Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Utility Links



  1. Illinois DNR
  2. Education

Wild About Illinois Salamanders! - Family Ambystomatidae

Photos © photographer named on image. No photographs included within this information may be used on the internet, publications, or any other form of media without the photographer's express permission. All rights reserved.


Jefferson salamander (Ambystoma jeffersonianum)

The Jefferson salamander averages about four to seven inches in length. It has long toes, a long snout and a slender body. The body may be brown or gray with a lighter belly. The limbs and lower body may have blue flecks.

The Jefferson salamander lives in damp woodlands, near swamps or ponds. It spends much of the year underground, coming out for a few days to reproduce. The female may deposit up to 20 egg masses of 15 eggs each. Eggs are attached to underwater vegetation and hatch in 30 to 45 days. Transformation to a land animal occurs from July to September. The Jefferson salamander eats earthworms and other invertebrates. The Jefferson salamander is threatened in Illinois. It is found in Illinois in only a few locations in the east-central part of the state along the Illinois-Indiana border.

blue-spotted salamander (Ambystoma laterale)

The blue-spotted salamander averages about four to five and one-half inches in length. It is dark brown, black or blue-black with pale blue specks on the belly and sides. Its head is wider than its neck.

The blue-spotted salamander lives in wooded, swampy areas with sandy soil. It spends much of the year underground, coming out for a few days to reproduce in March or April. Eggs are laid singly or in small clusters and attached to vegetation in water. Eggs hatch in about one month. Transformation to a land animal occurs in late June through mid-August. This salamander eats arthropods (spiders, insects, mites and others) and annelids (earthworms, leeches). The Illinois range for this species is the northeastern one-fourth of the state.

spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum)
The spotted salamander averages about four and one-half to seven and three-fourths inches in length. Its body is blue-black, slate or brownish-black with two rows of yellow or orange spots along the back extending from behind the eyes to the back of the tail.
In northern Illinois, the spotted salamander lives in deciduous and mixed woods. In southern Illinois, it may be found in low, oak-hickory forests next to swamps and creeks. The spotted salamander hides under rocks or logs during the day but wanders the forest floor at night. It migrates to woodland ponds during the spring to breed. A nuptial dance is part of the courtship in this species. The female lays eggs in clusters of several dozen on debris and vegetation in a pond. The female may deposit a total of 300 to 400 eggs. Eggs hatch in less than a month. A single-celled green alga is often found growing in the egg clumps of spotted salamanders. Transformation to a land animal usually occurs in late June through mid-August, although some larvae overwinter and transform the next summer. Two years are needed to reach maturity. The spotted salamander eats arthropods (spiders, insects, mites and others), mollusks (snails, slugs and others) and annelids (earthworms, leeches). Its Illinois range includes the northern one-half, southern one-third and east-central areas of the state.
marbled salamander (Ambystoma opacum)
The marbled salamander averages about three and one-half to four and one-half inches in length. It has bands or crossbars along the back, a black body and a plain, black belly. The crossbars are gray in females and white or silver in males. Its body is stout.

The marbled salamander lives in woodland areas with dry hillsides or moist sandy spots. It tolerates dry conditions but not low temperatures. It is rarely seen except in the breeding season. Mating takes place on land in the fall. The female deposits about 50 to 200 eggs in a depression on land near woodland ponds or swamps. Hatching depends on the eggs being covered with water. Transformation to a land-based form usually occurs in June or July of the following summer. This salamander eats worms, arthropods (spiders, insects, mites and others) and mollusks (snails, slugs and others). Its range in Illinois includes the southern one-half of the state.
silvery salamander (Ambystoma platineum)
The silvery salamander may be found as a native population in Vermilion County (east central Illinois) and an introduced population in Cook County. This salamander averages four to six inches in length. The body is brown, gray or blue-black. Blue flecks may be present on the lower body. The native colony of silvery salamanders in Vermilion County lives in a wooded upland and an adjacent ravine. Breeding occurs in a nearby vernal pool that dries out in mid-to-late summer or earlier.
The silvery salamander spends most of the time underground except for a short period when mating occurs. It is an all-female, triploid species containing two sets of chromosomes derived from the Jefferson salamander and one from the blue-spotted salamander. To activate egg development, the female mates with a male of a different species (small-mouthed salamander), but the sperm makes no genetic contribution to the offspring. Eggs are deposited in water and attached to vegetation. Young salamanders transform into the adult, land-based form in summer. This animal eats invertebrates. The silvery salamander is endangered in Illinois.
mole salamander (Ambystoma talpoideum)
The mole salamander averages three to four inches in length. The head and feet of this animal are very large compared to the rest of the body. The body may be black, brown or gray and may have grayish flecks. It usually has a dark stripe on the belly.
The mole salamander lives in lowland woods. It spends much of the time underground or beneath objects like rocks and logs. It ventures above ground to reproduce. Eggs are attached to vegetation in shallow woodland ponds or swamps. Each female may produce 200 to 400 eggs. Transformation to the land-based adult takes place three to four months after the eggs are deposited. This salamander eats worms, mollusks (snails, slugs) and arthropods (spiders, insects, mites and others). The mole salamander lives in Illinois only in the southern one-fourth of the state.
small-mouthed salamander (Ambystoma texanum)

The small-mouthed salamander averages four to five and one-half inches in length. It has a small mouth and head. There are two color variations: the dark variation has an indistinct pattern while the speckled variation has a black and gray pattern on a black background. The belly is black.


The small-mouthed salamander lives in woodlands, prairies, swamps, river floodplains and farm fields. It may be found under objects or in burrows. It is active at night. Breeding occurs from late February through March. Eggs are deposited on sticks or vegetation in masses of six to 30 in any standing body of water. Some small-mouthed salamanders breed in streams. Each female may deposit from 300 to over 800 eggs. Eggs hatch in a few days. Larvae transform into land-based adults from late May through July. This salamander eats earthworms, slugs and arthropods (spiders, insects, mites and others). The small-mouthed salamander may be found statewide in Illinois.

Photo © Lance Merry,


eastern tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum)

The eastern tiger salamander averages seven to eight and one-fourth inches in length. Its body is blue-black or brown-black with random, small, yellow blotches. The olive-yellow belly has dark stripes.

The eastern tiger salamander lives in woodlands, swamps, prairies, urban areas and farm fields. It spends most of its time under ground. It is active at night. Breeding occurs in the spring, although migration to breeding ponds may occur in the fall. Clusters of 25 to 100 eggs are attached to objects on the bottom of a pond. A female may deposit about 1,000 eggs in a breeding season. Incubation depends on the temperature but averages three weeks. Larvae transform to the adult land-based form from July through September. The eastern tiger salamander eats any animal that it can catch, especially worms and insects. This species lives statewide in Illinois.