Ambystoma talpoideum - (Holbrook, 1838)
Mole Salamander
Other English Common Names: mole salamander
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Ambystoma talpoideum (Holbrook, 1838) (TSN 173604)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.103509
Element Code: AAAAA01120
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)
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Concept Reference
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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 talpoideum
Taxonomic Comments: Phylogenetic analysis of mtDNA data indicates that populations from the Central Highlands of Missouri and Arkansas are closely related to those on the coastal plain (Carolinas, Florida) (Donovan et al. 2000); a similar pattern is exhibted by A. maculatum.

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

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 26Apr2005
Global Status Last Changed: 03Oct2001
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Fairly large extent of occurrence in southeastern United States; high abundance; many stable populations throughout the core of the range.
Nation: United States
National Status: N5 (05Nov1996)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alabama (S5), Arkansas (S3), Florida (SNR), Georgia (S5), Illinois (S3), Indiana (S1), Kentucky (S3), Louisiana (S5), Mississippi (S5), Missouri (S2), North Carolina (S2S3), Oklahoma (S1), South Carolina (SNR), Tennessee (S4), Texas (S3), Virginia (S2)

Other Statuses

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: Coastal Plain of South Carolina through northern Florida, west to eastern Texas and southeastern Oklahoma; north in the Mississippi Valley to southern Illinois and southern Indiana (Williams and MacGowan 2004); disjunct populations in occur Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and Kentucky (Conant and Collins 1991).

Area of Occupancy: >12,500 4-km2 grid cells
Area of Occupancy Comments:  

Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300
Number of Occurrences Comments: Many occurrences.

Population Size: 100,000 to >1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but surely exceeds 100,000.

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Unknown

Overall Threat Impact: Unknown
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Threats include: draining or filling of breeding ponds; introduction of predatory fishes in conjunction with deepening of breeding ponds; loss and degradation of forest habitat surrounding breeding ponds. Many local populations have been lost as native forests with seasonal pools have been converted to agricultural and urban uses. In Louisiana, a clearcut near a breeding pond apparently affected the salamander population by (1) lowering the survival of adults immigrating from the clearcut side of the pond, and (2) displacing adults to a less suitable terrestrial habitat (Raymond and Hardy 1991). In South Carolina, an experimental study that involved placing recently metamorphosed salamanders in enclosures in differently managed habitats found that habitat modification resulting from clearcutting may not have detrimental effects on newly metamorphosed individuals (Chazal and Niewiarowski 1998).

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

Distribution
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Global Range: (200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)) Coastal Plain of South Carolina through northern Florida, west to eastern Texas and southeastern Oklahoma; north in the Mississippi Valley to southern Illinois and southern Indiana (Williams and MacGowan 2004); disjunct populations in occur Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and Kentucky (Conant and Collins 1991).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: endemic to a single nation

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AL, AR, FL, GA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MO, MS, NC, OK, SC, TN, TX, VA

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 www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

