Gyrinophilus porphyriticusSpring Salamander

Geographic Range

The Spring Salamander has an extensive range. It is found in and around the Applachian Mountains in eastern North America and north into the Adirondacks and just into Canada. Although it has the potential to be found anywhere within this range, its specific habitat requirements mean that actual distribution is spotty (Conant&Collins 1998).


Spring Salamanders are semi-aquatic, spending a majority of their time in springs, wet caves, and cool, clear mountain brooks (Tenn. Aquarium, 1998). Spring Salamanders can also be found under stones and logs near stream edges (Wild Portraits, 2000). Because they are lungless, and must obtain oxygen through their skin, Spring Salamanders are limited to areas where there is adequate oxygen and moisture. The Northern Spring Salamander is not confined to the water, however, and has been noted to, in a nighttime downpour, leave their aquatic habitats and venture onto land in search of food (Tenn. Aquarium, 1998). During the winter, Spring Salamanders spend their time in wet soil close to a source of water where they remain somewhat active in burrows. The Spring Salamander can also be found among leaf litter in forests surrounding a brook or stream (Conn. Dept., 2000).

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • lakes and ponds
  • rivers and streams

Physical Description

The Spring Salamander is one of the largest species in the family of

lungless salamanders (Tenn. Aquarium, 1998), and can grow up to 21 cm in

length (Watkins-Colwell, 2001). The males often grow to be about 12-19 cm in length, and the females grow to be slightly smaller (Tenn. Aquarium, 1998).

As larvae, the Spring Salamander is 19 mm long when it hatches, and has the potential to grow to be 10.2 cm long, before it transforms into an adult. Larvae have a broad, elongated snout that is slightly upturned at the tip (Leary, 2001). The Spring Salamander has a stout body and a broad nose that ends abruptly. Its back and tail are light brownish-orange or salmon-red with small dark spots. The belly is a faded peach color, and the throat may be flecked with black. A light line, bordered below by a dark line, begins at the eye and extends to the nostril. As an adult, the Spring Salamander's tail has a prominent, knife-like keel on the top that enables it to swim in swift-moving water (Conn. Dep., 2000). Adults also have toxic, cutaneous secretions and red coloration that mimics more toxic species, for protection from terrestrial predators (Environment Canada, 2000).



Unlike many of the other larger salamander species that breed in the spring, the Spring Salamander breeds from mid-October through the winter months. During this time of courtship, the male and female push each other and roll around in the water. The male deposits sperm which is then picked up and stored by the female until the eggs are laid in the spring of the following year (Conn. Dept., 2000). The female salamander lays 11-100 eggs and attaches each one individually under stones in cool, clear water. The 19 mm long aquatic larvae hatch during the late summer and are often found in the water carefully hidden among the rocks. The larvae can grow to be 10.2 cm long before it transforms into an adult, which may take two to three years (Behler, 1996).

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)


  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    18.5 years


Spring Salamanders are primarily nocturnal (Conn. Dept., 2000).

Food Habits

The Spring Salamander consumes a wide variety of food consisting of insects, crustaceans, centipedes, millipedes, earthworms, snails, spiders, and occasionally small frogs and salamanders, including those of their own species (Conn. Dept., 2000).

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive


Economic Importance for Humans: Negative


Conservation Status

The Spring Salamander is listed as a threatened species in the state of Connecticut (Conn. Dept., 2000). Threats to the Spring Salamander include pollution in the streams due to deforestation, agriculture, and the introduction of predatory fish such as trout (Environment Canada, 2000). Habitat modification and sedimentation in streams, because of stream bed and shore band alteration during road construction and canalization, is also a problem. In order to help save the habitat of the Spring Salamander, people can become involved in projects to restore shade trees and shrubs along stream banks that will help maintain water temperatures that are suitable for the salamander (Conn. Dept., 2000).

Other Comments

The purple color of young Spring Salamanders led to its former name, the Purple Salamander (Conn. Dept., 2000). Spring Salamanders are occasionally eaten by northern water snakes (Nerodia sipedon) and common garter snakes (Thamnophis sirta) (L.E.O., 2000).


Stephanie Jahnke (author), Milford High School, George Campbell (editor), Milford High School.



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

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.


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


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


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.


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.


Behler, J., F. King. May, 1996. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Conant, R., J. Collins. 1998. A Field Guide to Reptiles & Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. New York City, NY, USA: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Connecticut Dept. of Env. Protection, Jan. 2000. "Northern Spring Salamander" (On-line). Accessed February 22, 2001 at

Enviroment Canada, August 15, 2000. "Spring Salamander" (On-line). Accessed February 22, 2001 at

Leary, C. Feb. 22, 2000. "Northern Spring Salamander" (On-line). Accessed March 11, 2001 at

Lehigh Earth Observatory, 2000. "Spring Salamander" (On-line). Accessed February 22, 2001 at

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

Tennessee Aquarium, 1998. "Amphibians: Northern Spring Salamander" (On-line). Accessed January 19, 2001 at, 2000. "Spring Salamander" (On-line). Accessed January 19, 2001 at