in clusters of up to six eggs, and hatch between January and March. Larvae are aquatic. They are dark in color with a hint of red. Metamorphosis takes place when young are 35 to 44 millimeters in length, anywhere between 15 and 30 months of age. Newly metamorphosed salamanders are usually yellow in color, but darken to the reddish tint typical of adults. (Bartlett, 2003; Dodd, 2003; Petranka, 1998; Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, 2004)

Reproduction

Male mud salamanders actively search for mates. It is not known if there is competition for mates. Males may mate several times per year with different females. It is unknown whether males keep the same mates throughout their lives.

When a mate is found, the male performs a tail undulation display. The female then straddles his tail, allowing glands on the male's tail to lubricate her. The male is then able to deposit his sperm into the female. (Bishop, 1947; Petranka, 1998)

Males reach sexual maturity at about 2.5 years, but females may not become reproductive until they are 4 or 5 years old. Male mud salamanders may reproduce several times per year and it appears that they breed annually. Sexually mature females breed every other year.

Breeding occurs during the warmer months of the year. Female mud salamanders lay eggs on stalks near water, in cracks near streams, or in burrows. Egg deposition is normally during autumn or early winter. A female may stay with her eggs to aid the incubation process. Incubation typically lasts three or more months, with embryos hatching in the winter. Clutches range in size between 65 and 200. ("", 2005; Bartlett, 2003; Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, 2005; Petranka, 1998; Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, 2004)

  • Breeding interval
    Male mud salamanders may breed several times per year. Female mud salamanders breed at most once per year, but once every two years is common.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs in the warmer months of the year and egg deposition takes place in autumn or early winter.
  • Range number of offspring
    65 to 200
  • Average time to hatching
    3 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    4 to 5 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    2.5 years

Knowledge of the parental behavior of this species is incomplete. As in all vertebrates, females provision eggs with nutrients for development. Females deposit eggs in a places appropriate for incubation, such as cracks and burrows, and are thought to stay with a clutch during incubation. Female mud salamanders are generally not found during the three months of incubation. Males of this species are not known to provide any parental care. (Bartlett, 2003)

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

Pseudotriton montanus has been found to live past 15 years in captivity. The lifespan of mud salamanders in nature has not been well documented. ("", 2005)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    >15 (high) years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    15.1 years
    AnAge

Behavior

Mud salamanders are not migratory. They tend to stay near water sources and places where they can burrow. Mud salamanders often build underground passages and underwater tunnels. These animals stay at the entrance of the burrow, retreating when threatened. This habit of retreating into a burrow makes these salamanders difficult to find. (Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, 2005)

Home Range

The home range size for P. montanus is not known.

Communication and Perception

The communication and perception of this species has not been well studied. The presence of eyes suggests that visual cues may be significant in interpreting the environment. Tactile signals are also important, especially during mating, when a female must be lubricated by glands on a male's tail.

The extent to which these animals use chemical and auditory cues to interpret their environments is not known. (Petranka, 1998)

Food Habits

The eating habits of P. montanus have not been well studied. This species is thought to eat earthworms, insects, and arthropods. Mud salamanders may also eat other salamanders. (Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, 2005; Petranka, 1998; Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, 2004)

  • Animal Foods
  • amphibians
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • terrestrial worms

Predation

Garter snakes and water snakes are the main predators of mud salamanders.

Psudotriton montanus has complex antipredator defenses, including warning signals and toxic secretions. When threatened, a salamander tucks its head against its body. Then it rears up its hind legs and tail, balancing its weight on the forelegs. The tail curls over the head. This defensive posture, as well as a toxic substance that is secreted along the salamander's back, fends off predators. (Petranka, 1998)

Ecosystem Roles

The ecosystem roles of mud salamanders are not well understood. The species is a generalist predator on small invertebrates in its habitat, but the extent to which these animals affect prey populations is unknown. Further, the importance of salamandersin the diets of their predators is not known. More research is needed on this species. (Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, 2004)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

There is no known positive economic importance of P. montanus for humans.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There is no known negative economic importance of P. montanus for humans.

Conservation Status

Research on mud salamanders has not been extensive and sightings tend to be rare. The species is not thought to be threatened, but degradation of water quality and habitat loss are possible threats to mud salamanders. A thorough consideration of the conservation status of P. montanus requires more information than is currently available. ("", 2005; Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, 2005)

Contributors

Christopher Smart (author), Kalamazoo College, Ann Fraser (editor, instructor), Kalamazoo College.

Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Glossary

Nearctic

living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

aposematic

having coloration that serves a protective function for the animal, usually used to refer to animals with colors that warn predators of their toxicity. For example: animals with bright red or yellow coloration are often toxic or distasteful.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

bog

a wetland area rich in accumulated plant material and with acidic soils surrounding a body of open water. Bogs have a flora dominated by sedges, heaths, and sphagnum.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

ectothermic

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

heterothermic

having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.

insectivore

An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

marsh

marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.

metamorphosis

A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

polygynous

having more than one female as a mate at one time

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sedentary

remains in the same area

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

swamp

a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

visual

uses sight to communicate

References

2005. M Lannoo, ed. Amphibian Declines: The conservation status of United States species. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Bartlett, R. 2003. "Pseudotriton: Red and Mud Salamanders" (On-line). Caudata.org. Accessed October 09, 2005 at http://www.caudata.org/cc/articles/Pseudotriton.shtml..

Bartlett, R. 2003. Pseudotriton: Red and Mud Salamanders. Accessed October 09, 2005 at http://www.caudata.org/cc/articles/Pseudotriton.shtml.

Bishop, S. 1947. Handbook of Salamanders. Ithaca, NY: Comstock Publishing Company.

Conant, R. 1958. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Dodd, C. 2003. Monitoring Amphibians in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. U.S. Geological Survey Circular, 1258. Accessed October 12, 2005 at http://fisc.er.usgs.gov/c1258_Dodd/html/salamanders.html.

Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, 2005. "Pseudotriton montanus (Mud Salamander)" (On-line). Accessed October 12, 2005 at http://www.wlf.state.la.us/apps/netgear/clientFiles/lawlf/files/Mud%20Salamander.pdf.

Petranka, J. 1998. Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, 2004. "Eastern Mud Salamander (Pseudotriton montanus)" (On-line). Accessed October 12, 2005 at http://www.dgif.state.va.us/wildlife/species/display.asp?id=020069.