This is a robust salamander that is a deep lustrous black, with brownish tinges on the underside of the head and in the legs and toes. Above, they are marked with 4-7 silvery-gray (female) or white (male) cross bands that are narrow dorsally and widened on the upper sides, where they sometimes unite to enclose a series of large, fairly regular black spots which extend along the mid-line of the trunk. The length is 3.5 to 4.25 inches. The nest sites are composed of leaf litter, debris, and humus. The eggs are guarded by females and hatch after autumn rains inundate the nest sites forming temporary pools. Terrestrial juveniles rest under logs, stones, rocks, boards, and debris in fairly shaded situations. They are also found in runways of small mammals.
This salamander is found in deciduous forests of the piedmont and coastal plain. It may be abundant in floodplain forests, but also occurs in upland forests where appropriate breeding sites are found. This species is found in drier situations than are suitable for most species of Ambystoma.
The aquatic larvae feed on macrozooplankton, insects, insect larvae, isopods, snails, worms, and other invertebrates. Because this salamander is often the first to hatch after the inundation of the pool, it is a major predator on other amphibian eggs and larvae. Adults feed on small invertebrates and often hunt at night.