Spotted salamander
Ambystoma maculatum
ITIS Species Code:   173590         NatureServ Element Code:   AAAAA01090
NatureServe Global Rank: 
NatureServe State (NC) Rank: 
Federal Status: 
NC State Status: 
Land Unit

US Fish & Wildlife Service
US Forest Service
US National Park Service
US Department of Defense
NC State Parks
NC University System
NC Wildlife Res. Com.
NC Forest Service
NC Div. of Coastal Mgmt.
Local Governments
Non-Governmental Org.
Other Public Lands
Private Lands

GAP Status 1-2
All Protected Lands




% of Dist. on
Prot. Lands

13.2 %
40.7 %
5.6 %
6.9 %
7.5 %
1.4 %
19.5 %
0.5 %
0.0 %
2.6 %
2.6 %
0.3 %
0.0 %

47.4 %
% of Dist. on
All Lands

0.8 %
2.5 %
0.4 %
0.4 %
0.5 %
< 0.1 %
1.2 %
< 0.1 %
0.0 %
0.1 %
0.2 %
< 0.1 %
93.8 %

2.9 %
Common in the mountains below 2500 ft and piedmont, and restricted to localized populations in the coastal plain (King 1939, Martof et al. 1980).

Spotted salamanders are found in hardwood and mixed forests where semi-permanent ponds, slow-moving streams, springs and bogs occur. Martof et al. (1980) states that they are normally absent from larger water bodies, flood zone pools or permanent ponds where fish are present. And, in inland locations, such as the mountains and possibly the piedmont, they are generally restricted to lowland hardwood forests near pools or streams (King 1939, Petranka 1998).

Adults are largely fossorial, remaining underground or under soil surface objects except during the breeding period (Wilson 1995).


Hardwood and mixed forests, vicinity of swamps; usually underground or under soil surface objects except during breeding period. In New York, distribution apparently is influenced by soil pH (Wyman 1988). Eggs usually are attached to submerged stems or other objects in semipermanent or permanent ponds in or adjacent to forest. In many areas, breeds mainly in ponds inaccessible to predatory fishes; however on Atlantic Coastal Plain of southeastern U.S., breeds in sloughs or backwater lowland areas along streams that frequently contain or are easily colonized by predatory fishes that opportunistically feed on amphibian larvae (Semlitsch 1988). Eggs may be laid in ponds when they are ice-covered if salamanders already are present in the pond (States et al. 1988). Egg masses often exhibit an aggregated dispersion pattern.

