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Blue-spotted Salamander

Ambystoma laterale (Hallowell)

This blue-black salamander has pale blue spots on its sides, tail and legs. It is found in northern Nova Scotia, isolated populations in Annapolis and Queens County, and Cape Breton, but not along the Atlantic coast.

Blue-spotted Salamanders lay their eggs singly, at the base of plants or stones in the water. Look for them in ponds or ditches on damp nights from April to mid-May. During the day they usually remain under over where they are not exposed to direct sunlight. In summer and fall they spend the days in damp forests, coming out at night to search the forest litter for food. You will only find one by turning over rocks, stumps or logs in the vicinity of aquatic breeding sites in the right part of the province. From late July to early December, newly transformed larvae leave their aquatic nursery to move to land habitats. You may see them crossing wet highways at night.

Blue-spotted Salamanders eat a variety of small invertebrates. While on land, they favour slugs and earthworms in spring, and snails, centipedes, earthworms and rove beetles in summer and fall.

There are some unusual genetic features of these salamanders - a few locations in northern Nova Scotia have populations with an extra set of chromosomes.

Additional Facts and Details

These are members of the family called Mole Salamanders, Family Ambystomatidae. This family has 33 species in North America.

For many years, this and another species, the Jefferson's Salamander, were confused as one species. In 1964 a researcher suggested there were two species, from the same ancestral stock but separated into two populations during the Wisconsinan Glaciation. When the ice receded, they recolonized the land but during the thousands of years of isolation they had become two separate species. The southern species kept the name Jefferson's Salamander and the northern species became the Blue-spotted Salamander.

There are some places in Cumberland County where triploid females exist. These females have a full extra set of chromosomes. Although they mate normally, sperm cells do not unite with the triploid female's eggs. The eggs develop, but carrying only the chromosomes of the female parent.

How big do they get? Here are some actual measurements:

Newly transformed Blue-spotted Salamanders measured range from 5.5 to 8.2 cm long.

Adult males ranged from 7.8 to 13.4 cm long; diploid (normal) females from 9.5 to 14.0 cm long; triploid females from 12.0 to 15.5 cm long.

This species occurs in the Maritime Provinces, Labrador, Quebec, Ontario and eastern Manitoba, and ranges south to New England, New York, northern Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.

The Nova Scotia distribution is mostly in the northern mainland, with a disjunct locality in the Kempt area, Queens County, and in 5 widely separated localities on Cape Breton Island. Range extensions are welcome, please call or email them in.

It is possible that this species is absent along most of the Atlantic coast because of the natural acidity of the soils.

Preferred habitat is coniferous, deciduous and mixed woodlands adjacent to alder swamps and slow-moving streams. A few roadside ponds have been used for breeding.

The earliest recorded observation for adults during spring breeding is April 9, in 1951, in Kempt, Queens County.

On one misty night in April in Cumberland County, over 100 salamanders were seen migrating to roadside breeding ponds.

Another good time to see these salamanders is during wet nights in late July through September, when the newly transformed young move from ponds to terrestrial habitats.

The latest recorded observation in autumn is September 17, in 1976, at Amherst Shore, Cumberland County.

Pea Clams, Pisidium adamsi, have been observed being carried along on the toes of the salamander hind foot.

Egg counts totaled from 73 to 538 eggs per female per year, laid individually at the base of vegetation or stones in the water.

Salamander Species

Yellow-spotted Salamander

Blue-spotted Salamander

Eastern Red-backed Salamander

Four-toed Salamander

Red-spotted Newt

Salamander Information

Finding Salamanders