Spotted Salamanders are found from eastern North America from Nova Scotia and the Great Lakes to Georgia and eastern Texas.
These salamanders live in dark, moist deciduous forests near ponds, vernal pools and seasonal wetlands. They spend most of the year in underground burrows, but are sometimes found under rotting logs or leaf litter.
These robust salamaders are gray to gray-blue in color and have one or two rows of yellow to orange spots from head to tail tip. Their belly is gray and without spots.
Spotted salamander larvae are a dull greenish color. Their chin and throat are without markins and their heads are wider than their bodies.
Spotted Salamanders are carnivorous, both as juveniles and adults. They spend most of their lives within 100 meters of their home pond. As members of the mole salamander family, adults live primarily underground, burring into loose soil, under logs or dead leaves or in abandoned rodent burrows. Spotted salamanders hibernate in upland forests most commonly below ground in burrows created by small mammals or tree roots.
These salamanders become sexually mature between two and seven years of age. They breed early in the year with some southern populations beginning to migrate to their home ponds as early as December or January. Males and females migrate in large numbers, bypassing suitable pond sites to return to their hatching or “home” pools to breed. These pools tend to be free of fish, which prey on the eggs and larvae.
Females will lay two to four egg masses with as many as 250 eggs in each mass. They are normally attached to twigs or plant stems below the surface of the water. Salamander eggs have a jelly-like covering to prevent them from drying out. The jelly casing varies from clear to milky white but can sometimes be green from algae growth. The eggs hatch in four to six weeks.
Newly hatched salamanders emerge in a larval stage. They have external gills and long compressed tails for swimming. Larval salamanders are confined to the pond where they were hatched. The larvae remain in this stage for two to four months before transforming into juveniles. At this time, they lose the feathery external gills and their tail becomes thicker. Juveniles are able to leave the pond. If they hatch late enough in the season, they may over winter in the larval stage and transform to adults early the next spring.
Spotted Salamanders secrete a noxious substance from their skin to discourage predators. Their bright spots serve as a warning that they are toxic.
In addition to habitat loss, from deforestation and destruction of wetlands, spotted salamanders are suffering from the acidification of their seasonal ponds. Changing pH levels in the water reduces the ability of the eggs and larvae to survive, while at the same time, increasing the number of predatory insects in the ponds.