Marbled Salamander Fact File

Ambystoma opacum

Credit: Peter Paplanus from St. Louis, Missouri, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Weight

Insufficient

Data

Length

9-12.5cm

(3.5-5in)

Lifespan

Wild 4-10 years

Captive 4-10 years

Diet

Carnivore

Invertebrates

Conservation Status

IUCN

Least Concern

The marbled salamander is named for the pattern of gray or white patterns across the back. These help to identify the male and female. Males have white stripes while those of the female are gray.

As a carnivore they will feed primarily on invertebrates as adults. Young feed on zooplankton.

This species has a unique breeding behavior. Instead of laying the eggs directly in water they will lay them in a dry hole and then wait for rain to fill the hole. Until this occurs the female remains wrapped around them.

They are threatened by habitat loss and degradation along with collection for the pet trade.

Read on to learn more about these amazing amphibians.

Appearance

What does the marbled salamander look like?

Across the body the marbled salamander has black skin. This is patterned with silvery-white bands across their back. These resemble marble or quartz giving the species its name.

Their is some variation between genders. The males markings tends to be more white while the females are gray. Juveniles are colored brown or grey with flecks of color instead of bands.

An average marbled salamander will measure 9-12.5cm (3.5-5in) long.

Diet

What does the marbled salamander eat?


The marbled salamander is a carnivore. Their diet is primarily made up of invertebrates. They may also be cannibalistic and feed on other salamanders.

Larvae will feed on zooplankton when they first hatch. As they grow they will expand their diet to include tadpoles, insects and other larvae.

Marbled Salamander (Ambystoma opacum)

Credit: Brian Gratwicke from DC, USA, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Range

Where can you find the marbled salamander?

North America is the native home of the marbled salamander. Here they can be found in the eastern United States.

This species will occur in the following states – Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Jersey, Louisiana, Maryland, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas, North Carolina, Ohio, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Virginia, New York, Oklahoma, Michigan, Missouri and West Virginia.

Habitat

What kind of environment does the marbled salamander live in?

This species is found in forests and wetlands. They are typically found in wooded areas of habitat. Marbled salamanders show a tolerance to dry habitats not seen in other salamanders.

Their home is rarely far from water such as ponds or streams.

They will seek shelter under an object on the ground or within a burrow. In areas inhabited by humans they may use trash as shelter.

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Reproduction

How does the marbled salamander produce its young?

Breeding season is variable across their range. In the north they breed in autumn to avoid the harsh winters while in the south they can breed in to early winter.

To attract a mate the male will perform a circular dance or move his tail.


During autumn or winter a female will deposit between 50 and 200 eggs. These are placed in a hollow and she then wraps around them. She awaits rain which will fill the hollow and allow the eggs to hatch.

Within a few days of the eggs being covered by water they will hatch.

They spend the first 3-6 months of their life as a larvae. Young grow quickly during this period. In the south they grow faster and will metamorphose within two months. Within the north it can take as long as 9 months.


Sexual maturity is reached between 1 and 2 years old.

Behavior

What does the marbled salamander do with its day?

These animals are solitary and will only come together to mate.

Marbled salamanders are nocturnal and will spend the day hidden under an object or in a burrow.

Marbled Salamander (Ambystoma opacum)

Credit: Greg Schechter from San Francisco, USA, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Predators and Threats

What is impacting the survival of the marbled salamander?

Natural predators of the marbled salamander include snakes, owls, racoons and weasels.

They are afforded some protection by a poison gland which is located in the tail.

Populations of this species are stable with only localized declines seen in some areas. While a full estimate has not been made it is thought the population exceeds 100,000 mature individuals.

They are declining due to timber harvesting which reduces available canopy and affects the suitability of land for breeding. Other factors are also impacting their habitat such as draining and filling of breeding sites.

Small numbers of this species are found in the international pet trade.

Quick facts

They may also be known as the banded salamander.

Marbled Salamander (Ambystoma opacum)

Credit: Greg Schechter from San Francisco, USA, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

References

Jackson, T. and Chinery, M., 2012. The illustrated encyclopedia of animals of the world. London: Southwater.

AmphibiaWeb 2013 Ambystoma opacum: Marbled Salamander <https://amphibiaweb.org/species/3843> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Dec 10, 2021.

Nhpbs.org. 2021. Marbled Salamander – Ambystoma opacum – NatureWorks. [online] Available at: <https://nhpbs.org/natureworks/marbledsalamander.htm> [Accessed 10 December 2021].

Chesapeakebay.net. 2021. Marbled Salamander | Chesapeake Bay Program. [online] Available at: <https://www.chesapeakebay.net/discover/field-guide/entry/marbled_salamander> [Accessed 10 December 2021].

Srelherp.uga.edu. 2021. Species Profile: Marbled Salamander (Ambystoma opacum) | SREL Herpetology. [online] Available at: <https://srelherp.uga.edu/salamanders/ambopa.htm> [Accessed 10 December 2021].

Rogers, G. 2000. “Ambystoma opacum” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed December 10, 2021 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Ambystoma_opacum/

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