Other Amphibian of the Week

Four Toed Salamander (Hemidactylium scutatum)

Four Toed Salamander
Four Toed Salamander by Brian Gratwicke

Common Name: Four Toed Salamander
Scientific Name: Hemidactylium scutatum
Family: Plethodontidae – Lungless Salamanders
Location: United States and Canada
US Locations: Connecticut, Maryland, Georgia, Arkansas, Delaware, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Michigan, Alabama, Vermont, New Jersey, South Carolina, District of Columbia, Ohio, New York, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Maine, North Carolina, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Missouri, Mississippi, Virginia, and Minnesota
Size: 2 – 4 inches max (5.1 – 10.16 cm)

The Four Toed Salamanders gets its name from the four toes on each foot. The salamander lives wetland areas throughout the Eastern United States and Southeastern Canada. It is a member of the family Plethodontidae – the Lungless Salamanders and the largest family of salamanders. These guys have evolved to not have lungs but instead breath through their skin.

Breeding takes place during the fall and the females lay the eggs in the spring. They lay their eggs usually in moss on the banks of ponds, bogs, and streams so that once the eggs hatch, the larvae can crawl into the pond. Females have been observes brooding their nests and even will brood eggs from other females. The larvae takes 20 to 40 days to undergo metamorphism.

The salamander has some interesting ways of defending itself. It can de-attach its tail if it is threatened and the tail can continues to wiggle. It also wags its tail at the predator as an offering for the predator to not eat it.

The Four Toed Salamander is only listed as least concern by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List but their numbers are dropping. The destruction of wetlands have harmed its numbers greatly. It is listed as Endangered in Minnesota, Special Concern in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Missouri, and Threatened in Illinois. We must do a better job at conserving these habitats.

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