Occupied Landcover Map Units:
Code NameDescription NC Natural Heritage Program Equivalent
50 Coastal Plain Mixed Bottomland Forests Includes forests dominated by a variety of hardwood species, including sweetgum, cottonwood, red maple. Coastal Plain Bottomland Hardwood (in part), Coastal Plain Levee Forest
49 Coastal Plain Oak Bottomland Forest Bottomland forests dominated by deciduous oak alliances. Oaks represented can include swamp chestnut, cherrybark, willow, and/or overcup oak. Inclusions of loblolly pine temporarily flooded forests occur in patches. Hydrology is temporarily to seasonally flooded. Coastal Plain Bottomland Hardwoods (in part) blackwater subtype, brownwater subtype
158 Coastal Plain Nonriverine Wet Flat Forests Loblolly pine - Atlantic white-cedar - red maple - swamp tupelo saturated forests as well as forests dominated by loblolly, sweetgum, and red maple in non-riverine flats. Non-riverine Wet Hardwood Forest
15 Seepage and Streamhead Swamps Includes extensive peat flats in the coastal plain, dominated by swamp tupelo, maples, and Atlantic white cedar alliances. In the sandhills includes streamhead pond pine and bay forests alliances. Saturated hydrology. Bay Forest, Small Depression Pocosin, Streamhead Atlantic White Cedar Forest, Streamhead Pocosins
385 Oak Bottomland Forest and Swamp Forest The swamp chestnut oak, cherrybark oak, shumard oak and sweetgum alliance is one representative. Other alliances are dominated by water, willow, and overcup oaks. Swamp forests can be dominated by sweetgum, red maple, and black gum being dominant. Loblolly can occur in combination with sweetgum and red maple, or with tulip poplar. Includes saturated and semi- to permanently flooded forests in the mountains. Piedmont/Mountain Bottomland Forest, Piedmont/Mountain Swamp Forest
63 Coastal Plain Mesic Hardwood Forests Beech dominated forests with white oak and northern red oak as possible co-dominants. Dry-mesic to mesic forests on slopes and small stream bottoms in the coastal plain. Mesic Mixed Hardwood Forest, Basic Mesic Forests
138 Coastal Plain Dry to Dry-Mesic Oak Forests Oak dominated forests of the coastal plain. Includes white oak forests with water oak or northern red oak and hickories as co-dominants. Dry Mesic Oak Hickory Forest, Basic Oak Hickory Forest, Dry Oak Hickory Forest
230 Piedmont Mesic Forest American Beech - Red Oak - White Oak Forests. Mesic Mixed Hardwood
384 Piedmont/Mountain Mixed Bottomland Hardwood Forests Includes temporarily to seasonally forests dominated by hardwood species. Hardwoods include sweetgum, red maple, sycamore which co-occur in a mosaic of bottomland and levee positions. Includes alluvial hardwood forests in the mountains. Hemlock and white pine may occur as inclusions, but are generally mapped separately. Piedmont/Mountain Alluvial Forest, Piedmont/Mountain Levee Forest
228 Piedmont Dry-Mesic Oak and Hardwood Forests Primarily oak dominated forests, white oak is often dominant, with co-dominants including . Also represented by sweetgum and tulip poplar dominated forests. Dry Mesic Oak Hickory Forest, Basic Oak Hickory Forest, Dry Oak Hickory Forest
382 Dry Mesic Oak Pine Forests Mixed forests of the coastal plain and piedmont. Includes loblolly pine with white, southern red and/or post oak and loblolly with water oak. On basic sites of the piedmont, eastern red cedar may co-occur with post, black, and blackjack oaks. Dry Mesic Oak Hickory Forest, Xeric Hard Pan Forest, Chestnut Oak Forest, Dry Mesic Oak Hickory Forest, Dry Oak Hickory Forest
51 Deciduous Cultivated Plantation Planted deciduous trees. Includes sweetgum and sycamore plantations. No equivalent
517 Hemlock Floodplain Forest Alluvial forest with hemlock and/or white pine in mountains and western piedmont. Hydrology is generally temporarily to seasonally flooded. Canada Hemlock Forest
522 Northern Hardwoods High Elevation forests including yellow birch, American beech, and yellow buckeye. Includes forests with Hemlock and Yellow Birch. Northern Hardwoods Forest, Boulderfield Forest
525 Appalachian Oak Forest A variety of oak forest types including Black, White, Scarlet Oaks in dry to mesic situations. Includes forests historically co-dominated by American Chestnut. High Elevation Red Oak Forest, Montane White Oak Forest
526 Appalachian Cove Forest Mixed Mesophytic forests of the mountains. Includes tuliptree, basswood, yellow buckeye and surgar maple. This class is mapped to include cove forests dominated or co-dominated by hemlock. Rich Cove Forest, Acidic Cove Forest
527 Appalachian Hemlock Upland hemlock forests of the moutains region. Vary from side slopes to steep slope positions. Canada Hemlock Forest
529 Appalachian Xeric Mixed Forest Mixed forests with Virginia, Shortleaf, Eastern White Pine, Table Mountain and Pitch pines in combination with xeric oak species. Oaks include, white, Southern Red, black, and rock chestnut. Pine Oak Heath
530 Appalachian Xeric Deciduous Forest Deciduous forests in the mountains dominated by Xeric Oak species. Species include, white, Southern red, black, and rock chestnut. High Elevation Red Oak Forest, Montane White Oak Forest
533 Appalachian Swamp Forest Evergreen and deciduous forests with saturated hydrologies. This class may contain a variety of trees species, including hemlock - red maple, pitch pine, and white pine forests. Swamp Forest-Bog Complex, Southern Appalachian Bog, Southern Appalachian Fen
534 Appalachian Wet Shrubland/ Herbaceous Saturated shrubs and herbaceous vegetation. Often mapped as an inclusion in Appalachian Swamp Forest. Southern Appalachian Bog, Southern Appalachian Fen
View Entire Landcover Legend
Additional Spatial Constraints:
Exclude all area outside of known range.
Exclude all land greater than 50 meters from an open water feature.
Exclude all land greater than 50 meters from wet vegetation.
Blanchard, F.N. 1930. The stimulus to the breeding migration of the spotted salamander, AMBYSTOMA MACULATUM (Shaw). Am. Nat. 64:154-167.

Anderson, J. D. 1967. Ambystoma maculatum. Cat. Am. Amph.Rept. 51.1-51.4.

Cook, R.P. 1983. Effects of acid precipitation on embryonic mortality of AMBYSTOMA salamanders in the Connecticut Valley of Massachusetts. Biol. Conserv. 27:77-88.

Kraus, F. 1988. An empirical evaluation of the use of the ontogeny polarization criterion in phylogenetic inference. Systematic Zoology 37:106-141.

Sexton, O. J., C. Phillips, and J. E. Bramble. 1990. The effects of temperature and precipitation on the breeding migration of the spotted salamander (AMBYSTOMA MACULATUM). Copeia 1990:781-787.

Blem, C. R., and L. B. Blem. 1991. Cation concentrations and acidity in breeding ponds of the spotted salamander, AMBYSTOMA MACULATUM (Shaw) (Amphibia:Ambystomatidae), in Virginia. Brimleyana 17:67-76.

