Long-toed Salamander, Ambystoma macrodactylum

The Long-toed salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum) is a member of a group referred to as, Mole salamanders. Part of the Ambystomatidae family, this species is among the most popular salamanders in North America.

The Long-toed salamander is most commonly found near ponds, lakes, streams or under logs and leaves, in damp environments. An adult Long-toed salamander feeds on slugs, snails, worms and various insects.

A nocturnal species, the salamander remains dormant during winter and stays inactive until early spring. While in hibernation the Long-toed salamander survives on protein energy storage along its skin and tail.

Relatively slender, fully grown adult Long-toed salamander will reach lengths between 3 and 4 inches. The species gets its common name from a toe on the rear foot that is noticeably longer than the others. A dark gray, green or blackish coloration emphasizes a bright green or yellowish stripe running down the middle of its back. This stripe is thought to warn off predators. Tiny bluish-white speckles are scattered on its belly and sides as well.

Typical of Mole salamanders, the Long-toed salamander begins breeding in early spring. Melting snow causes temporary ponds perfect for breeding and hatching. Fertilized eggs are laid in clusters of 20. The eggs are attached to rocks, sticks, or vegetation at the bottom of the water source. Hatched, the larvae are born aquatic, with external gills and no feet. Larvae typically feed on zooplankton (tiny water crustaceans).

The Long-toed salamander has built in defense mechanisms. A white milky substance can be sprayed from the salamander’s tail to poison oncoming threats. In addition, if threatened, the salamander has the ability to detach the tip part of its tail to leave as a distraction for its predator. The salamander is then able to regenerate its original tail over time.

Image Caption: Long-toed salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum). Credit: Thompsma/Wikipedia (public domain)