Small-mouthed Salamander

Ambystoma texanum (Matthes, 1855)

small-mouthed salamander

Key Characters: Small head; short, narrow snout; protruding lower jaw.

Similar Species: Blue-spotted Salamander, Mole Salamander, Jefferson Salamander, Silvery Salamander, Slimy Salamander.  See Key to Adult and Larval Salamanders of Illinois for help with identification.

small-mouthed salamander

Subspecies: None recognized.

Description: A medium-sized (up to 17 cm TL) salamander with lichen-like gray markings along sides. Costal grooves 14-16. Limbs and toes relatively short. Adpressed limbs usually separated by 2-4 costal folds. In contrast to single tooth rows in other Illinois Ambystoma, A. texanum has 2-3 maxillary tooth rows, one behind the other.

small-mouthed salamander

Habitat: Widespread in poorly drained woodlands, prairies, pastures, and even cultivated or urban areas where breeding ponds remain. Most prevalent under logs and occasionally in excavated crayfish burrows and drainage tiles. Adults are occasionally found on rocky hillsides.

Natural History: Adults are subterranean outside of breeding season and migrate to breeding ponds (fish-free ponds, drainage ditches, vernal woodland pools, low, flooded places in cultivated fields) from January to March (April in northern counties) during prolonged rain. Eggs have even been found in cisterns. Several hundred small eggs (2 mm diameter) are deposited in masses of 6-30, attached to sticks and vegetation in water. Depending on when eggs were laid, larvae transform May through July. Adults eat earthworms, slugs, and various arthropods.

Status: Greatest threat is loss of wet areas for breeding and larval development. Common and widespread.

EtymologyAmbystoma – amblys (Greek) for blunt; -stoma (Greek) meaning mouth; or anabystoma (New Latin) meaning ‘to cram into the mouth’; texanum – (New Latin) for ‘of or belonging to the state of Texas’.

Original Description: Matthes, B. 1855. Die Hemibatrachier im Allgemeinen und die Hemibatrachier von Nordamerika im Speciellem. Allegemeine Naturhistorische Zeitung (N.S.) 1:249-280.

Type Specimen: Not known to exist. Collected by Matthes, date unknown. According to Häupl and Tiedemann, 1978, Kat. Wiss. Samml. Naturhist. Mus. Wien, 2: 13, and Häupl, Tiedemann, and Grillitsch, 1994, Kat. Wiss. Samml. Naturhist. Mus. Wien, 9: 17, syntypes include NHMW 22920.

Type Locality: Translated from German: “Rio Colorado and Cumming’s Creek bottoms, Fayette County, Texas” Restricted to Rio Colorado bottom land by Schmidt (1953).

Original Name: Salamandra texana Matthes, 1855

Nomenclatural History: H. Garman was the first to include this species in the Illinois herpetofauna under the name Amblystoma microstomum Cope, 1861. (1892. A synopsis of the reptiles and amphibians of Illinois. Illinois Laboratory of Natural History Bulletin 3(13):215-388). Junior synonyms include Amblystoma microstomum Cope, 1861 (Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia, 13:123).  Combinations used in the Illinois literature include Chondrotus microstomus.