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Tiger Salamander

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Blotched tiger salamanders ( Ambystoma tigrinum melanostictum), a subspecies of tiger salamander, photographed at National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque, Iowa

About the Tiger Salamander

Tiger salamanders' markings are variable throughout their extensive range, but the most common marking resembles the vertically striped pattern of their mammalian namesake.

Coloring and Markings

They are usually brown in color with brilliant yellow stripes or blotches over the length of their bodies. Their base color, however, can also be greenish or gray and their markings can be yellow dots or brown splotches. Some have no markings at all.

Size

Thick-bodied amphibians with short snouts, sturdy legs, and long tails, tigers are the largest land-dwelling salamander on Earth. They can grow to 14 inches in length, but the average size is more like 6 to 8 inches.

Range and Habitat

They are also the most wide-ranging salamander species in North America, living throughout most of the United States, southern Canada, and eastern Mexico. They live in deep burrows, up to two feet below the surface, near ponds, lakes, or slow-moving streams and are one of few salamanders able to survive in the arid climate of the North America interior.

Diet

Highly voracious predators, they emerge from their burrows at night to feed on worms, insects, frogs, and even other salamanders.

Population

Their population is healthy throughout their range, but deforestation, pollution, and rising acidity levels in their breeding pools is affecting their distribution. Many are even killed by cars as they cross roads in the spring en route to or from their breeding sites.

Life Span

Tiger salamanders are long-lived, averaging 10 to 16 years in the wild.