Amphibians and Reptiles of Minnesota

A Complete On-line Field Guide to Minnesota's Amphibians and Reptiles

Blue-spotted Salamander - Ambystoma laterale PDF Print E-mail
Salamanders of Minnesota - Salamanders of Minnesota

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Blue-spotted salamander, Ambystoma laterale, from Lake County, MN










No status assigned in Minnesota.


This is a medium sized Minnesota species that ranges from 4-51/2 inches in length (Conant and Collins, 1991). They have a shiny black dorsal color that may vary from dark blue-black to a lighter gray-black. They are conspicously marked with light blue flecks on the sides and tail. The speckling varies among specimens. They have four toes on the front feet and five toes on the hind feet. Costal grooves number 12. Newly transformed larvae have yellow spots that turn blue at their terrestrial lifestyle. Juvenile blue-spots are usually more intensively spotted and may have many spots on their backs. Occasionally, melanistic specimens are found. I have seen these in Hennepin County, MN.


No subspecies are recognized, but hybrids with other species have been well documented. Such a hybrid with the Jefferson's salamander (Ambystoma jeffersonianum) has been found in Cass County, MN (Hall, pers com).


The blue-spotted salamander is found in northeastern and north-central Minnesota. Records are scattered in southeastern Minnesota.


The "blue-spot" is a forest dweller. Moist soil with small ponds are important habitat elements. They are very secretive and although they do not seem to have burrowing abilities similar to tiger salamanders (Parmelee, 1990) they effectively take shelter under fallen, rotten logs, in leaf litter, moss, and other debris providing the soil is damp.


Blue-spotted salamanders spend much time beneath moist cover and therefore may be inconspicuous even though they are present in large numbers. They move about during rains, but because they live in more closed woodland type habitats, they are far less taken crossing roads at this time than the tiger salamander. They are early spring breeders and can be found in ponds from late April to early May. Courting consists of the male lying atop the female and rubbing his snout on her back and head. They may make quite a commotion-breaking the water's surface- from time to time. Fertilization is internal, for the male will eventually drop one to three spermatophores which the female will pick up with her cloacal lips. Eggs are laid singly or in small clusters of about a dozen attached to plants or submersed logs. The larvae grow in the pond until transformation in late summer. Adults and juveniles overwinter under logs and rocks at the ponds' edge (Vogt, 1981). This salamander may slowly wave it's tail back and forth when it feels threatened. A sticky foul-tasting substance is released from the back and tail.


The Blue-spotted salamander eats earthworms, insects of various types, spiders, and snails.


A blue-spotted salamander from Mille Lacs County, Minnesota


A melanistic blue-spotted salamander from Hennepin County, Minnesota


A melanistic blue-spotted salamander from Hennepin County, Minnesota

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