Marble Ambistoma (Ambystoma Opacum)

Table of contents:

Marble Ambistoma (Ambystoma Opacum)
Marble Ambistoma (Ambystoma Opacum)

Video: Marble Ambistoma (Ambystoma Opacum)

Video: Marble Ambistoma (Ambystoma Opacum)
Video: Marbled Salamander ( Ambystoma opacum ) 2023, November

The marble ambistoma, or tape salamander, is endemic to North America. Inhabits various habitats: deciduous and mixed forests of foothill or coastal plains. Most of its life hides under rotten logs, stones, or fallen vegetation. The larvae feed on zooplankton, while the adults prey on a variety of slow invertebrates. Breeds on land, not in water.


In English - Marbled salamander, Blotched salamander, in German - Marmor-Querzahnmolch, in Ukrainian - Ambistoma Marmurov. The species was first described by Gravenhorst in 1807.

Marbled ambistoma (Ambystoma opacum), photo photograph of a tailed amphibian
Marbled ambistoma (Ambystoma opacum), photo photograph of a tailed amphibian


The body of the marbled ambistoma is stocky with a short tail (up to 40% of the entire body length). The head is wide. Outwardly, it is somewhat similar to salamanders. The teeth are transverse. The skin is smooth. Paws are short (without claws), on the front legs there are four toes, on the hind legs there are five. The number of transverse stripes on the body is 3-8, on the tail 4-8. The vertebrae are biconcave. In size, females are larger than males.

Maintenance and reproduction of marble ambistoma
Maintenance and reproduction of marble ambistoma

Related article Content and reproduction of marble ambistoma


The main color is shiny black with 4-7 transverse white (males) or silvery (females) markings. The belly is black. In young ambistomas, there is a brownish tint on the back of the head, on the sides and on the fingers; instead of clear light marks, there is a whitish or silvery coating. As young people grow older, they darken. Sometimes spots merge into stripes. Completely black individuals are rare.


They fluctuate from 9 to 12 cm.

Life span

Marble ambistomas live 4-10 years. The highest mortality rate in marble ambistas after metamorphosis and before puberty (3-60%).

Marbled ambistoma (Ambystoma opacum), photo photograph of a tailed amphibian
Marbled ambistoma (Ambystoma opacum), photo photograph of a tailed amphibian


North America (from Florida to the Great Lakes).


Marble ambistomas inhabit various habitats: deciduous and mixed forests of foothill or coastal plains; near small lakes, streams, rivers and swamps; forest floodplains; high-grass prairies (western part of the range) and rocky slopes. The mountains rise up to 700 m above sea level. The species is more tolerant of dry habitats than other species of ambistom and salamanders.


The larvae of the marble ambistoma feed on zooplankton (for example, copepods and cladocerans); tadpoles eat small insects (mosquitoes) and their larvae, aquatic crustaceans, as well as eggs and larvae of other amphibians. Adults hunt isopods, snails and slugs, worms (oligochaetes), millipedes, caterpillars and other small slow invertebrates.


Adult marble ambistomas are nocturnal, and larvae are diurnal. For most of their life, amphibians hide under rotten logs, stones or in fallen vegetation, they can also be found in hollows or burrows (abandoned by rodents), and only during the breeding season, ambistomas come out of their shelters and go in search of a partner. With a lack of food, amphibians become aggressive towards each other.

In the dry season, they bury themselves deep in the ground and wait out an unfavorable period there. Cold, high temperature and drought force the ambist to hide in shelters, while heavy rains and high humidity, on the contrary, stimulate their emergence to the surface. Prefers soil acidity, pH 5.5-7.7.

Defensive behavior

When attacked by a predator, the marble ambistoma takes a protective posture (the head goes down, and the tail, on the contrary, rises up and a poisonous secret is produced from the glands in the tail), or tries to hide.

Marbled ambistoma (Ambystoma opacum), photo photograph of tailed amphibians
Marbled ambistoma (Ambystoma opacum), photo photograph of tailed amphibians

Social structure

Leads a solitary life, gathering in small clusters only during the breeding season.


