eastern tiger salamander

(Ambystoma tigrinum)

Conservation Status
eastern tiger salamander
Photo by Bill Reynolds
  IUCN Red List

LC - Least Concern


N5 - Secure

S5 - Secure


not listed


Eastern tiger salamander is a large, terrestrial, mole salamander. It is the largest terrestrial salamander in Minnesota. Only the mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus), an aquatic salamander, is larger. Adults are usually 6¾ to 8 in length but they can be much larger. In 1994 one was found in Minnesota that was 13¾ long. Males tend to be larger than females.

The body is stout with four well-developed limbs that project sidewards. The trunk is cylindrical. There are 11 to 14 prominent vertical depressions (costal grooves) between the forelimbs and the ventral area. The skin is soft, moist, and black with dull yellow, irregularly sized and spaced blotches. The belly is black with yellow splotches. The color pattern is highly variable and may be geographically distinct. Juveniles are mostly black with small yellow spots. As the salamander ages, the spots usually become larger and fuse together, increasingly obscuring the black background. The tail is long and tapered.

The head is large, short and wide with a broad, rounded snout. The lower lip and throat are usually yellow. The eyes are small, round, and protruding.

The legs are short and stout, with broad feet. The hind legs have five toes. The fore legs have four toes. The toes are short, broad at the base, and tapered to the tip.

The larvae have a paler background color, dark splotches, dark lateral stripes, and a whitish belly. They have long, filamentous, external gills and a wide tail fin (caudal fin) that extends from just behind the head on the upper side to the ventral area on the underside, wrapping around the tail.




6¾ to 8


Similar Species

  Spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) background color is gray. The spots are more regularly rounded and occur in two irregular rows. The spots on the head may be orange. The belly is gray with no spots. It has been recorded only in Pine and Carlton Counties.  

Prairies, agricultural fields, woodlands, and residential areas, all near permanent or semi-permanent bodies of water.




Eastern tiger salamander, like all salamanders, is rarely encountered. It spends the day in a burrow, usually one that it has dug itself, sometimes in one dug by rodent, shrew, or other animal. The burrow may be up to 40 deep. The salamander comes out at night to feed. It is sometimes encountered by humans in window wells and damp basements. It is sometimes seen aboveground at night during and after a rainfall, moving to or from a breeding pond, during the spring breeding and migration season.

The skin exudes a milky, unpleasant tasting liquid in response to a predator.




16 years


Life Cycle


Breeding takes place in the early spring, often before the ice has cleared from the surface of the pond. Adults migrate up to about 330 yards to a pond or other suitable body of water.

To initiate breeding, the male will nudge a female to separate it from other salamanders. It then deposits a sperm capsule on the pond bottom, the female picks up the sperm capsule, and the process is repeated. At night, usually 24 to 48 hours after fertilization, the female lays fragile masses of up to 100 eggs and attaches them to twigs, grass stems, and decayed leaves on the bottom of the pond. She may lay up to 1,000 eggs.

The eggs hatch in 2 to 5 weeks, depending on the temperature. Larvae may metamorphose into sexually mature adults in their first or second summer, or they may become sexually mature without metamorphosis.

Adults overwinter in burrows or under logs or other debris. Their lifespan is about 16 years in the wild, up to 25 years in captivity.


Tadpole Food


Small crustaceans and insect larvae, when young; also other salamander and small fish when older. Some are also cannibalistic, feeding on other salamander larvae.


Adult Food


Earthworms, insects, snails, and slugs, and any other small animal that can be captured and swallowed.


Distribution Map



4, 14, 24, 29, 30, 73, 76, 78.

The map at left includes an unconfirmed sighting from St. Louis County on iNaturalist and historic sightings from Cook and Lake Counties. There are no confirmed records of this species in the Arrowhead Region after 1960.




