At A Glance
- IDENTIFICATION: Moist, long slender, lizard-like body with four legs, tail
- COMMONLY CONFUSED WITH: Lizards, especially skinks
- DIET: Crickets, fruit-flies, maggots, (larger salamanders): fish
- HABITAT: Under stones in rivers, under logs and leaves in wet areas
- BREEDING: Lay up to 450 eggs in water, sometimes moist places on land
- BEHAVIOR: Most active at night and during cooler times of day, terrestrial salamanders hibernate underground; aquatic salamanders are active year round; all salamanders can secrete bad tasting or poisonous liquid, squeeze muscles to poke sharp end of ribs through skin into predators
- THREATS: Bass, birds, crawfish, frogs, giant water bugs, raccoons, skunks, snakes, sunfish
- SPECIAL SKILLS: Hiding
- SEASONS FOR VIEWING IN NORTH LOUISIANA: Spring, summer, fall
Our Take on North Louisiana Salamanders
Salamanders are the forgotten amphibians. They’ve taken a backseat to frogs in stories, games, and puppetry. However, they can be just as entertaining as frogs, as anyone who has seen the lost Muppet Sammy the Singing Salamander, can attest.
If you’re hanging out near the North Louisiana water (so basically, if you’re hanging out in North Louisiana), you could bump into one of fifteen species of salamanders in North Louisiana: the eastern newt, the spotted salamander, the marbled salamander, the mole salamander, the small-mouthed salamander, the southern dusky salamander, the spotted dusky salamander, the dwarf salamander, the Louisiana slimy salamander, the southern red-backed salamander, the western dwarf salamander, the gulf coast water dog, the mudpuppy, the lesser siren, and the three-toed amphiuma.
Salamanders are freshwater amphibians who can live up to 30 years, although many are killed as tadpoles by predators and disease. They are often confused for lizards, particularly skinks, because of their (surprise, surprise) lizard-like appearance. Salamanders are particularly confused with skinks, mostly because they hang out at all the same clubs. You can distinguish these two animals by their skin and eyes.
Salamanders breath through their skin, which must remain moist for their survival. Salamanders have smooth, moist skin, although newts have bumpy, moist skin. Lizards, on the other hand, have skin that appears dry and is composed of tiny scales. Another way to tell salamanders from lizards is their eyes. Salamanders have larger eyes than most lizards in North Louisiana. Although their eyes are similar to Mediterranean geckos, other lizards – skinks, anoles, prairie lizards, and fence lizards, have smaller eyes.
The biggest difference between these amphibians and their reptile doppelgangers is that salamanders are born with gills, unlike lizards, who are born with lungs. While most amphibians in North Louisiana lose their gills at adulthood, some salamanders keep their gills for life. For example, mudpuppies spend their entire lives in the water, using their gills and skin in addition to lungs to breathe.
Like frogs, salamanders lay eggs in water. Most salamanders lay fertilized eggs on leaves and sticks, under rocks in shallow water, and the young are born without legs. After growing legs, young salamanders move to land, where they stay in or near water. Larger salamanders, such as mudpuppies, live in larger bodies of water for the rest of their lives, sometimes moving closer to the shore to hunt.
Although larger salamanders, like amphiuma and mudpuppies, eat fish and other amphibians, most salamanders eat mostly insects, worms, slugs, and snails. Like lizards, salamanders hunt by waiting for prey to pass nearby and quickly ensnaring prey with their tongues.
Two sites in particular helped us in our search for information about salamanders: Amphibians and Reptiles of Louisiana and LEARN, which provides a PDF primer on amphibians and reptiles in Louisiana.
Where to Find North Louisiana Salamanders
You can find North Louisiana salamanders under rocks and logs and in trees in or near slow-moving and stagnant water. While we encourage you to be on the lookout for these colorful creatures, we don’t suggest flipping rocks and debris to find them. Remember snakes and spiders, including venomous ones, also use these shelters.