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New Jersey Endangered and Threatened Species Field Guide
Species Group: Amphibian
State: Special Concern
3 1/2” - 5”. This is a short and stocky salamander. The marbled salamander has white or gray crossbands on a dull black body. Band width varies, and bands may merge, form circles on the back, or have gaps. The male has white bands and the female has gray bands. Bands generally do not reach the black underside. Newly transformed young have brown to black ground color, with light speckles.
DISTRIBUTION AND HABITAT
Found throughout the entire state, marbled salamanders occur in habitats ranging from moist woodlands to dry, wooded hillsides and they are best found by looking under debris such as logs or rocks. During the breeding season, look in depressions that will become vernal pools.
The diet of adult marbled salamanders includes earthworms, insects, crickets, ants, snails and slugs. Salamander larvae feed on plankton, and aquatic insects.
Marbled salamanders are late summer to early fall breeders. Both males and females typically migrate to the area surrounding a dry vernal pool in September and October. Males court females and produce spermatophores from which the females obtain sperm. The female constructs a nest under moss, leaves or cover objects in a dry area of the pool basin and deposits 50-200 small transparent eggs. She remains with the eggs until hatched, warding off predators.
Larvae develop within the egg and hatch when the eggs are flooded in the fall. Marbled salamander larvae are carnivorous and feed throughout the winter, under the ice, on zooplankton and available small invertebrates. As they grow, they feed on larger prey, eventurally consuming most anything they can get in their mouths. By spring, they are able to feed on the hatching larvae of wood frogs and other species of mole salamander. The larvae transform into the land-dwelling form in May and June. Upon metamorphosis, they have a grayish-blue spotted pattern on a purplish-black body. Within a few weeks, the spots come together to form the characteristic adult pattern.
CURRENT STATUS, THREATS, AND CONSERVATION
Marbled salamanders exhibit strong fidelity to their breeding ponds. They have suffered from degraded water quality in these ponds. Our expanding network of roads has negatively impacted this species by impeding salamander movements into breeding ponds and increasing the incidence of roadside mortality.
The primary threats facing marbled salamanders in New Jersey are the loss, alteration, and degradation of quality habitat. Specialized habitat requirements and strong fidelity to breeding ponds render these salamanders vulnerable to habitat loss. In addition, restricted range and isolated populations hinder their ability to recover from localized extirpations or declines. An expanding network of roads fragmenting forests may impede salamander movements to breeding ponds or result in road mortality of migrating adults and dispersing juveniles. These salamanders are sensitive to water quality and may therefore be negatively affected by runoff, insecticide spraying, and other pollutants.
Marbled salamander locales, including breeding ponds and terrestrial habitats, should be protected from development, habitat degradation, and the reduction of water quality. In addition, mosquito control efforts, including insecticide spraying, should be restricted in the areas these salamanders occur.
Text written by Brian Henderson in 2011.
Species: A. opacum
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