The blue spotted salamander, belonging to genus Ambystoma, is often noted as mole salamander. These little species get its common name because of the blue patches seen on the upper part of its body. They are known to hybridize with closely associated species.
Species: A. laterale
The scientific name for blue spotted salamander is Ambystoma laterale.
They have a long, slender body, but they are not as lean as the jefferson salamander. Adult blue spotted salamanders tend to be around 8 to 13 centimeters in length. Forty percent of its total body size is comprised of its tail. Females are a little longer than males.
However, males have flattened, longer tails. The skin color of the blue spotted salamander is generally bluish-black, with blue spots on the upper part; while they have light blue, or bluish white spots on its tail and the sides of the body. The color of the belly is a lot paler compared to the upper part. They carry 12 to 14 coastal folds. They have four toes on the front feet, and five on the rear feet.
Blue spotted salamanders inhabit deciduous, moist woodlands and coniferous forests adjacent to shallow waterbodies, or fish-free ponds that are capable of retaining water during summer. At times, they are often seen in overgrown pastures, swampy forests, open fields, and gardens. They spend most of their life in burrows and forest floors; or under rocks, logs or leaf litters.
The blue-spotted salamander is native to northeastern United States and southern Canada. Their range goes from Manitoba to Gulf of Saint Lawrence; across Great Lakes basin in the south; to Iowa and Minnesota in the west; to New Jersey and New England in the east.
The blue spotted salamander is a very secretive and solitary creature. They are primarily nocturnal. They can often be seen active during damp weather or warm rainy nights. They have several defensive adaptations. The little blue patches on its body help them to camouflage in its habitat. They have granular glands mostly concentrated on its tail; thanks to which, they are capable of releasing a white, toxic fluid. If threatened, they raise their tail curling over its body. If a predator attacks, they cast it on its mouth.
Breeding takes place in spring. Blue spotted salamanders breed in marshes, temporary ponds, swamps, or woodland puddles. Females can lay around 200 eggs in one mating season.
The eggs are either laid singly or in wobbly cluster attached to underwater plants, twigs, rocks or small vegetation. The eggs take around one month to hatch. The larvae carry well-developed eyes, mouth, and external gills that fade over time. Front limbs are formed within two weeks, and hind limbs are formed within three weeks. By midsummer, the larvae transform into its terrestrial state. They reach sexual maturity at the age of two years.
This little carnivorous species eat snails, slugs, spiders, centipedes, insects, worms as well as other invertebrates. The larvae feed on mosquito larvae, copepods, water fleas, small insects and insect larvae.
The lifespan of this species is unknown. However, it is believed that they can live somewhere between 5 to 20 years, in the wild.
Common predators of Ambystoma laterale include raccoons, birds, dogs, various types of snakes, and fishes among others.
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species has listed this salamander species in the “Least Concern” category.
The Ambystoma laterale (blue spotted salamander) and Ambystoma jeffersonianum (jefferson salamander) are part of a complex and unfamiliar puzzle of amphibian biology. These salamander species are correlated with hybrids; primarily female, which carry three, four or five sets of chromosomes in their DNA instead of two sets (diploid). These individuals respectively called triploid, tetraploid and pentaploid.
The population of blue spotted salamander is not going through any major declines in its native habitat. In fact, they are also known to be tolerant to human disturbances. However, researchers believe that forest degradation due to road building and logging can be a threat in near future.
Female Ambystoma tremblayi (tremblay’s salamander) is known to breed with male Ambystoma laterale (blue spotted salamander) somewhere between March – April. The females lay eggs in little clump of 6 to 10 eggs, or singly, attached to the underwater vegetation. The chromosome contribution of the male stimulates the development of the egg.
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