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New Jersey Endangered and Threatened Species Field Guide
Eastern mud salamander
Pseudotriton montanus montanus
Species Group: Amphibian
The Eastern Mud Salamander is a heavy-bodied salamander with a relatively short, keeled tail. It is found in a variety of shades of red, and has well-defined round black spots. The sides and underside are lighter than the back. Body coloration and spotting vary with age, as juveniles are often bright red and lightly marked with a few, tiny spots. The adult underside is often flecked with brown or black; the underside in young is unmarked. Adults measure three to eight inches in length. The eyes are brown, unlike those of the Northern Red Salamander.
Distribution and Habitat
Eastern Mud Salamanders habitat only occurs in portions of the Pine Barrens. They inhabit low elevation swamps, bogs, springs, and streams that provide a muddy substrate (bottom) as well as clear, clean water. A fossorial species, this salamander seeks shelter in burrows beneath leaf litter, logs, stones, or bark. They may also excavate tunnels in creek banks. Mud salamanders spend much of their time near water, yet also burrow in the soil of the surrounding forest.
Adult mud salamanders feed on insects, spiders and earthworms and may also include salamanders. Larval mud salamanders likely feed on small aquatic invertebrates.
Due to its rarity, much information regarding the life cycle of the mud salamander in New Jersey is lacking. In other parts of its range, courtship and mating occur during late summer and early fall.
The clutch size, which increases with age, may range from 65 to nearly 200 small white eggs. The eggs are clumped together and attached to leaf litter and vegetation on the bottoms of slow-moving streams or in underwater channels within stream banks. The eggs hatch during the winter months. Female mud salamanders may skip breeding during some years, possibly due to the energetic strain of producing such a large clutch.
Mud salamanders require approximately 14 to 17 months of larval development. Some individuals undergo an additional year of growth, metamorphosing at 29 to 32 months. The larvae dwell in sluggish streams, seepages, and ponds. Newly hatched young subsist on their yolk sacs for several weeks, after which they feed on aquatic invertebrates. Recently metamorphosed salamanders typically hide under leaf litter near the water’s edge or beneath logs and rocks. Sexual maturity is attained at two to three years for males and at four to five years for females.
Current Threats, Status, and Conservation
Like many salamander species, habitat fragmentation and the degradation of water quality have negatively impacted this species. The extreme rarity of this species in the state has led some authorities to believe that mud salamanders have been extirpated from New Jersey.
Throughout the 1980s, surveys were conducted to locate mud salamander populations in southern New Jersey. Despite these efforts, there remain only two sightings of this species in the state.
Since so little is known about the eastern mud salamander in New Jersey, it is difficult to assess threats to this species. However, factors that endanger other salamanders, such as degradation of water quality and habitat loss, would also likely affect the mud salamander. The impacts of such threats would be compounded by the small population size in the state.
Additional surveys are needed to determine the distribution, habitat requirements, and life cycle of the eastern mud salamander in New Jersey. If the species is located, sites should be acquired or protected, high levels of water quality should be ensured, and the population should be monitored.
Text derived from the book, Endangered and Threatened Wildlife of New Jersey. 2003. Originally written by Sherry Liguori. Edited and updated by Brian Henderson.
Species: P. montanus montanus
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