Salamanders and Newts
Habitat/Habits: Vernal wetlands, forest ponds; best time to view is just after ice melts, near the edge of the pond
Breeding: Breed during first warm spring rains of March and April. After a brief courtship, females will attach egg masses containing about a dozen fertile eggs onto submerged debris; one female can lay up to 500 eggs per year.
Notes: Across much of Lower Michigan, populations of Blue spotted Salamanders often include many hybrid individuals that may appear stouter and grayer, with fewer or no blue spots on the sides. Most hybrids are triploid females. (Normal salamanders are diploid, having two sets of chromosomes in their body cells; triploid salamanders have an extra set). Hybrid populations result from the breeding of Blue-spotted Salamanders with other members of the Ambystoma genus. One of the most interesting adaptations of this species is its defense posture. When danger is sensed the blue-spotted salamander's tail lashes back and forth and produces a noxious secretion from two glands at the base of its tail. Even if the predator gets by this defense it may only end up a small morsel. When grabbed the salamander's tail will detach. While the predator is detained by the writhing tail the salamander zips off to safety. In time a new tail will grow to replace the lost one.
Habitat/Habits: Found state-wide, newts prefer small, permanent ponds, but also live in vernal ponds, sloughs, marshes, bogs, swamps and lake shallows. Efts are usually found in nearby woods, under rotting logs, rocks, and other shelters. Adults are active all year under water, but can hibernate on land if the pond dries up. Insects, worms, crustaceans, mollusks, other small invertebrates, and tadpoles are eaten. Their toxic skin secretions cause many fish to avoid eating them.
Breeding: Adults breed in late winter and early spring. Courtship is elaborate, with much nudging, twitching, and "tail fanning" by the male. Females attach up to 300 single eggs to underwater plants or debris in April. In late summer, the gill breathing larvae may transform directly into the aquatic "adult" stage or become "efts" that live on land for a year or two before returning to the water.
Eastern Tiger Salamander
Habitat/Habits: Tiger Salamanders inhabit woodlands, meadows, marshes, and suburban areas, spending most of their time in burrows underground. Found in Michigan's western and southern Lower Peninsula, and in Alger County in the Upper Peninsula. They eat insects, worms, slugs, snails, and smaller salamanders.
Breeding: Breeding habits are similar to those described for the Blue spotted Salamander (see "Salamander Reproduction" above). Tiger Salamanders breed in a wide variety of ponds and wetlands, including stock and ornamental ponds and even shallow lake edges. Their large larvae often eat smaller amphibian larvae.
Habitat/Habits: Found throughout much of the state, but only where boggy ponds or spring fed creeks are available in or near damp wooded habitat. When not breeding, they take refuge under rotting logs and leaf litter. They eat insects and insect larvae, spiders, worms, and other small invertebrates.
Breeding: The female lays her eggs in spring, in a clump of moss, leaf litter, or rotting wood overhanging a pond, creek, or seepage. She usually attends the eggs during the month or two of incubation; occasionally more than one female will lay eggs at the same site. Upon hatching, the larvae drop into the water and complete development, with metamorphosis occurring in about six weeks.
Just about the time most other amphibians are looking for places to winter hibernate, marbled salamanders are heading to breeding areas. The only fall breeding salamander, they seek out small areas (micro habitats) with temperatures around 60°F. The female will lay an average of 100 eggs in a nest constructed in a shallow depression under leaf litter or in a log. The female remains with the eggs until fall rains fill the nest site. Eggs will hatch within two weeks. In mild winters, larvae can feed and grow and transform in late spring or early summer. If the nest site does not flood, eggs will go dormant until the following spring. The salamander larvae that do not hatch in fall metamorphose into terrestrial adults in late spring or June or July.
Uniquely, Marbled Salamanders breed in fall instead of spring. Females lay eggs in depressions under leaf litter or logs, in low spots that fill with fall rains.
The habitat they select varies with the season. During the spring and summer, the adults spend their time in sandy upland deciduous forests. They seek shelter under logs or in underground tunnels of other animals. Their diet consists of earthworms, insects, slugs, and other small invertebrates; the larvae often eat the larvae of other amphibians. In autumn, they congregate in groups near lowland forested habitat to breed.
The marbled salamander is a nocturnal, secretive creature that is rarely, if ever seen. The Michigan population is restricted to scattered populations in southwestern counties. It is more widely found in southeastern United States.
In Michigan, the marbled salamander is currently listed as threatened due primarily to habitat fragmentation, wetland drainage, channelization, and filling. It has not been reported in Michigan for many years, and may be extirpated. Since shallow woodland ponds often freeze completely during typical winters, it is likely that the fall breeding habits of this species are not well adapted to Michigan's present climate.
Habitat/Habits: Found state wide in inland lakes, Great Lakes bays and marshes, rivers, and reservoirs. Shallow waters are preferred in spring, but occur at depths of up to 100 feet (30 m) in winter and summer. Mudpuppies eat crayfish, insect larvae, worms, snails, small fish, and smaller amphibians and their larvae.
Breeding: Females often guard their 18 to 100 eggs, which are laid under flat rocks, logs, or other submerged object. Larvae mature in 4 to 6 years.
Red Backed Salamander
Habitat/Habits: Found state wide in woodlands, especially deciduous woods with thick leaf litter and many decaying logs or stumps. Food is mostly small insects and other invertebrates.
Breeding: Unique among Michigan salamanders in not requiring water to reproduce; young go through larval stage in the egg. (See notes on this species under "Salamander Reproduction" above.) Eggs laid in early summer usually hatch in August.
Small Mouthed Salamander
Habitat/Habits: In its limited southeastern Michigan range, this salamander prefers moist hardwood forest habitat; farther south the species is also found in fragmented woodlands, fields, and farming areas.
Breeding: Breeding habits are similar to those of the Blue spotted Salamander, described under "Salamander Reproduction" above. Small mouthed Salamanders sometimes breed in ponds, floodings, or ditches outside of wooded areas.
Status: Endangered in Michigan.
Habitat/Habits: Formerly found state wide, Spotted Salamanders prefer mature, moist woodlands with access to vernal ponds for breeding. They spend most of the year in underground burrows, but are sometimes found under rotting logs or leaf litter. Small invertebrates, such as worms, insects, spiders, slugs, and snails are eaten.
Breeding: Breeding habits are very similar to those of the Blue spotted Salamander, described above under "Salamander Reproduction." Spotted Salamander egg masses tend to be quite dense, and are often invaded by a harmless green algae. The eggs hatch in 20 to 60 days, and the larvae transform about 60 to 90 days later. Breeding size is reached in 3 to 5 years.
Western Lesser Siren
Habitat/Habits: In Michigan, known only from shallow lake edges in Allegan and Van Buren counties. Still, muddy waters with abundant plant growth are preferred habitats. Sirens can move overland in damp weather to colonize new habitats. They eat small invertebrate animals, including insects, crayfish, and snails.
Breeding: Mating habits are poorly known. Two hundred or more eggs are laid by the female, in shallow bottom depressions. Larvae mature in about 2 to 3 years.