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Four-toed Salamander

Hemidactylium scutatum (Schlegel)


This is our least common species. Most reports are from south central Nova Scotia, but the creature is small and secretive and easily overlooked. More reports would be very welcome.


The Four-toed Salamander is orange to reddish brown above with patches of black spots. It is the only white-bellied salamander in Nova Scotia. Its hind feet have four toes instead of five. This salamander species has no lungs. The animals breathe through their skins, and the lining of the roof of the mouth.


Its habitat is moist mossy woods, particularly in peat moss. Peat bogs or mossy areas bordering streams are good breeding sites. Adults lay eggs deep between the moss plants. The little larvae live in the water for a short while, then move to live on land.



Additional Facts and Details


The Family Plethodontidae, the Lungless Salamanders, has 23 genera and 214 species known world-wide. Most are known only from North America. There are seven genera and eight species recorded from Canada; in Nova Scotia, two genera, each represented by a single species, are native.


These salamanders breathe through their skin and the lining of the roof of the mouth. Moisture is essential to their survival.


Characteristic of this family, but difficult to see without magnification, is the "nasolabial groove", a small but distinct groove from the nostril to the upper lip.


Males and females differ in the shape of the head. The snout of the male is elongated and almost square; that of the female is short and rounded.


Colour of adults - varies from orange brown to reddish-brown above with small patches of fine black spots on the back of the trunk, down the sides of the head, tail and limbs. This is the only salamander native to the Maritime Provinces that has a white abdomen.


Size - adult males, length from 4.5 to 7.9 cm; females, from 4.4 to 9 cm. Newly hatched larvae - around 1.2 cm.


Distribution in Canada - Nova Scotia, southern Quebec and southern Ontario. In the United States, southern Maine to Wisconsin and south to Alabama with disjunct populations further west and south.


In Nova Scotia, it has been found on the mainland and on Cape Breton Island. Except in the south-central mainland, most localities are widely separated. It is the least common Nova Scotia salamander.


This salamander is closely associated with sphagnum areas bordering streams and in sphagnum bogs during spring breeding season. During summer, adults have been found in woodland habitats.


In April and early May, females lay eggs deep between the sphagnum plants, often at the bases of standing dead conifers, stumps or logs. The eggs cling together. The hatched larvae wriggle further downwards through the sphagnum and drop into the water.


Based on ovarian counts, Four-toed Salamanders in Nova Scotia lay from 24 to 37 eggs each year. Five nests uncovered in Annapolis County contained 19, 20, 22, 25 and 27 eggs.


These salamanders eat a variety of invertebrates. Stomach contents of 18 animals examined contained ticks, spiders, springtails, midges, beetles, fly larvae, ants and snails.


Salamander Species

Yellow-spotted Salamander

Blue-spotted Salamander

Eastern Red-backed Salamander

Four-toed Salamander

Red-spotted Newt


Salamander Information

Finding Salamanders