The caviar of the marble ambist is eaten by beetles, salamanders, frogs and possibly centipedes.

The larvae are hunted by arthropods (dragonflies, spiders, beetles and their larvae), adult greenish newts and birds (for example, kingfishers).

Snakes (striped nerodia, western garter snake), raccoons, birds (ducks and owls), possums (Virginia opossum), skunks, shrews and weasels prey on adolescents and adults as an ambist.

When eating adult marble ambistas, predators do not touch the tail, because it is in it that the glands that produce poison are contained.

Toxicity of newts and salamanders
Toxicity of newts and salamanders

Related article Toxicity of newts and salamanders


The marbled ambistoma is a species of amphibian that reproduces on land rather than in water. Reproduction takes place once a year.

In the fall, before the onset of autumn rains, males begin to migrate to their breeding grounds. They usually move at night. Males come to the areas where breeding takes place 7-10 days earlier than females.

One male can deposit up to 10 spermatophores. Fertilization is internal, the female crawls onto the spermatophore and captures it with the edges of her cloaca.

At the bottom of dried up reservoirs, ditches and quarries (under vegetation, roots or in mud), in separate lumps, the female lays eggs (30-250 pieces, diameter 1.9-2.8 mm, with a shell of 4-5 mm). She guards the masonry until autumn rains fill the reservoir. If the eggs are not flooded with water, then the larvae do not develop until spring, and all this time the female takes care of it: moves, turns over and protects. There are cases when the female leaves the nest before it is flooded.

The thick and sticky shell of the eggs protects the embryos from dehydration.

In "hungry" years, the reproductive capacity of females is greatly reduced.

With a lack of suitable places for eggs, several clutches from different females are found in one place.

Embryo mortality is very high due to hypothermia, dehydration, predation, or fungal attack.

Season / period of breeding

In the north of the range - September-October, in the south - October-December.


Males mature at 15-17 months, females 20-30 months with a size of 42-45 mm.

Marbled ambistoma (Ambystoma opacum), photo photograph of a tailed amphibian
Marbled ambistoma (Ambystoma opacum), photo photograph of a tailed amphibian

Incubation of eggs

Incubation lasts 2-15 days.

Offspring of marble ambistoma

The development of embryos occurs with a delay, and the release of larvae from the eggs is stimulated by hypoxia when the clutch is flooded with water. With a lack of oxygen, the production of digestive enzymes begins, which dissolve the jelly-like capsule and the larvae emerge from the eggs. Newborn larvae of marble ambistoma with a large yolk sac, 10-14 mm long. The larvae, feeding on zooplankton, grow very quickly. Growth is also highly dependent on the density of the population of the reservoir, the amount of food and the temperature of the water. Larvae prey more on ostracods, cladocerans, copepods and isopods, chironomids, amphipods and dipterans.

Usually, during the day, the larvae stay at the base of the reservoir, and the larvae that approach metamorphosis (with a length of 49-72 mm) remain at the base of the reservoir at night.

The larvae of the marble ambistoma have a strong body, the external feathery gills, the dorsal fin is high, runs all over the body and ends on the tail. The back color is from black to gray, there is a dotted line on both sides, a scattering of dark dots on the abdomen.

The metamorphosis of larvae in the south of the range occurs after 2 months, and in the north it takes 8-9 months.

In Illinois, metamorphosis begins in June-July, in New York in June, in Maryland, New Jersey and northern Georgia in late May-early June, in western Virginia in mid-May, in North Carolina from mid-April to May, in Alabama March-April, and in Louisiana in mid-March.

Having emerged on land, young ambistomas do not go far from the reservoir. During the day they hide under snags, stones and fallen leaves.

Upon reaching puberty (during the breeding season), amphibians return to the same place where they were born.

Abundance / Population

The marble ambistoma is common throughout its range. The approximate population size exceeds 100,000 individuals. The main threat to the species is habitat fragmentation, reduction of wetlands, canal formation and deforestation.

Conservation status

The marble ambistoma is listed in the IUCN International Red List as the species with the least threat.