Barred Tiger Salamander

Barred Tiger Salamander

[ Ambystoma tigrinum mavortium ]

Quick Facts

BODY LENGTH: Typically 6 – 8 ½ inches but can grow up to 13 inches
WEIGHT:  4-8 oz.
WILD DIET: insects, slugs, earthworms, fish, and tadpoles,
ZOO DIET: crickets
DISTRIBUTION: from central Nebraska to northeastern Mexico
HABITAT: near water in forested and prairie areas
Amphibian of Myth and Mystery

A striped tiger or underground mole?
Barred tiger salamanders get their name from their uniquely bright striping – yellow bars against a dark brown to black body. Typically 6 – 8 ½ inches in length, these salamanders can grow up to 13 inches making them one of the largest land salamanders in the United States. In fact, barred tiger salamanders are widespread, found from central Nebraska to northeastern Mexico near water in forested and prairie areas.

Tiger salamanders are in the “mole salamander” group and spend most of their adult lives underground. In fact, ground squirrel, gopher, or badger burrows make a perfect secretive hideout. If a ready-made burrow isn’t available, barred tiger salamanders can create their dig out their own.

Insects, Slugs, and Earthworms, Oh My!
Opportunistic feeders, barred tiger salamanders eat anything that fits in their mouth. This includes crickets, fish, tadpoles, flies, beetles, and occasionally, even other tiger salamanders. Because a barred tiger salamander diet consists mostly of insects, they are extremely beneficial to the environment. However, as a relatively small amphibian species, tiger salamanders have a variety of predators including small mammals, snakes, and large fish.

Many, Many Minis
Barred tiger salamander breeding takes place in winter, between December and February, usually after the first rain or early spring thaw. Both male and female salamanders return to the ponds where they were born and participate in an active courtship ritual – circling each other and churning the water to foam.

Female tiger salamanders lay several groups of eggs, with 30 to 50 in each mass, that stick to the stems of aquatic plants. Three to four weeks later, the larvae hatch at ½ inch long, looking almost exactly like an adult. The only difference between the larvae and adults are the feathery external gills that allow the youngsters to breath in water. Within the next several months, they grow to about 4 inches in length followed by changing into an adult form and leave their watery home. I

A creature born from fire
Old legends claim salamanders were born from fire. In fact, the word “salamander” is derived from the Greek words for “fire lizard.” As an amphibian, salamanders seek out moist, sheltered areas such as damp logs. When these logs were thrown into a fire, salamanders would run out. Hence, the legend of a creature being born from fire.

Barred tiger salamanders at Brookfield Zoo
The the barred tiger salamander is currently
being cared for zookeepers off exhibit.

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Conservation Fund of the Chicago Zoological Society