two-toed amphiuma

(Amphiuma means)


This salamander has a long cylindrical, eel-like body with two pairs of very small and virtually useless limbs that have two toes on each foot. The head is large with small, lidless eyes. The back is plain black to dark brown or gray, and the belly is lighter in color. Adults may reach 3 to 5 feet in length, and 57 to 60 costal grooves are present. This salamander loses its gills when it transforms from larva to adult, however a pair of gill slits remain present on the adult. It is mainly aquatic and can sense vibrations in the water by using a set of sensory pits, which are similar to the lateral line of a fish. It can move slowly and awkwardly over swampy land. Females may lay 40 to 150 eggs. The eggs are likely laid in the water where the water level recedes as the seasons change, thus the eggs are revealed on land before hatching. The female constructs a shallow depression, in which to lay the eggs, and the depression is usually in or among tree roots and/or logs. The female coils around and guards the eggs until they hatch. Larvae are about 2 inches long when they hatch and have short, white gills. Larvae begin to transform to adults when they are about 3 inches in length.


Found in southeastern Virginia, the two-toed amphiuma inhabits swamps, cypress bays, ditches, temporary ponds, abandoned rice fields, wet swampy meadows, and slow-flowing streams. This species is nocturnal, retreating to its den or burrow in bottom mud or debris during the day. It may also be found in crayfish burrows and root masses.


This is a powerful predator that will eat crayfish, mollusks, insects, other amphibians, and some reptiles.