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Checklist of Amphibian Species and Identification Guide

Tiger Salamander, Ambystoma tigrinum


The Tiger Salamander, Ambystoma tigrinum covers a wide range of areas extending nearly coast to coast in North America. There are several subspecies within this complex, but some researcehers are of the opinion that the group should be divided into two different species. Previously, even the California Tiger Salamander was considered a subspecies of Ambystoma tigrinum (A. t. californiense), but is now regarded as a separate species, Ambystoma californiense. Of the 6 subspecies of Ambystoma tigrinum discussed here it is the Eastern Tiger Salamander that may some day be regarded as a separate species, in which case it would be given the name Ambystoma tigrinum, while the remaining would be grouped under the name Ambystoma mavortium while retaining the original subspecies name. For example, the Barred Tiger Salamander would then be called Ambystoma mavortium mavortium). The Tiger Salamanders are large, robust salamanders reaching average total lengths up to 8.5 inches, though some individuals over 12 inches long have been found. Outside of the breeding season they are seldom seen, as they spend most of their time underground, often in mammal burrows.
Tiger Salamander Range

gray tiger salamander
The Gray Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum diaboli) are easily recognized with their dark green to gray background speckled with tiny black dots. It breeds in the early spring, migrating to ponds as soon as the ice on them begins to melt.
blotched tiger salamander
In the Blotched Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum melanostictum) the background color is dull yellow and is lighter than in the Gray Tiger Salamander. The dark markings are also larger but usually take up less area than the background color. These irregular markings often form a network-like pattern. The Blotched Tiger Salamnader is also an early spring breeder.
In the Barred Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum mavortium) the dark spots are larger than in the last two and tend to form the background color, while there are yellow bars or stripes that extend from the belly to the middle of the back, though these are irregular in form. In the south of this subspecies range it is a winter breeder, in the north an early spring breeder, migrating to ponds after heavy rains.
eastern tiger salamander
 
The Eastern Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum tigrinum). They are characterized by a dark background with light yellow-gold markings extending down their sides.It is found in the eastern half of North America. In the south it is also a winter breeder, in the north an early spring breeder, migrating to ponds after heavy rains.
Arizona Tiger Salamander Arizona Tiger Salamander
The Arizona Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum nebulosum; above) also has a dark black or gray background with light yellow markings in the form of mottled spots or bars that are smaller and/or fewer than in the Tiger Salamander. Some specimens in small populations may have their color pattern in the reverse, making them look similar to the Gray Tiger Salamander, with the black spots or bars on lighter background. Breeding occurs in conjunction with raisn in the more arid parts of its range.

The Sonoran Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum stebbinsi - not shown) is restricted to the highlands of the Huachuca and Patagonia Mountains in Arizona. This subspecies is federally listed as endagered throughout its range.


Introductions.  In southern Arizona the use of Tiger Salamander larvae as bait has led to the introduction of the Tiger Salamanders outside of its range. Also, introduced individuals have come from areas far away and include subspecies other than A. t. nebulosum. This mixing of subspecies makes it difficult to impossible to determine where the introduced salamanders came from.

Neoteny.  Some populations of Tiger Salamanders, particularly in western North America and especially at high altitudes tend to be neotenic. This means that although the salamanders become sexually mature and can reproduce they do not metamorphose, remaining as larvae and breathing with gills. These are sometimes called Axolotls. However, this name is best reserved for Ambystoma mexicanum, a mole salamander species from Mexico that never metamorphoses under natural conditions. Neotenic Tiger Salamanders can become larger than individuals that metamorphose, reaching total lengths of 15 inches.

Tiger Salamander Larvae - external gills distinguish salamander larvae from frog tadpoles (which have internal gills). The legs of the younger (and smaller) larva below left have not yet emerged. In contrast to anurans, the front legs emerge first, then the back. The larva below left was found in May, the one below right in August.

Tiger Salamander Larva Tiger Salamander Larva

Notice:  All images contained hereafter are the property of the said photographer. They are not to be reproduced, copied, printed, stored, or distributed without written permission of the photographer.

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