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The Tiger Salamander
The tiger salamander, a North American amphibian, is the largest salamander that lives on land. They also have the greatest range of all North American salamanders. They live throughout most of the U.S., eastern Mexico, and southern Canada.
Ambystoma tigrinum is the Latin name for the tiger salamander. Ambystoma means "blunt mouth" and tigrinum means "like a tiger". Below, you will find fun facts about the tiger salamander.
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Tiger salamanders are generally black with brilliant yellow markings (blotches or stripes) but colors can vary. Background colors can be black, brown, gray, blue, or green. Markings can be brown, black, orange, or white. Some have no markings and some are albinos.
Their average size is 6-8 inches (but they can grow up to 13-14 inches) and their average weight is about 4 ounces. They are thick-bodied with a broad, flat head, small eyes, and long tail. Their front feet have four toes and their back feet have five. Males tend to be longer than females.
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Tiger salamanders can be found living in forests, marshy areas, and grasslands. They reside in burrows (up to 2 feet below the surface), near lakes, ponds, or slow moving streams. Living underground provides a cool, moist environment. The tiger salamander (also known as a mole salamander) will either dig its own burrow or it will live in an abandoned burrow that was made by another animal.
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Tiger salamanders are excitable and secretive but they can be drawn to food. They do not like to be handled but they may be tempted to take food from your fingers.
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The tiger salamander's diet consists of insects, worms, frogs, slugs, snails, and even other salamanders.
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Predators include bobcats, badgers, owls, and snakes.
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Breeding takes place in late winter or early spring. The males and females will migrate to breeding ponds and court one another during the night. One to two days later, the female will lay her eggs in small pools (also during the night). Each female can lay 100-1000 eggs in one season. The average gestation period is 28 days. The larvae will stay in the pond until they become adults (2 1/2 - 5 months old). Sometimes, an adult will remain in the aquatic larval form for the rest of its life (probably due to lack of iodine in the water).
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More tiger salamander fun facts include:
- They have tail glands that produce a milky substance which is toxic when eaten.
- When threatened, they will curl their head and tail over their back, making their poisonous glands visible.
- They do not drink. Instead, water is absorbed through their skin while sitting in puddles or on dew-covered rocks.
- Tiger salamanders shed their skin, either in pieces or in one big piece.
- They are voiceless and although their eardrums lack visibility, they can hear well.
- In the wild, tiger salamanders live about 15 years and in captivity, they live about 25 years.
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Image courtesy of http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Salamandra_Tigre.png