- (Gravenhorst, 1807)
Other English Common Names: marbled salamander
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s):
Ambystoma opacum (Gravenhorst, 1807) (TSN 173591)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.104610
Element Code: AAAAA01100
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates
Genus Size: D - Medium to large genus (21+ species)
Check this box to expand all report sections:
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 opacum
Taxonomic Comments: See Kraus (1988), Shaffer et al. (1991), and Jones et al. (1993) for phylogenetic analyses of North American AMBYSTOMA.
Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 04Nov2008
Global Status Last Changed: 02Oct2001
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Large extent of occurrence in eastern United States; high abundance, many stable populations throughout the range.
Nation: United States
National Status: N5
U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Alabama (S5), Arkansas (S5), Connecticut (S4), Delaware (S3), District of Columbia (S3), Florida (SNR), Georgia (S5), Illinois (S4), Indiana (S4), Kentucky (S5), Louisiana (S5), Maryland (S5), Massachusetts (S2S3), Michigan (S1), Mississippi (S5), Missouri (S5), New Hampshire (S1), New Jersey (S3), New York (S3), North Carolina (S5), Ohio (SNR), Oklahoma (S4), Pennsylvania (S3S4), Rhode Island (S2), South Carolina (SNR), Tennessee (S5), Texas (S5), Virginia (S5), West Virginia (S4)
IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern
NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors
Range Extent: 200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Range extends from southern New Hampshire southward to northern Florida, west through southeastern New York to the southern Lake Michigan region, and south to eastern Oklahoma, eastern Texas, and the Gulf Coast. The species is absent from most of the Appalachian Mountains.
Area of Occupancy: >12,500 4-km2 grid cells
Area of Occupancy Comments:
Number of Occurrences: > 300
Number of Occurrences Comments: Many and/or large occurrences exist throughout most of the range.
Population Size: 100,000 to >1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but certainly exceeds 100,000.
Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Very many (>125)
Overall Threat Impact: Medium
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Threats to local populations likely include intensive timber harvesting practices that reduce canopy closure, understory vegetation, uncompacted forest litter, or coarse woody debris (moderately to well-decayed) in areas surrounding breeding sites (deMaynadier and Hunter 1999). Breeding sites are vulnerable to destruction and degradation through draining and filling, and many are being isolated by habitat fragmentation, which could eventually result in deleterious levels of inbreeding and reduced chances of reestablishment of locally extripated populations. Thousands of local populations already have been eliminated by habitat loss, and more will be lost in the future (Petranka 1998).
Short-term Trend: Decline of <30% to relatively stable
Short-term Trend Comments: Many local breeding sites have been eliminated by conversion of habitat to intensive human uses, and such loses are ongoing (Petranka 1998). However, a large number of stable populations exist, the overall rate of decline probably is less than 10 percent over 10 years or three generations.
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
(200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles))
Range extends from southern New Hampshire southward to northern Florida, west through southeastern New York to the southern Lake Michigan region, and south to eastern Oklahoma, eastern Texas, and the Gulf Coast. The species is absent from most of the Appalachian Mountains.
U.S. States and Canadian Provinces
Endemism: endemic to a single nation
U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
AL, AR, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MA, MD, MI, MO, MS, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, WV
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 www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.
Range Map Compilers: IUCN, Conservation International, NatureServe, and collaborators, 2004
U.S. Distribution by County
||County Name (FIPS Code)
New Haven (09009)*
Van Buren (26159)*
Cape May (34009),
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed
||Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
Middle Connecticut (01080201)+,
Cape Cod (01090002)+,
Middle Delaware-Mongaup-Brodhead (02040104)+,
Middle Delaware-Musconetcong (02040105)+,
Great Egg Harbor (02040302)+,
Lower Susquehanna-Swatara (02050305)+,
St. Joseph (04050001)+*,
Lower Cimarron (11050003)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
General Description: Marbled salamanders have smooth skin with vertical grooves on each side of the torso, a broad head, and small eyes. The upper side is black with whitish or grayish bands. The belly in plain black. Juveniles are black or brown with numerous tiny light dots on the upperside. Maximum total length is about 5 inches (13 cm). Large larvae have large external gills and a conspicuous row of light spots on each sides bordered by less distinct rows The throat has dispersed, uniform dark stippling, and the chest and sides of the belly have scattered dark specks. Eggs are small separate spheres with clear jelly.
Reproduction Comments: Mating and egg deposition occur in late summer or early fall (August-November; earlier in the north than in the south). Mating often occurs before the female arrives at pond-basin nesting areas (Krenz and Scott, 1994, Herpetologica 50:46-50). Females deposit single clutches of up to about 250 eggs, which are attended by the female until the nest is flooded (female commonly deserts nest if disturbed before flooding). Larvae hatch in fall (usually) or as late as spring, depending on when rains flood the nest. Larvae metamorphose in spring or early summer and move into upland habitats. Most first-time breeders are at least a few years old. Maximum life-span is at least 11-12 years.
In South Carolina, reproductive success varied among different years; little or no recruitment occurred during drought periods (Pechmann et al. 1991). Food limitation may reduce individual female reproductive output (Scott and Fore 1995, Herpetologica 51:462-471).
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: Adults migrate seasonally between upland nonbreeding habitat and breeding sites. Migration distances generally are less than a few hundred meters. Individuals may migrate a short distance from a pool immediately after breeding, then continue migration after a period of winter inactivity.
Palustrine Habitat(s): FORESTED WETLAND, Riparian, SCRUB-SHRUB WETLAND, TEMPORARY POOL
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Bare rock/talus/scree, Forest - Conifer, Forest - Hardwood, Forest - Mixed, Woodland - Conifer, Woodland - Hardwood, Woodland - Mixed
Special Habitat Factors: Benthic, Burrowing in or using soil, Fallen log/debris
Habitat Comments: Marbled salamanders live in various wooded habitats, near swamps or vernal pools. They are more tolerant of dry habitats than are most salamanders and can be found on rocky bluffs and slopes and wooded sand dunes. Adults are entirely terrestrial and spend most of their time under surface objects or underground. Eggs are laid in forest depressions such as vernal pool basins and sometimes at the edges of permanent ponds, swamps, and slow-moving streams, in sites that lack standing water in late summer or early fall but are inundated by fall rains and generally hold standing water through winter and into at least early summer of the next year. Oviposition sites typically are in mineral soil beneath protective cover of leaf litter, logs, detritus, or rocks.
Adult Food Habits: Carnivore, Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Carnivore, Invertivore
Food Comments: Adults eat virtually any small terrestrial invertebrate that is slow enough to be captured. Larvae eat aquatic invertebrates and amphibian larvae.
Adult Phenology: Hibernates/aestivates, Nocturnal
Immature Phenology: Hibernates/aestivates, Nocturnal
Phenology Comments: Inactive most of winter. Young larvae diurnal, older larvae nocturnal. Adults most active during rains at night during breeding period.
Colonial Breeder: Y
Length: 13 centimeters
Not yet assessed
Not yet assessed
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).
Author: Hammerson, G.
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank)
Not yet assessed
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 04Nov2008
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Hammerson, G.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 25Jan2010
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.
Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of
natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).
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