This salamander is listed as a species of Special Concern in Minnesota.
This is the smallest salamander found in Minnesota with specimens growing from 2-3 1/2 inches in length. They are reddish brown or brown above with silver flecking on the sides. The belly is porcelian white with small, but bold, black spots scattered randomly about the venter. There are four toes on the front and hind feet. There is an obvious constriction at the base of the tail. There are indented lines on top of the head two of these forming a wide Y. These grooves continue down the back. When viewed from above, these grooves look like chevrons.
The four-toed salamander (Hemidactylium scutatum) is a monotypic species.
The four-toed salamander was discovered in Minnesota in 1994 (Hall, 1995). A population was confirmed in Itasca county in 1995 (LeClere, 1995). Popluations are now known from Itasca, Pine, Carlton, St. Louis, Aitkin, and Mille Lacs counties (Hall, Casper, LeClere, 2000).
The few specimens from Minnesota were found in hardwood swamp forest (LeClere, 1995). Many small potholes containing water and mossy hummocks are important for breeding. Black Ash, Tamarack, and Black Spruce are common near the springs.
Four-toed Salamanders are secretive hiding in moss, under logs, rocks, and in leaf litter. Their small size and brown dorsal coloration make them difficult to see. When discovered they may flee with surprising speed or throw themselves into a nose to tail coil. They can snap the tail off at the constriction if it is grabbed. They can drop them on their own by pressing it against the ground or log. Heat induced stress can also cause them to drop their tails. The tails are readily regenerated. Females migrate to breeding sites in early summer and males shortly thereafter. Mating is said to occur in both spring and fall. Females lay 15-25 eggs in moss above water. The female guards the eggs until they hatch. Communal nesting occurs in some populations and females may take turns tending to the eggs. The larvae drop into the water upon hatching. They transform in late summer. They overwinter terrestrially under leaves, logs, or large stones.
Little is known of the prey of this species, and nothing is known of their food habits in Minnesota. They are thought to consume small invertebrates.