eastern tiger salamander

(Ambystoma tigrinum tigrinum)


This is Virginia’s largest mole salamander reaching a maximum total length of 33-35 cm. It is a robust species with a broad head with relatively small eyes. The tail comprises 45% to 51% of the total length. The back is dark brown to black with olive-yellow to brownish-yellow spots or blotches on the back, sides, and belly. The blotches continue laterally and blend into the olive-yellow venter creating a jagged-edged lateral line. This species breeds from December to February in temporary or permanent aquatic habitats, including ditches, vernal ponds, and rarely, sluggish streams. Mating activities reach a peak during rain, and the adults remain in the breeding pond for about 3 weeks. The eggs average 52 per mass. The adults are terrestrial and the larvae are aquatic.


Four Virginia sites are known; two from York and Mathews Counties, one from Hanover County, and one from Augusta County. Potential breeding habitat around the York County site has been destroyed. The Hanover County site was known to have a large fish population and is probably extirpated. Therefore, this species can be considered extant in only two sites in Virginia. Breeding habitats include limestone sinkhole ponds and coastal plain vernal pools associated with wetlands. The terrestrial habitat may be bottomland hardwood forest, conifer forests, or open fields.


Larvae consume a variety of aquatic invertebratees. Adults are voracious predators of both terrestrial and aquatic insects and occasionally eggs or young of amphibians and reptiles.