Eastern Tiger Salamander Ambystoma tigrinum

Family: Ambystomatidae

General Adult Description: As adults, Eastern Tiger Salamanders are terrestrial. Adult Eastern Tiger Salamanders typically have a dark brown or black background color with small, yellow-brown marks scattered along the body. While similar in body shape, Western Tiger Salamanders (Ambystoma mavortium) can be much more variable in color and patterning than the Eastern Tiger Salamander (Western Tiger Salamanders can have large, bold yellow bars on a black background or black spots or lines on an olive green background).

General Larval Description: As juveniles, Eastern Tiger Salamanders are aquatic. Larval Eastern Tiger salamanders are typically yellowish-brown in coloration with little to no visible pattern or markings and have three pairs of external, feather-like gills used for respiration. As individuals age and begin metamorphosis, these external gills begin to shrink in size and markings and patterns begin to develop on the body. Additionally, the tail is enlarged with a thin, membranous fin extending from the tail musculature to aid in swimming, which shrinks as individuals are undergoing metamorphosis. As larvae, they are often called a “mudpuppy” or “waterdog” and may appear similar to the Mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus), a much different salamander that is permanently aquatic. Larval Eastern Tiger Salamanders can be differentiated from the Mudpuppy by the presence of five digits on the hind leg (versus only four in the Mudpuppy).

Behavior: Adult salamanders are infrequently encountered as most adult movement occurs in the early spring while they are moving to and from breeding habitats (fishless ponds, stock dams) in during and shortly after heavy rains. Salamanders are typically nocturnal when they emerge from shelter to feed on invertebrates.

Reproduction: Adult females lay eggs in small clusters typically attached to aquatic vegetation and woody debris. Oviposition typically occurs in fishless ponds. Breeding typically occurs in the early spring, and the timing is largely determined by temperature and rainfall events.

Habitat: Eastern Tiger Salamanders use a wide range of habitats including woodlands and prairie habitats. Typically, these habitats are relatively close to wetlands, lakes, and cattle ponds where breeding occurs.

Species Range: Eastern Tiger Salamanders occupy a large area east of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, throughout the Ohio River drainage, and along the Atlantic Coast from Florida north to New York. Additionally, many scattered disjunct populations exist which are seemingly isolated from other populations.

South Dakota Range: The exact range of this species is poorly understood in South Dakota. Generally, it is believed to occupy the southeastern corner of South Dakota. Future studies should examine the boundaries between Eastern and Western Tiger Salamanders in the state.

South Dakota Status: This species is not listed by South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks.

Account written by Drew R. Davis and Lanian M. Florke

Distribution Map
Distribution map of Eastern Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum)

County level distribution of this species in South Dakota. Map generated from data collected from voucher specimens and photographic records. See About for additional information.

Eastern Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum)
Eastern Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum)
Eastern Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum)