Ambystoma laterale - Hallowell, 1856
Blue-spotted Salamander
Other English Common Names: blue-spotted salamander
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Ambystoma laterale Hallowell, 1856 (TSN 173599)
French Common Names: salamandre à points bleus
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.102149
Element Code: AAAAA01060
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Amphibians - Salamanders
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Amphibia Caudata Ambystomatidae Ambystoma
Genus Size: D - Medium to large genus (21+ species)
Check this box to expand all report sections:
Concept Reference
Concept Reference: Frost, D. R. 1985. Amphibian species of the world. A taxonomic and geographical reference. Allen Press, Inc., and The Association of Systematics Collections, Lawrence, Kansas. v + 732 pp.
Concept Reference Code: B85FRO01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Ambystoma laterale
Taxonomic Comments: Ambystoma jeffersonianum and A. laterale comprise a complex that includes pure bisexual diploid populations and populations that may be represented by bisexual diploid individuals, female hybrids with several different combinations of parental chromosomes (including diploids, triploids, tetraploids, and pentaploids), and/or rare male hybrids. Up to at least five different chromosomal combinations have been found at a single site.

In response to the nomenclatural difficulties presented by this complex, an informal system of indicating ploidy and chromosomal makeup has been recommended (Bogart and Klemens 1997). For example, the "LLLJ" designation (or "A. (3) laterale-jeffersonianum") indicates a tetraploid salamander with three sets of laterale chromosomes and one set of jeffersonianum chromosomes. For convenience, all populations including pure laterale (LL) and laterale-dominated genomes (e.g., LLJ) might be included in the species A. laterale (e.g., Klemens 1993).

However, biological complexities confound such a simple treatment. Polyploid hybrid individuals in the complex may produce offspring with diverse chromosomal makeup. For example, an LLJ female can produce offspring that do not have laterale-dominated genomes (e.g., LJJ). And single clutches have been documented with both diploid and triploid embryos. It is even possible for a triploid hybrid to produce pure diploid offspring (e.g., LL or JJ).

Truly intermediate hybrids with equal chromosomal representation (i.e., LJ, LLJJ) are uncommon and are but two of many possible outcomes of hybridization. In New England and New York, hybrids are more common than are the bisexual species, but bisexuals usually (or are presumed to) exist in low numbers in populations composed mostly of hybrids (Bogart and Klemens 1997). Thus, for example, a pond with triploid LLJ should also have at least some LL.

Hybrid populations are maintained by breeding between a hybrid female and a male of one of the diploid bisexual species, and the hybrid offspring are the result of gynogenetic or hybridogenetic reproduction (Bogart and Klemens 1997). In gynogenetic reproduction, male sperm stimulates egg development, but the male genome is not incorporated into the zygote. In hybridogenetic reproduction, the male genome is incorporated, "but upon maturity of the offspring, the paternal genome is eliminated in a meiotic or pre-meiotic event while the rest of the hybrid's genome is passed on to future generations, usually in an altered state" (Bogart and Klemens 1997).

Thus, recent work on hybrid phenomena in these salamanders indicates that the species names "A. platineum" (= LJJ) or "A. tremblayi" (= LLJ) formerly used for the A. jeffersonianum-A. laterale hybrids are inappropriate because LJJ and LLJ are not strictly gynogenetic triploid lineages. Consequently, a recent checklist (Crother et al. 2000) did not recognize either A. platineum or A. tremblayi as valid species.

To accommodate the genetic variation in these salamanders (and the often uncertain genetic composition of particular populations), we have established for this database the following elements: (1) Ambystoma jeffersonianum (Jefferson Salamander), used for pure populations only; (2) Ambystoma laterale (Blue-spotted salamander), used for pure populations only; (3) Ambystoma hybrid pop. 1 (jeffersonianum x laterale; jeffersonianum genome dominates), used for hybrid populations dominated by the jeffersonianum genome (e.g., populations that include mainly LJJ individuals); this element includes "Ambystoma platineum"; (4) Ambystoma hybrid pop. 2 (jeffersonianum x laterale; laterale genome dominates), used for hybrid populations dominated by the laterale genome (e.g., populations that include mainly LLJ individuals); this element includes "Ambystoma tremblayi"; (5) Ambystoma pop. 3 (jeffersonianum/laterale complex - uncertain composition), used for populations for which chromosomal representation is unknown. If needed we could establish additional elements for hybrid populations that involve A. laterale, A. texanum, and/or A. tigrinum.

See Kraus (1985), Bogart and Licht (1987), Bogart et al. (1987), Kraus et al. (1991), Lowcock et al. (1991), and Bogart and Klemens (1997) for information on the involvement of A. jeffersonianum in hybridization with A. texanum, A. tigrinum, and/or A. laterale. See Lowcock et al. (1987) and Bogart and Klemens (1997) for discussions of nomenclatural treatment of hybrid populations.

See Kraus (1988), Shaffer et al. (1991), and Jones et al. (1993) for phylogenetic analyses of North American Ambystoma.
Conservation Status

NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 05Jun2015
Global Status Last Changed: 14Dec2001
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Nation: United States
National Status: N5 (05Nov1996)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N5 (05Jun2015)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
United States Connecticut (S1), Illinois (S3), Indiana (S2), Iowa (S1), Maine (S4), Massachusetts (S3), Michigan (S5), Minnesota (S5), New Hampshire (S3), New Jersey (S1), New York (S4), Ohio (S1), Pennsylvania (S1), Vermont (S3), Wisconsin (S4S5)
Canada Labrador (S4), Manitoba (S3S4), New Brunswick (S4), Nova Scotia (S5), Nunavut (SNR), Ontario (S4), Prince Edward Island (S4), Quebec (S5)

Other Statuses

Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC): Candidate (Low) (26Jan2015)
IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 20,000-2,500,000 square km (about 8000-1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Southeastern Quebec to Lake Winnipeg, south through Great Lakes region and New England to northern Indiana and New Jersey. Several apparently disjunct populations occur around the periphery of the range (e.g., see Brownlie [1988] for Nova Scotia record). Hybridizes with A. jeffersonianum over a large area south of this range. See Nyman et al. (1988) for distribution in New Jersey.

Area of Occupancy: Unknown 4-km2 grid cells
Area of Occupancy Comments:  

Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300
Number of Occurrences Comments: Number of occurrences of pure A. laterale is uncertain, but there are many.

Population Size: 100,000 - 1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but likely exceeds 100,000.

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Unknown

Overall Threat Impact: Medium
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Biggest threat is loss and degradation of habitat as a result of coversion to agricultural and urban use. Roads negatively impact salamander abundance in roadside habitat (deMaynadier and Hunter 2000). Increased acid deposition is a potential threat.

Short-term Trend: Decline of <30% to relatively stable

Long-term Trend: Decline of <50% to Relatively Stable

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable

Environmental Specificity: Narrow. Specialist or community with key requirements common.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Global Range: (20,000-2,500,000 square km (about 8000-1,000,000 square miles)) Southeastern Quebec to Lake Winnipeg, south through Great Lakes region and New England to northern Indiana and New Jersey. Several apparently disjunct populations occur around the periphery of the range (e.g., see Brownlie [1988] for Nova Scotia record). Hybridizes with A. jeffersonianum over a large area south of this range. See Nyman et al. (1988) for distribution in New Jersey.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States CT, IA, IL, IN, MA, ME, MI, MN, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, VT, WI
Canada LB, MB, NB, NS, NU, ON, PE, QC

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at

Range Map Compilers: IUCN, Conservation International, NatureServe, and collaborators, 2004

