Long-toed salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum)

Description
Long-toed Salamander

Size

  • This slender salamander can reach a total length of 140 millimetres (about 5.5 inches).

Appearance

  • Is brown-gray to black in colour.
  • Is easily identified by a vivid yellow stripe running down its back, which dulls with age. The stripe is wavy and sometimes patchy.
  • Has white flecks on sides and feet.

Voice/call

  • Unlike frogs and toads, salamanders do not call.
Distribution
tiger salamander distribution in Alberta
  • In Alberta, the long-toed salamander is limited to the western margin of the province.
  • IIs found in subalpine to alpine areas beneath an elevation of roughly 2,800 metres (almost 9,200 feet) above sea level.
  • Distribution in the mountains is likely controlled by the number of possible breeding ponds and dispersal routes.
  • Despite restricted distribution in Alberta, long-toed salamanders are widely found in British Columbia.
Natural History

Habitat

  • In Alberta, long-toed salamanders are often found in habitats modified by human activity, such as borrow pits.
  • Adults tend to remain close to the breeding pond, but they have been found almost a kilometre away from their presumed breeding pond.
  • Because long-toed salamanders are primarily nocturnal, they are difficult to locate outside of the breeding season. It is during the breeding season that long-toed salamanders are easiest to find when they congregate at breeding ponds.
  • Since breeding can occur from April to May, depending upon the time of snowmelt, several trips to potential breeding sites may be required to find breeding salamanders.

Food

  • The preferred food appears to be small worms and insects.

When active

  • Though generally secretive, like most salamanders, the long-toed salamander can be seen during April and May when adults are migrating to breeding ponds.
  • Juveniles may be seen in September when they are seeking hibernation sites.
  • Though they are almost entirely nocturnal, adults may be found during the day in the following locations:
    • under rocks, decaying logs, or other debris
    • under ground
    • near bodies of water: ponds, lakes, or sometimes streams
Reproduction and Growth
Life Stage Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep
Breeding Breeding Bar: April 15 to May 21
Eggs Hatch Eggs Hatch Bar: April 29 to June 21
Transformation Transformation Bar: August 20 to September 20
or over winter

Breeding behavior

  • Adults migrate to breeding ponds in April or May, often before the ponds are clear of ice.
  • Breeding ponds tend to be relatively shallow, often less than one metre (3.28 feet) deep and not necessarily permanent. Ponds free of fish appear to be required for successful breeding.
  • Eggs are laid either singly or in clusters on submerged vegetation or on the bottom.
  • Eggs hatch roughly three weeks later, depending upon the water temperature.

Appearance of young

  • When first hatched, larvae are only about 15 millimetres (a little over 0.5 inches) long, but they can grow up to 60 to 70 millimetres (2.36 to 2.76 inches) before transforming in late August.
  • The larvae are a grey or light-brown in colour with dark flecks and a silvery belly.

Growth process

  • Change from larval to adult form usually happens in the first summer after hatching, around August.
  • Habitat elevation and water temperature can affect the length of the larval stage for long-toed salamanders.
  • In some locations, long-toed salamander larvae may overwinter before transforming.
Conservation and Management

Status

The long-toed salamander is classified as Sensitive in the current Status of Alberta Wildlife report because it is naturally rare with a patchy distribution. For details, see the Status of the Long-toed Salamander in Alberta report at:

In a subsequent detailed status assessment, Alberta’s Endangered Species Conservation Committee identified the long-toed salamander as a Species of Special Concern—a species that without human intervention may soon become threatened with extinction. See information on the Endangered Species Conservation Committee and Species of Special Concern at:

Issues

  • The presence of predatory fish can affect salamander survival and distribution. Stocking of game fish in breeding ponds can limit salamander success rates.
  • Industrial activity and agricultural chemicals may have negative impacts on long-toed salamander habitats.

Current management

  • Amphibian Monitoring in Alberta

    The long-toed salamander is being monitored under the Alberta Volunteer Amphibian Monitoring Program (AVAMP) and the Researching Amphibian Numbers in Alberta (RANA) program. See:

 

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Posted: Oct 24, 2009