Jefferson Salamander

Jefferson Salamander

(Ambystoma jeffersonianum)

Features

  • Adults have a grey or brown back and lighter under parts
  • Blue flecks may be present on sides and limbs
  • Can grow to 20 cm
  • Larvae resemble miniature adults except forelimbs develop before hind limbs and they have external gills, which are lost by midsummer when they leave breeding ponds
  • Larvae visually resemble their close relatives, therefore it is difficult to distinguish Jefferson salamanders at this stage.  Adult colouration develops once they leave breeding ponds.
  • Often breed with closely related Blue-spotted salamanders producing hybrids that are difficult to distinguish from pure breeds without DNA analysis (ROM)

Habitat

Adults live in moist, loose soil, under logs or in leaf litter. Your best chance of spotting a Jefferson salamander is in early spring when they travel to woodland ponds to breed. They lay their eggs in clumps attached to underwater vegetation. By midsummer, the larvae lose their gills and leave the pond and head into the surrounding forest. Once in the forest, Jefferson salamanders spend much of their time underground in rodent burrows, and under rocks and stumps. They feed primarily on insects and worms.

Status

Endangered Provincially and Nationally

Range

The Jefferson salamander lives in deciduous forests in parts of the northeastern U.S. and southern Ontario, mainly along the Niagara Escarpment (MNR).

Threats

Requires intact deciduous forest with undisturbed forest floor and unpolluted breeding ponds that do not dry up in summer. In southern Ontario, causes of decline in this species are from habitat loss and degradation from urban development, draining of wetlands and some resource extraction activities.  Southern Ontario populations of Jefferson salamander occur in small, isolated pockets of only a few hundred individuals each.  These small populations make the species vulnerable to extinction due to floods, fires or other catastrophes.  Another major concern is road mortality as they travel between breeding, nesting and overwintering sites (MNR).

Protection

  • Ontario Endangered Species Act prohibits Jefferson salamander from being killed, captured, possessed, sold or traded (MNR)
  • Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act prohibits the killing, harassment and capture of the species (Government of Canada, 2010)
  • Planning Act – Natural Heritage component of the Provincial Policy Statement protects significant habitat of endangered species
  • Populations in Conservation Areas and Provincial Parks are protected (ROM)

References

Ministry of Natural Resources: Jefferson Salamander

Royal Ontario Museum: Jefferson Salamander

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