Description: Marbled Salamanders grow to about 3.5-4.25
in (9 - 10.7 cm) in size and are stout-bodied and chubby
in appearance. They can be identified by their black/dark brown
body (including its venter) with light white/silvery crossbands
on the dorsum. This species is sexually dimorphic, males tend
to have white crossbands and females tend to have gray/silvery
crossbands. These crossbands, though, are not present in newly
transformed juveniles, which have flecks instead.
Range and Habitat: Marbled Salamanders are found throughout
the Southeast but are absent from southeastern Georgia, peninsular
Florida, and the higher elevations of the Appalachian Mountains.
They occur in a variety of habitats, which can range from low-lying
floodplains to wooded hillsides. They are a fossorial species,
meaning they spend most of their lives underground and out of
sight. Occasionally, they can be found under rocks, logs, and
even trash (e.g. a discarded car wheel). They breed in fishless,
temporary wetlands and vernal pools.
Habits: Adult Marbled Salamanders are nocturnal and burrow
or take refuge under logs or other cover during the day. They
are perhaps most often encountered when they migrate to wetlands
to breed on rainy nights in September and October. Marbled salamanders
breed in autumn (unlike most other mole salamanders which breed
in winter) and migrate to wetlands during/before a good rain to
court and mate. Females will lay about 30-100 eggs in a depression
on land (usually beneath a log or leaf litter). The female stays
with her developing eggs until rain fills the wetland and triggers
the eggs to hatch. If the rain never comes, then the eggs have
the ability to over winter until spring to hatch. The aquatic
larvae take from 2-9 months to metamorphose into terrestrial juveniles.
About another 15 months are needed for the juveniles to reach
Interesting Facts: A long-term study conducted at the
Savannah River Ecological Laboratory shows that fluctuations in
amphibian populations, including marbled salamanders, can be a
natural phenomenon. Like many salamanders, Marbled Salamanders
have poison glands in their tails to help deter predators.
Conservation Status: These salamanders are considered
common and are not protected in our region. However, this species
reliance on temporary wetlands and forested habitats makes habitats
loss a major conservation concern.
Account Author: Justin Oguni, University of Georgia -
edited by J.D. Willson