Natural History

Maymont’s Nature Center has two salamander species. The first, the marbled salamander (Ambystoma opacum), is often called the banded salamander due to its white or gray bands on its body. Mature marbled salamanders will only reach 3.5 to 4 inches in length, making it a smaller species. This amphibian is found in the piedmont and coastal plain regions of Virginia. It is also found throughout most of the eastern United States. Adults live in damp woodlands, close to ponds or streams. Worms, slugs, insects and even snails make up the carnivorous diet of this salamander. The marbled salamander larvae is a major predator in ponds, as it is often the first salamander species to hatch.

The second salamander species at the Nature Center is the eastern tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum). Most salamanders only reach 6 to 8 inches in their 12 to 14 year life span in the wild but the eastern tiger salamander can reach grow up to 14 inches. The eastern tiger salamander’s name comes from the bright yellow tiger stripes on their bodies. These salamanders vary in color and those stripes may appear as blotches on some or be non existent in other.

Eastern tiger salamanders live throughout most of the United States, with two sites in Virginia; one in Mathews County and one in Augusta County. Adult salamanders live on land in deep burrows near ponds, lakes, wetlands, and streams. They are nocturnal carnivores eating insects, worms, and small fish. This species has been endangered in Virginia since 1984. This is due to breeding sites are being destroyed due to deforestation and pollution of the water.

Fun Facts

  • Generally, salamanders spend most of their time hiding the dark, damp places.
  • Unlike most other salamanders in the same family, the marbled salamander is found in drier habitats and even breeds on land.
  • Marbled salamanders are solitary creatures most of the year, except for mating season.
  • Eastern tiger salamanders are the most wide-ranging salamander in North America.
  • The eastern tiger salamander is the largest land dwelling salamander on Earth.