Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Caudata      Ambystoma talpoideum -- Mole Salamander

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photo of Ambystoma talpoideum

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, short body with disproportionately large head.

Similar Species: Smallmouth salamander.

Description: A stocky, gray to brownish black salamander up to 11 cm TL. Usually conspicuous light and dark stripes on the belly, even of larva. Often a white edge along top of adult tail. Costal grooves 10-11. Larva distinctively marked with mottled throat, pale streak on side of head, dark stripe extending down middle of belly, and pale stripe on lower side.

Habitat: Bald cypress and tupelo swamplands, sloughs, and nearby ponds of the Cache, Mississippi, and Ohio river valleys at the southern tip of Illinois.

Natural History: Adults move to breeding ponds (vernal pools, fish-free ponds, or swamp edges) for courtship and egg-laying during late autumn and winter rains. Females attach 200-400 small (2 mm diameter) eggs, in jelly-covered clusters of 1-35 each, to twigs and leaves under water. Larvae transform during summer or autumn and, in a few permanent ponds, some large larvae are known to overwinter. Adults feed on beetles, centipedes, slugs, worms, and other invertebrates.

Status: This salamander has a small range in the state, and requires wet bottomland and swamp habitat, much of which has been drained and fragmented. It is locally common in some of the remaining habitat fragments protected in state conservation areas, nature preserves, and Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge.


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