U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
CT Fairfield (09001), Hartford (09003), Litchfield (09005), Middlesex (09007)*, New Haven (09009)*, New London (09011), Tolland (09013)*, Windham (09015)
IA Black Hawk (19013), Linn (19113), Washington (19183)
IN Allen (18003), De Kalb (18033), Jasper (18073), Kosciusko (18085), Lagrange (18087), Lake (18089), Noble (18113), Porter (18127), Pulaski (18131), St. Joseph (18141), Starke (18149), Steuben (18151)
MA Bristol (25005), Essex (25009), Franklin (25011), Hampden (25013), Hampshire (25015), Middlesex (25017), Norfolk (25021), Plymouth (25023), Suffolk (25025), Worcester (25027)
NJ Essex (34013), Morris (34027), Somerset (34035), Sussex (34037), Union (34039)*, Warren (34041)
OH Lucas (39095), Williams (39171)
PA McKean (42083), Northampton (42095), Warren (42123)
VT Addison (50001), Bennington (50003), Chittenden (50007), Essex (50009), Franklin (50011), Grand Isle (50013), Rutland (50021), Washington (50023), Windham (50025)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
01 Piscataqua-Salmon Falls (01060003)+, Merrimack (01070002)+, Nashua (01070004)+, Concord (01070005)+, Passumpsic (01080102)+, West (01080107)+, Middle Connecticut (01080201)+, Miller (01080202)+, Chicopee (01080204)+, Lower Connecticut (01080205)+, Farmington (01080207)+, Charles (01090001)+, Cape Cod (01090002)+, Blackstone (01090003)+, Narragansett (01090004)+, Quinebaug (01100001)+, Quinnipiac (01100004)+*, Housatonic (01100005)+
02 Hudson-Hoosic (02020003)+, Rondout (02020007)+, Lower Hudson (02030101)+*, Hackensack-Passaic (02030103)+, Middle Delaware-Musconetcong (02040105)+
04 Little Calumet-Galien (04040001)+, St. Joseph (04050001)+, Ottawa-Stony (04100001)+, St. Joseph (04100003)+, Lower Maumee (04100009)+, Mettawee River (04150401)+, Otter Creek (04150402)+, Winooski River (04150403)+, Lake Champlain (04150408)+
05 Upper Allegheny (05010001)+, Conewango (05010002)+, Upper Wabash (05120101)+, Tippecanoe (05120106)+
07 Skunk (07080107)+, Middle Cedar (07080205)+, Kankakee (07120001)+, Iroquois (07120002)+, Chicago (07120003)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
Basic Description: A salamander.
Reproduction Comments: In most areas, eggs are laid in March-April (early May at Isle Royale, Michigan), singly or in clusters of up to about 35; up to 500 eggs per female. Metamorphosis late June through August, or larvae may overwinter. Aggregates when breeding.

Hybrid offspring are the result of gynogenetic or hybridogenetic reproduction (Bogart and Klemens 1997).

Ecology Comments: See Van Buskirk and Smith (1991) for evidence of density-dependent population regulation in a population at Isle Royale, Michigan (increasing larval density in breeding pools resulted in reduced survival and growth, probably due to interference).
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: Migrates up to several hundred meters between breeding pools and summer range.
Lacustrine Habitat(s): Shallow water
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Forest - Hardwood, Forest - Mixed
Special Habitat Factors: Benthic, Burrowing in or using soil, Fallen log/debris
Habitat Comments: In New England and New Jersey, generally associated with lowland swamps and marshes and surrounding uplands with sandy or loamy soils (Nyman et al. 1988, Klemens 1993). in overgrown pastures. Adults usually under are objects or underground. Eggs are attached to submerged sticks or bottom of shallow forest ponds and pools. At Isle Royale, Michigan, breeds in splash pools on exposed rocky shorelines (Van Buskirk and Smith 1991). In northern Minnesota, successful reproduction in acidic bog water either does not occur or is a rare event (Karns 1992).
Adult Food Habits: Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Invertivore
Food Comments: Metamorphosed individuals eat snails, earthworms, beetles, beetle larvae, springtails, spiders, and other small invertebrates. Larvae eat small aquatic animals (zooplankton and benthic invertebrates).
Adult Phenology: Hibernates/aestivates, Nocturnal
Immature Phenology: Hibernates/aestivates, Nocturnal
Phenology Comments: Inactive late fall through most of winter.
Colonial Breeder: Y
Length: 13 centimeters
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
Management Summary Not yet assessed
Population/Occurrence Delineation
Group Name: Ambystomatid Salamanders

Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Occurrences are based on evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a given location. Such evidence minimally includes collection or reliable observation and documentation of one or more individuals (including larvae or eggs) in or near appropriate habitat where the species is presumed to be established and breeding.
Separation Barriers: Heavily traveled road, especially at night during salamander breeding season, such that salamanders almost never successfully traverse the road; road with a barrier that is impermeable to salamanders; wide, fast rivers; areas of intensive development dominated by buildings and pavement.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 1 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 3 km
Separation Justification: BARRIERS/UNSUITABLE HABITAT: Rivers may or may not be effective barriers, depending on stream width and hydrodynamics; identification of streams as barriers is a subjective determination. Bodies of water dominated by predatory fishes have been described as barriers but probably should be regarded as unsuitable habitat. For A. barbouri, a stream-pool breeder, predatory fishes appeared to act as a barrier to larval dispersal and gene flow for populations separated by as little as 500-1000 m (Storfer 1999). Highly disturbed land, such as the cleared and bedded soils of some silvicultural site preparation, may serve as an impediment to movement of A. cingulatum (Means et al. 1996), although Ashton (1998) noted the species' use of pine plantations, pastures, and three-year-old clearcuts. Such areas should be treated as unsuitable habitat rather than barriers.

MOVEMENTS: Palis's (1997b) suggested use of 3.2 km between breeding sites to distinguish breeding populations of A. cingulatum was based on Ashton's (1992) finding that individuals may move as much as 1.6 km from their breeding ponds. Ambystoma californiense sometimes migrates up to 2 km between breeding ponds and terrestrial habitat (see USFWS 2004). Funk and Dunlap (1999) found that A. macrodactylum managed to recolonize lakes after trout extirpation despite evidence of low levels of interpopulation dispersal. Based on a review of several Ambystoma species (e.g., Semlitsch 1981, Douglas and Monroe 1981, Kleeberger and Werner 1983, Madison 1997), Semlitsch (1998) concluded that a radius of less than 200 meters around a breeding pond would likely encompass the terrestrial habitat used by more than 95 percent of adults. Faccio's (2003) study of radio-tagged A. maculatum and A. jeffersonianum in Vermont supports this conclusion. In New York, all movements of A. tigrinum occurred in areas within 300 m of the nearest breeding pond (Madison and Farrand 1998). However, most studies of these salamanders had small sample sizes and/or were not designed to detect long-distance movements, so migration distance may be somewhat underestimated.

In summary, ambystomatid salamanders generally stay within a few hundred meters of their breeding pool. Due to high breeding site fidelity and limitation of breeding to pool basins, populations using different breeding sites exhibit little or no interbreeding among adults. Thus one might argue that each pool constitutes a separate occurrence or that the separation distance for suitable habitat should be the nominal minimum of 1 km. However, little is known about how frequently first-time (or experienced) breeders use non-natal pools (pools from which they did not originate) or how far they may move to such sites. Frequent colonization of new and remote habitats by at least some species suggests that dispersal movements sometimes may be longer than typical adult migration distances. It seems unlikely that locations separated by a gap of less than a few kilometers of suitable habitat would represent independent occurrences over the long term.

Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): .3 km
Inferred Minimum Extent Justification: Inferred extent distance pertains to breeding sites (with the center of the circle in the center of the breeding site). Most ambystomatids stay within a few hundred meters of their breeding pool (see separation justification section).
Date: 10Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G.
Population/Occurrence Viability
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 02May2011
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Hammerson, G.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 30Jan1998
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

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