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Regions > Americas > Mudpuppy

Mudpuppy

Location at the Zoo: Americas



Region:

North America

Class:

Amphibia

Order:

Caudata

Family:

Proteidae

Genus:

Necturus

Scientific Name:

Necturus maculosus

Description

: Necturus maculosus is the largest species of salamander found in Canada. It can reach 45 cm in length. Usual length is between 25 and 30 cm. Mudpuppies have a flattened head and feathery, external gills that are dark red. Their upper bodies are grey to reddish brown, and they have black spots running along their backs. Their bellies are grey. Males have small projections (papillae) around their cloacae. Female cloacae are surrounded by regions of lighter colour.

Distribution

: Manitoba east to southern Quebec, and south along the western side of the Appalachian Mountains to Louisiana, eastern Oklahoma, eastern Kansas, and eastern Iowa.

Habitat

: This is a totally aquatic, freshwater species that can be found in permanent lakes, ponds, streams, and rivers. In colder areas of its range, it cannot live in bodies of water that freeze to the bottom during the winter. In warmer waters, mudpuppies may move into protected areas during the late fall and early winter periods. They are bottom dwellers and are nocturnal in nature.

Food

: Insects, fish, fish eggs, frogs, worms, and crayfish.

Reproduction and Development

: Although eggs are laid in the spring, breeding occurs in the fall. The female excavates a cavity and remains with her 20 to 150 eggs. She attaches them to the undersides of objects in the water such as rocks and logs, guarding them until they hatch. They mature in four to six years. The mudpuppy is neotenic (neoteny is a term used to describe amphibians that reach sexual maturity while retaining its larval form – external gills).

Adaptations

: This amphibian does not hibernate and is active all year long, even in the coldest water. During the day they hide under rocks and logs or amongst weeds, emerging at night to feed. Lungs, although poorly developed are effective when gulping air at the surface of warm, muddy water that is low in oxygen.

Threats to Survival

: They are common throughout their range, and they can tolerate a limited amount of pollution and siltation. However, in areas where pollution is heavy, large percentages of mudpuppy populations often suffer from birth defects and deformities. This is due to the absorption of pollutants through their skin, or chemicals bio-accumulating (low levels of toxins in prey accumulate up the food chain as they are eaten). This often damages the genetic makeup of succeeding generations. Many are caught in the nets, or on the hooks of fishermen. They are preyed on by fish, snakes and wading birds such as herons.

Status

: IUCN: Least concern; COSEWIC: Not at risk; CITES: Not Listed. Toronto Zoo’s Adopt-A-Pond programme coordinates a province wide survey to find salamanders.

Zoo Diet

: Earthworms, pinkie mice, and beef heart gelatin.


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