Flageole, S., and R. Leclair, Jr. 1992. Etude demographique d'une population de salamandres (AMBYSTOMA MACULATUM) a l'aide de la methode squeletto-chronologique. Can. J. Zool. 70:740-749.

Phillips, C. A. 1992. Variation in metamorphosis in spotted salamanders Ambystoma maculatum from eastern Missouri. Am. Midl. Nat. 128:276-280.

Jones, T. R., A. G. Kluge, and A. J. Wolf. 1993. When theories and methodologies clash:a phylogenetic reanalysis of the North American ambystomatid salamanders (Caudata:Ambystomatidae). Systematic Biology 42:92-102.

Harrison. 1978. Amphibians. in An annotated checklist of the biota of the coastal zone of South Carolina. R.G. Zingmark (ed.),Columbia, SC: Belle W. Baruch Institute for Marine Biology and Coastal Research, Univ. South Carolina.

Rowe, C. L., W. J. Sadinski, and W. A. Dunson. 1994. Predation on larval and embryonic amphibians by acid-tolerant caddisfly larvae (PTILOSTOMIS POSTICA). J. Herpetol. 28:357-364.

Sadinski, W. J., and W. A. Dunson. 1992. A multilevel study of effects of low pH on amphibians of temporary ponds. J. Herpetol. 26:413-422.

Stout, B. M., III, K. K. Stout, and C. W. Stihler. 1992. Predation by the caddisfly Banksiola dossuaria on egg masses of the spotted salamander Ambystoma maculatum. Am. Midl. Nat. 127:368-372.

Semlitsch, R. D. 1988. Allotopic distribution of two salamanders:effects of fish predation and competitive interactions. Copeia 1988:290-298.

States, J. S., et al. 1988. Foraging patterns of tassel-eared squirrels in selected ponderosa pine stands. Pages 425-431 in B88SZA01NA.

Wilson, L. A. 1995. The Land Manager's Guide to the amphibians and reptiles of the South. Chapel Hill, NC: The Nature Conservancy.

Wyman, R. L. 1988. Soil acidity and moisture and the distribution of amphibians in five forests of southcentral New York. Copeia 1988:394-399.

Petranka, J. W. 1998. Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Washington DC: Smithsonian Inst. Press.

Blem, Charles R. and Leann B. Blem. 1989. Tolerance of acidi ty in a Virginia population of the spotted salamander, AMBYS TOMA MACULATUM, (Amphibia:Ambystomatidae). Brimleyana. No.15 :37-45.

Ireland, P. H. 1989. Larval survivorship in two populations of AMBYSTOMA MACULATUM. J. Herpetol. 23:209-215.

Phillips, C. A., and O. J. Sexton. 1989. Orientation and sexual differences during breeding migrations of the spotted salamander, AMBYSTOMA MACULATUM. Copeia 1989:17-22.

Kleeberger, S. R., and J. K. Werner. 1983. Post-breeding migration and summer movement of AMBYSTOMA MACULATUM. J. Herpetol. 17:176-177.

Barbour, R. W. 1971. Amphibians and reptiles of Kentucky. Univ. Press of Kentucky, Lexington. x + 334 pp.

Shoop, C.R. 1965. Orientation of Ambystoma maculatum:move- ments to and from breeding ponds. Science. 149(3683):558-559.

Minton, S. A., Jr. 1972. Amphibians and reptiles of Indiana. Indiana Academy Science Monographs 3. v + 346 pp.

Mount, R. H. 1975. The Reptiles and Amphibians of Alabama. Auburn University Agricultural Experiment Station, Auburn, Alabama. vii + 347 pp.

Martof, B. S., W. M. Palmer, J. R. Bailey, and J. R. Harrison, III. 1980. Amphibians and reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 264 pp.

Vogt, R. G. 1981. Natural history of amphibians and reptiles of Wisconsin. Milwaukee Public Museum. 205 pp.

DeGraaf, R. M., and D. D. Rudis. 1983. Amphibians and reptiles of New England. Habitats and natural history. Univ. Massachusetts Press. vii + 83 pp.

Albers, P. H., and R. M. Prouty. 1987. Survival of spotted salamander eggs in temporary woodland ponds of coastal Maryland. Environ. Pollution 46:45-61.

Green, N. B., and T. K. Pauley. 1987. Amphibians and reptiles in West Virginia. University of Pittsburg Press, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. xi + 241 pp.

Shaffer, H. B., J. M. Clark, and F. Kraus. 1991. When molecules and morphology clash:a phylogenetic analysis of the North American ambystomatid salamanders (Caudata:Ambystomatidae). Systematic Zoology 40:284-303.

10 March 2005
This data was compiled and/or developed by the North Carolina GAP Analysis Project.

For more information please contact them at:
NC-GAP Analysis Project
Dept. of Zoology, NCSU
Campus Box 7617
Raleigh, NC 27695-7617
(919) 513-2853