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QSalamander Photouestion from Josh L Lady: Which salamander is this?

Answer:
The picture posted is one of our mole salamanders (family Amystomatidae). This common family name comes from their habit of staying underground and in burrows of other creatures, except when breeding. Species in this family can be difficult to tell apart at times. Adding to the confusion, there is a species called the Mole salamander (Ambystoma talpoideum) which in Indiana is only found in the extreme southwestern part of the state.

The species below is likely a Small-mouthed Salamander (Ambystoma texanum). It can be found throughout Indiana except the extreme northwestern and southeastern portions of the state. The Small-mouthed Salamander is a moderate sized salamander characterized by its slender head and small mouth. Most individuals are dark gray to grayish brown with light gray speckles (often resembling lichen-like markings), particularly on the lower sides of the body. Adults usually reach 11-19 cm in length and have an average of 15 costal grooves (i.e., the “wrinkles” on the sides of the body; range 13-15).

I say it is likely a Small-mouthed Salamander because they are nearly identical to in appearance to the Streamside Salamander (Ambystoma barbouri). There are minor differences in the teeth and premaxillary bones between the two species; however, these structures are not readily observable in the field. Geographic location and habitat type are the best ways to distinguish these two species. Streamside Salamanders are restricted to extreme southeastern Indiana, occupy hilly areas, and breed in streams. Small-mouthed Salamanders exist nearly statewide, occur in wooded floodplains, and breed in ephemeral wetlands.

Resources:
Salamanders of Indiana, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center.
Appreciating Reptiles and Amphibians, The Education Store
Forest Management for Reptiles and Amphibians: A Technical Guide for the Midwest, The Education Store
Ranavirus: Emerging Threat to Amphibians, The Education Store

Brian MacGowan, Wildlife Extension Specialist
Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources



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