Species: Jefferson Salamander
Scientific name: Ambystoma jeffersonianum
Status: Threatened (Canada), Least Concern (United States)
Description: Adult Jefferson Salamanders are generally grey to dark-brown with lighter undersides and light blue speckles on the sides and limbs. A fully grown individual is on average 20cm long. Young salamanders do not develop the adult colouration until they have left the breeding ponds; they will be yellowish-green and have dark spots on their backs and have distinctive external gills. By midsummer these gills are lost and will begin developing their adult colouration.
* Be cautious: they often get confused with Blue-spotted Salamanders.
Habitat: Terrestrial, freshwater. This species of salamander ranges from the states of New England, Maryland and Illinois but is only found in a small pocket of Canada in southern Ontario. Out of the 30 or so known breeding sites in Canada the vast majority of them lie along the Niagara Escarpment. Deciduous forests, wooded swamps and wet meadows are ideal habitats for Jefferson Salamanders. In these areas you can find adults living under logs or leafs surrounded by moist soil. They are best seen early spring when they are on the move to their breeding ponds. During the winter they will spend their time in old rodent burrows or rock cracks below the frost line to prevent their bodies from freezing.
Breeding: The breeding season starts late March, early April and can be marked by the movement of adults to the breeding grounds. These breeding ponds will not contain any fish. You will often see roads being closed for their crossing in southern Ontario. Migrations to these sites are short and happen after the first warm, heavy rainfall during the night (they are nocturnal). Eggs are attached to sticks and stems of underwater vegetation around the edge of the pond and are gathered in clumps. Between 5 and 60 eggs can be laid although 30 is the average.
Diet: Like other salamander species, the Jefferson Salamander feeds on various insects and worms.
Threats to species: These salamanders are most greatly affected by changes in habitat. Deforestation, wetland draining and urban-borne water contaminants affect these amphibians the most. They require thick canopies and undisturbed forest floor to function. Being amphibians they are very sensitive to environmental changes and so water contamination greatly affects both adults and eggs. This feature also makes them exceptional environmental indicator species. Jefferson Salamanders are also often found DOR (dead on road) because they will often be forced to cross active roads to access migration corridors.
Threats to humans: None.
Fun facts: These salamanders can live to be over 30 years old – surpassing many other amphibian species in age.
When threatened, Jefferson Salamanders are able to detach their tails to elude their pursuer.
“Jefferson Salamander (Ambystoma jeffersonianum).” . Ministry of Natural Resources, n.d. Web. 17 Mar 2013. <http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/stdprodconsume/groups/lr/@mnr/@species/documents/document/270949.pdf>.
“Jefferson Salamander.” Earth Rangers Wild Wire Blog. Earth Rangers, 11 Jun 2011. Web. 17 Mar 2013. <http://www.earthrangers.com/wildwire/bbtw_updates/jefferson-salamander/>.
Geoffrey Hammerson 2004. Ambystoma jeffersonianum. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 17 March 2013.