Common and widespread

  Class Amphibia (amphibians)  
  Superorder Batrachia (frogs and salamanders)  
  Order Caudata (salamanders)  
  Suborder Salamandroidea (mole salamanders)  


Ambystomatidae (mole salamanders)  


Ambystoma (mole salamanders)  

There is disagreement among taxonomists about the use of the names Caudata and Urodela. The crown group includes the extant (still living) species, the most recent common ancestor of the extant species, and all descendants of that ancestor. The pan group or total group is the crown group plus all extant organisms most closely related to it. Some taxonomists use Caudata for the crown group and Urodela for the pan group. Most use Urodela for the crown group and Caudata for the pan group. That is the ranking followed here.


Subordinate Taxa


Until recently, there were eight subspecies recognized. Three were raised to full species; California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense); barred tiger slamander (Ambystoma mavortium); and plateau tiger salamander (Ambystoma velasci). Five others were placed as subspecies of barred tiger slamander: Arizona tiger salamander (A. m. nebulosum), barred tiger salamander (A. m. mavortium); blotched tiger salamander (A. m. melanostictum); gray tiger salamander (A. m. diaboli); and Sonoran tiger salamander (A. m. stebbinsi). There are currently no subspecies of eastern tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) recognized.




Ambystoma tigrinum tigrinum

Salamandra tigrina


Common Names


eastern tiger salamander

tiger salamander











Costal groove

On salamanders: vertical grooves along the side of a salamander between the forelegs and the groin, each corresponding to the space between ribs, that aid in keeping the skin moist by transporting water over the surface of the body.















Visitor Photos

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Lisa Schmidt


Nobles County

    eastern tiger salamander      

Molly and Robert Power


Not sure what type of salamander this is, but we were surprised to see it crossing our driveway!

    eastern tiger salamander      



Stopped to help this little one cross a busy road.

    eastern tiger salamander      



Found this cutie walking on the gravel road outside of sleepy eye!

    eastern tiger salamander      



Not sure if this is a tiger salamander. Found it walking across a dirt road late morning.

    eastern tiger salamander   eastern tiger salamander  

Bill Reynolds

    eastern tiger salamander      
MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos





Ambystoma tigrinum (Tiger Salamander)
Allen Chartier
  Ambystoma tigrinum (Tiger Salamander)  
Ambystoma tigrinum (Eastern Tiger Salamander)
John Clare
  Ambystoma tigrinum (Eastern Tiger Salamander)  



Visitor Videos

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Other Videos
  Eastern Tiger Salamander (Ambystomatidae: Ambystoma tigrinum tigrinum) with Excavation
Carl Barrentine

Uploaded on Sep 13, 2011

This specimen was found excavating a burrow beneath some moss in a grassy area. Photographed at Fisher, Minnesota (12 September 2011).

  Tiger Salamander Larva (Ambystomatidae: Ambystoma tigrinum) Close-up
Carl Barrentine

Uploaded on Jul 7, 2010

"Without reverence, we cannot explain why we should treat the natural world with respect." --Paul Woodruff Photographed at the Glacial Ridge NWR, Minnesota (07 July 2010).




Visitor Sightings

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Location: South Haven, Minnesota, Wright County

Saw a couple of these and thinking it is getting ready to hibernate. Thank you rain and humidity for bringing these cool creatures out.

  Lisa Schmidt

Location: The Gettin' Place, Dundee, MN

Nobles County

eastern tiger salamander  

Location: Sleepy Eye, Minnesota

Found this cutie walking on the gravel road outside of sleepy eye!

eastern tiger salamander


Location: Garfield, Mn

Every year seems to meet one around this area...fun to watch with kidoz...


Location: Wadena County

Not sure if this is a tiger salamander. Found it walking across a dirt road late morning.

eastern tiger salamander

  Molly and Robert Power

Location: Albany MN

eastern tiger salamander


Location: Cass County, MN

Found in a fold of black plastic that I had spread on my garden area. Moved it to a marshy area a few hundred feet from where I found it. Approximately 6" long. Did not get photo.


Location: Crow Wing County

Stopped to help this little one cross a busy road.

eastern tiger salamander

  Bill Reynolds

Location: Pennington Co., MN

eastern tiger salamander

MinnesotaSeasons.com Sightings






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