Mudpuppy Fact File
Mudpuppies are most noticeable owing to the external gills which are colored red and resemble feathers. These are located on either side of the flat head. The gills vary in size depending on the amount of oxygen in their environment. A larger oxygen concentration will lead to smaller gills. Their eyes are small compared to the head.
Their color is a rusty brown or grey on top. This is patterned with blue spots. On the underside they are lighter in colour with no pattern.
They have four feet with each having four toes. Their short tail is flattened to assist with swimming.
A mudpuppy will measure between 29 and 49cm (11.75-19.5in) long.
The mudpuppy is a carnivore. They feed on a range of crustaceans, fish, other amphibians, insects and amphibian eggs. When it is available they will eat carrion. This leads to them becoming entangled in traps baited with dead fish.
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North America is the native home of the mudpuppy. Here they can be found throughout the United States and Canada. They live across the Eastern half of the continent. An introduced population has established in rivers in New England.
They spend their entire life in freshwater habitats. These may include lakes, rivers, ponds, streams and rivers. Most of their time is spent on the bottom of the water where they hide under rocks or debris.
Mating takes place in the fall across most of their range though it may occur in winter in the south of their range. The males and females will congregate in shallow water under rocks and logs. Here the males will crawl and swim around the female until they are ready to deposit their spermatophore.
Female retain the spermatophore in their cloaca until spring. At this time they will form a rudimentary nest which is typically a small depression in shallow and quiet water. They will then deposit the eggs individually on to the undersides of logs and rocks. A females clutch will include 30-200 eggs.
The incubation length of the eggs is dependent on temperature and may last from 1-2 months. Throughout this incubation the mother will remain with the eggs and protect them.
At hatching the young are colored brown with a yellow stripe down their side. After hatching they remain with their mothers for a period of time.
Mudpuppies remain in their larval form across most of their life unlike most salamanders which eventually lose their gills.
Sexual maturity will be reached between 4 and 6 years old.
The mudpuppy retains its gills for life and as such they live solely in water.
Typically the mudpuppy is active at night. If they live in murky water they may be active during the day.
Mudpuppies are one of the few salamanders which make noise. Their vocalization sounds like a squeak. This noise led to their name as some people believe it is similar to a dog’s bark.
Most of their movement is undertaken by walking along the floor of the watercourse. They can also swim in a movement similar to a fish.
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Predators and Threats
While their populations remains stable at present they are coming under increasing pressure from habitat loss and pollution.
Another name for the mudpuppy is the water dog.
Peter Paplanus from St. Louis, Missouri / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)
Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK
National Geographic. 2020. Mudpuppy. [online] Available at: <https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/amphibians/m/mudpuppy/> [Accessed 25 July 2020].
Siebert, E. 2008. "Necturus maculosus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed July 25, 2020 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Necturus_maculosus/
Baltimore, T., 2020. Mudpuppy | The Maryland Zoo. [online] The Maryland Zoo. Available at: <https://www.marylandzoo.org/animal/mudpuppy/> [Accessed 25 July 2020].
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