The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 15, 2004


Blue-spotted salamander

photo by Betsy Fell
Name: The blue-spotted salamander, or Ambystoma laterale, is a member of the mole salamander family of species, all of which occur in North America.

Special concern: The blue-spotted salamander is protected as a species of "special concern" under the Mass. Endangered Species Act. It is rare, but more plentiful than "threatened" or "endangered" species.

Description: 3 to 5.5 inches long, it is a slender salamander with long, thin toes. It is black or bluish-black on top with light blue flecks — most prominent on the sides, legs and tail. The underside is somewhat lighter.

When and where seen: The salamander pictured here was found on October 1 at Foss Farm where it had burrowed under a piece of black plastic.

Habitat and life cycle: Adults live on land, and spend most of their time burrowed underground or under leaf litter. They are usually found in mature deciduous forests, within 900 feet of a vernal pool, where they breed. Masses of six to ten eggs are laid in the water during March or April, and the aquatic young hatch about a month later. By August it is believed that in Massachusetts all juveniles have metamorphosed into air-breathing adults. The young eat small aquatic animals, while the adult diet includes insects, worms and spiders.

Vernal pools: are small ponds that often dry up in the summer and therefore lack fish, which would otherwise prey on amphibians' eggs. "Vernal" means spring, but some of these ponds fill after autumn rains and persist through the winter. If you find a vernal pool in your woods, try to preserve it. For more information on vernal pools, contact the Conservation Commission (1-978-369-0336) or visit

Hybrids: Blue-spotted salamanders sometimes interbreed with Jefferson salamanders to create two hybrid, all-female species: Tremlay's salamander (Ambystoma tremblayi) and the Silvery (A. plantineum.) See the April 4, 2003 Biodiversity Corner for a description of a hybrid sighted in Carlisle by Tom Wilson.

Historical note: Blue-spotted salamanders were famous in Carlisle around fifteen years ago. That was when a group called The Friends of the Blue-Spotted Salamander was formed to advocate for habitat protection, because the amphibian had been observed near where the Tall Pines development was to be built off Curve Street.

References: The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians, by John L. Behler and F. Wayne King;; the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program Blue-spotted Salamander and Vernal Pool fact sheets.

2004 The Carlisle Mosquito