Description: Mole Salamanders are mid-sized -- 3-4 in
(7.5-10 cm) -- stout-bodied salamanders with large,
flattened heads. They are black, brown, or grey in color with
pale bluish or silvery flecks. Males can be distinguished by a
swollen cloaca. Larvae and paedomorphic adults are aquatic
and have large feathery gills. They can be distinguished
from other salamander larvae by the presence of two light stripes
on their underside.
Range and Habitat: Mole Salamanders are found throughout
the Coastal Plain of the Southeast and there are scattered populations
in the Piedmont. Larvae and neotenic adults found in fishless
wetlands. Adults are found in forested habitats and seem to prefer
sandy pine forests more than the Marbled Salamander (Ambystoma
opacum). Occasionally adults may be found under logs or in
moist leaf litter.
Habits: Adult Mole Salamanders are nocturnal and burrow
during the day. They are perhaps most often encountered when they
migrate to wetlands to breed on rainy nights from October to March.
Mole salamanders are facultatively paedomorphic, meaning that
they may retain larval characteristics as adults and continue
to live in water or complete metamorphosis and live in the terrestrial
environment. The "decision" to undergo metamorphosis
is not fully understood and may be based on environmental cues
such as water level, light intensity, food availability, competition,
and predation. A recent study found that neotenic A. talpoideum
breed earlier and have higher survival rates than terrestrial
conspecifics, which may explain why paedomorphism occurs in this
Conservation Status: These salamanders are considered
common and are not protected in our region.
Ryan, T. J. and G. R. Plague. 2004. Hatching asynchrony, survival,
and the fitness of alternative adult morphs in Ambystoma talpoideum.
Scott, D. E. 1993. Timing and reproduction of paedomorphic and
metamorphic Ambystoma talpoideum. American Midland Naturalist
Account Author: Emily Rogers, University of Georgia -
edited by J.D. Willson