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Canadian Herpetological Society





Société d'herpétologie du Canada



Ambystoma mavortium,

formerly Ambystoma tigrinum

Barred Tiger Salamander / Salamandre tigré


Barred Tiger Salamander

There are two subspecies in Canada, A. m. diaboli, the Gray Tiger Salamander, and A. m. melanostictum, the Blotched Tiger Salamander.

Description
Barred Tiger Salamanders are the largest land-dwelling salamander in the world. They can attain a total length of 40 cm, although generaly they are less than half of that. The tail makes up about half of their total length. The colour pattern is highly variable: spots, stripes or blotches on a dark background, or dark spots on a light background. Males have proportionally longer tails and hind legs than females.

Confusing Species
For much of its range in western Canada, the Barred Tiger Salamander cannot be easily confused with any other salamander. In Manitoba, the Blue-spotted Salamander has the same stocky build, but its blue flecking easily distinguishes it from the Gray Tiger Salamander. The Northwestern Salamander of British Columbia can have a similar background colour but it lacks the spotty or blotchy patterning of the Tiger Salamander and is only found along the Pacific coast. The Coastal Giant Salamander of British Columbia is most similar to the Tiger Salamander. It is blotchy, but its snout is more pointed than the Tiger Salamander.

Distribution
The Barred Tiger Salamander can be found from the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia to southern Manitoba. Outside of Canada, they are found throughout most of the central United States as far south as Mexico. There is a single historic record of the Eastern Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) from Point Pelee in Ontario.

Habitat
Barred Tiger Salamanders are adaptable to many types of habitats. They can exist in short grass prairie, aspen parkland, boreal forest and even subalpine areas. Although they can survive in very dry areas, they are generally not found far from water. Breeding occurs in permanent or semi-permanent ponds or lakes.

Reproduction
Breeding occurs after spring rains stimulate a migration to the breeding ponds. Pond temperatures can be as low as 10°C. Eggs are laid singly or in small groups on stones or aquatic vegetation. Within a month the larvae will hatch at approximately 1.5 cm in length. Sometime during the summer the larvae will transform into salamanders when they are about 10 cm long. In some lake populations the larvae do not transform, but reach maturity in the larval state. This strategy (neotony) is believed to occur when conditions are particularly harsh on land, or the aquatic habitat is particular safe -- a permanent, fishless waterbody.

Natural History
Outside of the spring breeding period Barred Tiger Salamanders are not very conspicuous. They spend most of their time in subterranean burrows, which they can excavate themselves. They feed on a wide variety of insects, other invertebrates and even small vertebrates. They can live for over 15 years.

Conservation Concerns
Barred Tiger Salamanders have been widely used as live bait in fishing. This has resulted in their introduction into areas where they are not naturally found. Game fish introductions into many lakes threaten neotonous populations. Barred Tiger Salamanders are designated by COSEWIC as Endangered in British Columbia but have not apparently declined in other parts of the range.