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


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
AR Ashley (05003), Clark (05019), Clay (05021), Columbia (05027), Crittenden (05035), Cross (05037), Dallas (05039), Garland (05051), Greene (05055), Hempstead (05057), Howard (05061), Jackson (05067), Mississippi (05093), Monroe (05095), Nevada (05099), Phillips (05107), Pike (05109), Poinsett (05111), Sebastian (05131), Stone (05137), Union (05139), Woodruff (05147)
IN Posey (18129), Pulaski (18131)
MO Bollinger (29017), Butler (29023), Cape Girardeau (29031), Dunklin (29069), New Madrid (29143)*, Perry (29157), Ripley (29181), Stoddard (29207), Wayne (29223)
NC Alleghany (37005), Buncombe (37021), Cherokee (37039), Clay (37043), Davidson (37057), Granville (37077), Guilford (37081), Henderson (37089), Macon (37113), McDowell (37111), Montgomery (37123), Person (37145), Richmond (37153), Rockingham (37157), Rowan (37159), Stanly (37167), Surry (37171), Transylvania (37175), Union (37179), Yadkin (37197)
OK McCurtain (40089)*, Payne (40119)
TX Harrison (48203), Jasper (48241), Marion (48315)
VA Amherst (51009), Campbell (51031), Charlotte (51037)*, Pittsylvania (51143)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
02 Middle James-Buffalo (02080203)+
03 Middle Roanoke (03010102)+, Upper Dan (03010103)+, Banister (03010105)+, Upper Tar (03020101)+, Upper Neuse (03020201)+, Haw (03030002)+, Upper Yadkin (03040101)+, Lower Yadkin (03040103)+, Upper Pee Dee (03040104)+, Rocky, North Carolina, (03040105)+, Upper Broad (03050105)+
05 Upper New (05050001)+, Tippecanoe (05120106)+, Highland-Pigeon (05140202)+
06 Upper French Broad (06010105)+, Upper Little Tennessee (06010202)+, Hiwassee (06020002)+
07 Upper Mississippi-Cape Girardeau (07140105)+, Whitewater (07140107)+
08 Lower Mississippi-Memphis (08010100)+*, New Madrid-St. Johns (08020201)+*, Upper St. Francis (08020202)+, Lower St. Francis (08020203)+, Little River Ditches (08020204)+, L'anguille (08020205)+, Cache (08020302)+, Big (08020304)+, Ouachita Headwaters (08040101)+, Upper Ouachita (08040102)+, Little Missouri (08040103)+, Lower Ouachita-Smackover (08040201)+, Bayou D'arbonne (08040206)+, Boeuf (08050001)+
11 Upper Black (11010007)+, Current (11010008)+, Lower Black (11010009)+, Lower Cimarron (11050003)+, Upper Little (11140107)+*, Mountain Fork (11140108)+*, Lower Little (11140109)+, Loggy Bayou (11140203)+, Caddo Lake (11140306)+
12 Lower Angelina (12020005)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Reproduction Comments: Breeds in winter in south, in fall in north. In South Carolina, breeding immigrations occur mainly November-January. In South Carolina, most paedomorphic females were inseminated by early November before the late fall-early winter arrival of most metamorphic males (Krenz and Sever 1995, Herpetologica 51: 387-393). Clutches of up to several hundred eggs are laid singly in the Atlantic Coastal Plain, in masses in the Mississippi Valley Physiographic Province (Herp. Rev. 21:14-15). Adults leave the breeding ponds by mid-May (in March in South Carolina). Larvae metamorphose into terrestrial form in late spring or summer, or early fall, or the following spring, or become paedomorphic (Semlitsch 1985). Facultative paedomorphosis is associated with permanent or nearly permanent ponds. In Louisiana, reproductive cycle is annual (mainly), biennial, or otherwise; first breeding occurs at 2 years (reported as 1 year in South Carolina) (Raymond and Hardy 1990). In South Carolina, reproductive success varied greatly; poor or minimal during drought periods (Pechmann et al. 1991).
Ecology Comments: In the nonbreeding season, adult home range encompasses only a couple dozen square meters. Adult annual survival was 63-84% in Louisiana (Raymond and Hardy 1990).
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: In South Carolina, migrated 81-261 m from breeding pond to summer range; used mainly heavily vegetated corridors (Semlitsch 1981).
Palustrine Habitat(s): FORESTED WETLAND, Riparian, SCRUB-SHRUB WETLAND, TEMPORARY POOL
Terrestrial Habitat(s): 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: Usually near breeding ponds--in pine flatwoods, floodplains, and bottomland hardwood forests. In South Carolina, avoided clearcuts and open fields, occurred in all types of forest (Semlitsch 1981). Terrestrial adults live in underground burrows; sometimes found under logs or other objects in damp places. Breeds in shallow ponds and flooded depressions that are free of fishes and that often have abundant emergent and/or submerged vegetation. Eggs are attached to stems or sticks or to the substrate. Reproductive success positively correlated with duration of standing water in breeding pond, but not with number of breeding females or number of eggs laid (Semlitsch 1987).
Adult Food Habits: Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Invertivore
Food Comments: Adults eat terrestrial arthropods, molluscs, and worms. Larvae eat copepods, cladocerans, and various other aquatic invertebrates, sometimes the larvae of other AMBYSTOMA.
Adult Phenology: Hibernates/aestivates, Nocturnal
Immature Phenology: Hibernates/aestivates, Nocturnal
Colonial Breeder: Y
Length: 10 centimeters
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
Help
Preserve Selection & Design Considerations: Mitchell (1991) recommended that a buffer of at least 260 m be established around known breeding sites.
Management Research Needs: Mitchell (1991) pointed out the need for information on the effects of forestry practices.
Population/Occurrence Delineation
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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
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 26Apr2005
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Hammerson, G.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 19Sep1994
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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