Mole salamander
Ambystoma talpoideum
ITIS Species Code:   173604         NatureServ Element Code:   AAAAA01120
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

1.0 %
82.1 %
0.0 %
2.4 %
4.4 %
< 0.1 %
6.4 %
0.9 %
0.0 %
0.5 %
0.5 %
< 0.1 %
0.0 %

22.8 %
% of Dist. on
All Lands

0.1 %
12.4 %
0.0 %
0.4 %
0.7 %
< 0.1 %
1.0 %
0.1 %
0.0 %
0.4 %
< 0.1 %
< 0.1 %
84.9 %

3.4 %
The main range of this species, a largely continuous belt of breeding populations, is located south of North Carolina, from the coastal plain of South Carolina through the low country of the Gulf coast states to the lower Mississippi floodplain (Petranka 1998). Disjunct populations occur in the mountains and piedmont of North Carolina.

In the coastal plain, generally across the salamander's main range, populations breed at both upland and bottomland wet sites, but are most regularly found in extensive floodplain forests (Petranka 1998). Populations in the piedmont and mountains usually occur in upland hardwood or mixed pine-hardwood forests near semi-permanent ponds. The presence of soils with a sand component appear to be important to population distributions due to their fossorial activities.


Usually near breeding ponds--in pine flatwoods, floodplains, and bottomland hardwood forests. In South Carolina, avoided clearcuts and open fields, occurred in all types of forest (Semlitsch 1981). Terrestrial adults live in underground burrows; sometimes found under logs or other objects in damp places. Breeds in shallow ponds and flooded depressions that are free of fishes and that often have abundant emergent and/or submerged vegetation. Eggs are attached to stems or sticks or to the substrate. Reproductive success positively correlated with duration of standing water in breeding pond, but not with number of breeding females or number of eggs laid (Semlitsch 1987).


Fish-free semipermanent ponds for breeding.

Occupied Landcover Map Units:
Code NameDescription NC Natural Heritage Program Equivalent
380 Coastal Plain Fresh Water Emergent Emergent vegetation in fresh water seepage bogs, ponds and riverbeds of the coastal plain. Includes alliances dominated by sedges, eelgrass, as well as cane found in unforested cane-brakes. Small Depression Pond, Sandhill Seep, Floodplain Pool, Unforested Floodplain Canebrake, Riverscour Prairies, Vernal Pools
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
41 Peatland Atlantic White-Cedar Forest Dense stands of Atlantic white cedar with saturated hydrology. Can include swamp tupelo, red maple, and pond pines with a moderate shrub and herb layer. Peatland Atlantic White-Cedar 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
87 Pocosin Woodlands and Shrublands Includes pond pine woodland, low pocosin and high pocosin shrub dominated areas. Canebrakes and bay forests may be present. Pond Pine Woodlands, Peatland Canebrake, Small Depression Pocosin
67 Wet Longleaf or Slash Pine Savanna Wet flatwoods and pine savannas, typically dominated by longleaf pines, but slash or pond pines may be the dominant pines. Wet Pine Flatwoods
97 Mesic Longleaf Pine Longleaf pine woodlands without a major scrub oak component. Slash or loblolly pines may be present as well. Mesic Pine Flatwoods
238 Piedmont/Mountain Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Seasonally to permanently flooded areas with aquatic vegetation. Waterlily, pondweed, hydrilla smartweed are a few of the species that can occur. Piedmont/Mountain Semipermanent Impoundment (in part)
239 Piedmont/Mountain Emergent Vegetation Emergent vegetation of all wetland hydrologies. Sites would commonly support species such as tussock sedge, rushs, and cattail alliances. Rocky Bar and Shore (in part)
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
383 Piedmont Mixed Successional Forest Generally loblolly mixed with successional hardwoods. Sweetgum, tulip poplar and red maple are common co-dominants in these successional forests. No equivalent
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
222 Piedmont Dry-Mesic Pine Forests Loblolly dominated forests resulting from succession following clearing. This type occurs on all moisture regimes following disturbance with the exception of the extremely xeric sites. No equivalent
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
21 Coniferous Cultivated Plantation (natural / planted) Managed pine plantations, densely planted. Most planted stands are loblolly, but slash and longleaf occur as well. No equivalent
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
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.
Patterson, K. K. 1978. Life history aspects of paedogenic populations of the mole salamander, Ambystoma talpoidium. Copeia 1978:649-655.

Hardy, L. M., and L. R. Raymond. 1980. The breeding migra-tion of the mole salamander, Ambystoma talpoidium, in Louisiana. J. Herpetol. 14:327-335.

Semlitsch, R. D. 1981. Terrestrial activity and summer home range of the mole salamander (Ambystoma talpoidium). Can. J. Zool. 59:315-322.

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

Raymond, L. R., and L. M. Hardy. 1990. Demography of a population of AMBYSTOMA TALPOIDEUM (Caudata:Ambystomatidae) in northwestern Louisiana. Herpetologica 46:371-382.

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.

Conant, R. and J. T. Collins. 1991. A field guide to reptiles and amphibians:eastern and central North America. Third edition. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, Massachusetts. 450 pp.

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

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

Shoop, R. C. 1964. Ambystoma talpoidium. Cat. Am. Amph. Rep. 8.1-8.2.

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

Behler, J. L., and F. W. King. 1979. The Audubon Society field guide to North American reptiles and amphibians. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 719 pp.

Semlitsch, R. D. 1985. Analysis of climatic factors influencing migrations of the salamander AMBYSTOMA TALPOIDEUM. Copeia 1985:477-489.

Semlitsch, R. D. 1987. Relationship of pond drying to the reproductive success of the salamander AMBYSTOMA TALPOIDEUM. Copeia 1987:61-69.

Mitchell, J. C. 1991. Amphibians and reptiles. Pages 411-76 in K. Terwilliger (coordinator). Virginia's Endangered Species:Proceedings of a Symposium. McDonald and Woodward Publishing Company, Blacksburg, Virginia.

Pechmann, J. H. K., et al. 1991. Declining amphibian populations:the problem of separating human impacts from natural fluctuations. Science 253:892-895.

Raymond, L. R., and L. M. Hardy. 1991. Effects of a clearcut on a population of the mole salamander, AMBYSTOMA TALPOIDEUM, in an adjacent unaltered forest. J. Herpetol. 25:509-512.

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