Ambystoma tigrinum

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Tiger salamander
(Picture from Animal Diversity Web [2])

Tiger salamander - Ambystoma tigrinum

Identification [1,2] Adults grow to be 17-33 cm long and about 9.5 grams, and are sexually dimorphic. They are thick-bodied creatures with a large head and broad, rounded snout. The body is covered in yellow blotches and spots against a black background. Males tend to be longer; they have a more compressed tail and longer, stalkier legs.

Geographical Range [2] Southeast Alaska east to southern Labrador Canada, south to southern edge of the Mexican Plateau.

Habitat [1,2] Live in sandhills, forests, savannahs, temperate wetlands, and marshy areas.

Feeding style [2] These are very efficient predators. They eat worms, snails, insects, slugs, small crustaceans, tadpoles, smaller salamanders, frogs, newborn mice, and baby snakes.

Reproduction [2] Sexual reproduction; Internal fertilization; Oviparous. Each female produces between 100 to 1000 eggs each spring. Tiger salamanders can live up to 15 years in the wild.

Ecological Notes The tiger salamander lives in a wide variety of habitats, and preys on many insects that are considered pests by humans.

Other Notes [2] Adults live up to 60cm underground for most of the year, digging their own burrows. This allows them to escape temperature extremes on the surface.
Tiger salamanders are eaten by badgers, snakes, bobcats, and owls. Larvae are eaten by aquatic insects, snakes, and other salamanders.

Personal Information This organism was observed at the North Carolina Aquarium [1] during our trip to the Outer Banks for our Marine Biology class.
This was a huge aquarium full of fascinating animals! I was intrigued by spiny lobsters and the pet-a-stingray pool, humbled by the sight of sharks prowling the simulated-shipwreck tank, and captivated by the innate cuteness of playing river otters.

Sources [1] North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island (374 Airport Road, Manteo, NC 27954)
[2] Animal Diversity Web. (2010, April). Tiger salamander. Retrieved April 23, 2010 from <>

Further reading To learn more about the Tiger salamander, check out these journal articles:

This article from Oecologia looks at the impact of different elevations on the developmental size of the tiger salamanders living there. They found that larval growth rates are higher at lower elevations.
Bizer, J. R. (1978). Growth rates and size at metamorphosis of high elevation populations of Ambystoma tigrinum. Oecologia, 34(2), 175 - 184.
DOI: 10.1007/BF00345165

  • This article from Neuropeptides looks at the chemicals found in the taste buds of tiger salamanders. They found that their taste buds have various bioactive compounds such as serotonin.
    Zaccone, G., Fasulo, S., Ainis, L., Mauceri, A., Licata, A., & Lauriano, E. (1995). Enkephalin immunoreactivity in the paraneurons of the tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) tongue. Neuropeptides, 28(5), 257-260.
    DOI: 10.1016/0143-4179(95)90041-1
    Contributed by Patrick Schnieders - 2010
    Back to The Super-Special Wicked-Awesome Bio 412 Marine Biology Field Guide