Flatwoods Salamander (Ambystoma cingulatum)

Flatwoods Salamander (Ambystoma cingulatum)

Photos by J.D. Willson unless otherwise noted

Description: The flatwoods salamander (Ambystoma cingulatum) is a member of the family Ambystomatidae. Species in this family are known as mole salamanders because of their fossorial lifestyle. Adult total length ranges from 3.5-5.3 in (9-13.5 cm); while the larvae range from 0.5-1 in (10-19 mm) TL. Adults are a dark gray or black color on the dorsum with a pattern of light gray or grayish brown markings that form reticulations, a frosted lichenlike pattern, or small annuli. The dark gray venter of adults is covered with lighter gray spots or flecks. The larvae are a brown color with a light yellow or tan vertebral stripe bordered by light lateral stripes. Dark stripes also run from the snout to the gills of larval specimens. Recent metamorphs often show some sign of larval markings like the vertebral stripe.

Range and Habitat: Flatwoods salamanders occur throughout the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains of southern Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and northern Florida but are widly scattered in distribution. They prefer open longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) or slash pine (Pinus elliottii) flatwoods or savannas with wiregrass (Aristida stricta). These habitats are prone to fire, and adults spend a majority of their life underground. Temporary, fishless, wetland depressions are also critical to larvae of this species.

Habits: Flatwoods salamanders migrate to breeding sites in the fall and winter. The eggs are laid terrestrially near crayfish burrows or under logs, leaves, bushes, and other detritus found in low elevation dry wetlands. The eggs hatch when winter rains fill the dry pond basin.

Conservation Status: The flatwoods salamander is currently listed as a federally threatened species and vulnerable under the IUCN Redlist. Destruction of habitat is the primary threat.

Pertinent References:
Means, D. B., J. G. Palis, and M. Baggett. 1996. Effects of Slash Pine Silviculture on a Florida
Population of Flatwoods Salamander. Conservation Biology 10:426-437.

Petranka, J. W. 1998. Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian
Institution Press. Washington and London.

Whiles, M. R., J. B. Jensen, J. G. Palis, and W. G. Dyer. 2004. Diets of Larval Flatwoods
Salamanders, Ambystoma cingulatum, from Florida and South Carolina. Journal
of Herpetology 38:208-214.

Account Author: Austin Meadows, University of Georgia – revised by J.D. Willson