Lakeside Nature Center

Critter Corner - Tiger Salamander
(Ambystoma tigrinum)


Tiger salamanders are the world's largest land-dwelling salamanders.  They can grow to be 8 to 13 inches long and live up to 25 years.  In Asia, the Chinese salamander that is totally aquatic can grow to 5 feet!  Salamanders, like all amphibians, must have water.  They absorb water through their skin and they must lay their eggs in water.


Both adult and young are predators of a variety of other water creatures, including insects, crustaceans, worms, snails, fish, tadpoles, frogs and even other salamanders.


After emerging from hibernation, and after the rains begin and temperatures warm, adult tiger salamanders breed.  Female salamanders can lay up to 1,000 eggs in small clumps.  In a few weeks the salamander larvae emerge from the eggs and stay in water, breathing through gills and feasting on aquatic creatures.  Between July and early September, the larvae begin changing into land-dwelling young adults.  The gills are absorbed into the head and the legs become bigger and the tail thinner.  This change in physical features is common in amphibians (tadpoles are frog larvae).


Throughout much of the United States, tiger salamanders live in swamps, woodlands and prairies where ponds, streams and marshes are nearby.  Tiger Salamanders live in our area.  We seldom see them however, because they are good at hiding, spend most of the time below ground, and are usually active at night.  To search for an adult tiger salamander, look under logs and rocks where the soil is moist along a stream edge.  Larval tiger salamanders live in the water.


Camouflage and staying hidden are their best defense.  Because shakes, otters, diving beetles, turtles, birds and fish all eat salamander eggs and larvae, laying many eggs helps make sure that some will survive.  Sudden freezes and extended droughts are bad for salamander survival.  These creatures are very sensitive and have no defense against water pollution.


  • Tiger salamanders have five basic senses; tough, taste, sight, hearing and smell.  They also can detect ultraviolet and infrared light and the Earth's magnetic field.

  • They feel temperature and pain and will respond to pollutants, like acids, that leak into our waterways.

  • Salamanders are cold-blooded with porous skin so they must respond quickly to any changes in their environment to survive.

 To learn more about Tiger salamanders

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(Photo credits:  Head on view, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection; Tiger salamander larva, Brookhaven National Lab, Profile view, Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

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