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Yellow-spotted Salamander

Ambystoma maculatum (Shaw)


Camouflage is not a talent of this plump salamander. Its head, body and tail are dark grey to blue-black, with lighter blue-grey on the sides and belly. But along its back and tail are two uneven rows of very bright yellow spots. You'll know one when you see one!


At 10 to 20 cm long, these are our biggest salamanders. They are common all over, hiding by day in the moist forest darkness under logs and rocks, or in other animals' tunnels. On damp nights Yellow-spots move about on the forest floor searching for food. Like all Nova Scotian Salamanders they hibernate during the winter. You might find one holed up in a damp cellar or tucked into a woodpile.


March 26 is their earliest noted spring appearance here, but you will see them during April and May courting and mating in ponds at night. The male does an elaborate courtship dance to attract the female. Eggs are laid in water, in fist-sized masses of jelly attached to pond plants. Each female can lay up to several hundred eggs. Some larvae mature after one summer in the pond, but others overwinter in the mud. These become adults during their second summer.



Additional Facts and Details


These belong to the family called Mole Salamanders, Family Ambystomatidae. This family has 33 species in North America.


In Canada the Yellow-spotted Salamander occurs from Nova Scotia northwest to the Gaspé Peninsula and northwestern Ontario. In the United States it extends south to Georgia and eastern Texas.


Breeding sites have been located in all regions of Nova Scotia, including the plateau of the Cape Breton Highlands at 442 m above sea level, and coastal areas close to the high tide mark.


Total number of yellow spots ranges normally from 17 to 54. One adult male from North East Margaree, Inverness County, had no spots at all.


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


Newly transformed young range in length from 2.6 to 3.3 cm (81 individuals measured)


Adult females are usually longer than males (12.4 to 19.4 cm for females, 10.9 to 18.3 cm for males)


There are few observations of predation on salamanders because of their secretive living habits, but caddisfly larvae have been seen penetrating the egg mass and eating the developing salamander larvae.


Yellow-spotted Salamanders have been reported in the stomach contents of Brook Trout.


Many types of wetland serve as breeding sites, including old wells.


The earliest recorded observation of adult Yellow-spotted Salamanders during spring breeding is March 26, in 1973, in Colpton, Lunenburg County.


The latest recorded observation is November 4, in 1982, in the Forties area of Lunenburg County.


One mating dance was described like this: "Two males were observed courting one female in a roadside cattail pond during an overcast night. Each male moved along the bottom and gently bumped into the side of the female's body, as though nudging her with his head, then he would slide under or over her body and turn around to repeat the performance, rising to the surface occasionally for air".


The spermataphores, or packets of sperm, look like fuzzy blobs about the size of rice grains, attached to objects on the pond bottom.


Egg masses counted contained from 81 to 293 eggs. They are sometimes laid as one jellied mass, and sometimes as a number of smaller clumps.


Larvae normally mature in one summer but those developing in shaded woodland ponds may overwinter as larvae and transform the following spring. This is true at Heart-shaped Pond in Halifax, and was observed at a pond on Wolfville Ridge, Kings County.


Adult food is mostly spiders, snails, slugs, earthworms and beetles. Snails are an especially important food for juveniles.


Salamander populations appear to suffer when non-native species such as goldfish and red slider turtles are released into breeding ponds. This is a concern for salamanders in residential areas, such as Heart-shaped Pond.


Salamander Species

Yellow-spotted Salamander

Blue-spotted Salamander

Eastern Red-backed Salamander

Four-toed Salamander

Red-spotted Newt


Salamander Information

Finding Salamanders