formerly Ambystoma tigrinum
Barred Tiger Salamander / Salamandre tigré
There are two subspecies in Canada, A. m. diaboli, the Gray
Tiger Salamander, and A. m. melanostictum, the
Blotched Tiger Salamander.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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