Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Caudata      Ambystoma platineum -- Silvery Salamander

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photo of Ambystoma platineum

Purple shade indicates vouchered specimens. Light blue (cyan) shade indicates photographic records. Yellow shade indicates verified sighting. Slanted hatch indicates pre-1980 records only

NOTE: Not all specimens upon which these maps are based have been verified.

Key Characters: Dark, slender body; all-female species.

Similar Species: Blue-spotted salamander, Jefferson salamander, slimy salamander, smallmouth salamander.

Description: A long (up to 17 cm TL) salamander with blue lichenlike markings on sides and scattered blue flecks over head, back, limbs, and belly. Juveniles more brightly marked with blue. Costal grooves usually 13 (80%), occasionally 14. Lower jaw does not protrude beyond upper. Silvery salamanders are distinguishable from Jefferson salamanders only by counting chromosomes or measuring the silvery's larger red blood cells.

Habitat: Vicinity of two shallow vernal ponds in a mesic oak-sugar maple-beech forest in Vermilion County.

Natural History: Thought to have originated through hybridization and backcrossing between A. laterale and A. jeffersonianum thousands of years ago, this unusual all-female species usually occurs with the Jefferson salamander. The single known Illinois population occurs with smallmouth, marbled, and spotted salamanders. During February and March rains, the subterranean adults migrate to ponds and breed. They use smallmouth salamander sperm to activate egg development. Jelly-covered masses of 2-50 eggs are attached to sticks or left loose on pond bottom. Mortality of developing embryos is sometimes as high as 80%. Adults feed on beetles, centipedes, slugs, worms, and other invertebrates.

Status: Endangered in Illinois. Distribution extremely limited in the state. Only one natural population is known, in a state park. In some years the breeding pond has not held water long enough for larvae to develop to metamorphosis.


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