Greater Siren
Siren lacertina

Common Name:

Greater Siren

Scientific Name:

Siren lacertina



seiren is Greek meaning "mermaids of Greek myth".


lacertina is Latin meaning "pertaining to a lizard".

Average Length:

20 - 30 in. (51 - 76 cm)

Virginia Record Length:

Record length:

38. 5 in. (97.8 cm)

Virginia Wildlife Action Plan Rating Tier IV - Moderate Conservation Need - The species may be rare in parts of its range, particularly on the periphery. Populations of these species have demonstrated a significant declining trend or one is suspected which, if continued, is likely to qualify this species for a higher tier in the foreseeable future. Long-term planning is necessary to stabilize or increase populations.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: This is an elongated, eel-like animal that lacks hind limbs, and has a pair (virtually useless) of forelimbs *1102,3639,941,1008, 1009*. The hands contain 4 digits *1102*. This species is essentially a perm- anent larva *1102,1004*. It lacks a pelvic girdle, cloacal glands, eyelids, and maxillary bone *941,1008,1009*. It has both gills (3 pair) and lungs *1102,3639,882,1004,941,1008*. The jaws are covered with a horny substance *1102,1004* and it has minute eyes *1102,1008,1009*. It uses Jacobson's organ to sense vibrations in the water *3843*. The color is gray to olive with many black dots over the head, sides and back with yellow blotches on side *1102, 3639,1004,2130,1009*. The young may exhibit some striping *1102*. The skin is smooth and the tail rounded *1102*. There are 38-39 costal grooves *1102, 3639*. The length is approximately 30 inches *1102,1004,941,1009*.

REPRODUCTION: Because of the difficulty in observing reproduction, an uncertainty exists as to whether or not the eggs are internally or externally fertilized. The anatomy of the male points towards external fertilization *3639*. While the fact that the eggs are scattered onto vegetation leads experts to believe the eggs are fertilized internally *3639,1102*. Reproduction processes are similar to other amphibians *1102*.

ORIGIN: This species is native *1102,3637,941,3843*.

BEHAVIOR: This species is found is shallow, muddy bottomed, ponds, swamps, and ditches *1008,1009,3843,941,1004,1102*.

References for Life History

  • 882 - Conant, R., 1958, A field guide to reptiles and amphibians of the United States and Canada east of the 100th Meridian, 366 pgs., Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, MA
  • 941 - Leviton, A., 1970, Reptiles and Amphibians of North America, 250 pgs., Doubleday and Co., New York
  • 1004 - Holbrook, J.E., 1976, North American Herpetology, Reprint Edition., Vol. 5, 118 pgs., Soc. Study Amphibians and Reptiles, Lawrence, KS
  • 1008 - Barbour, R.W., 1971, Amphibians and reptiles of Kentucky, 334 pgs., Univ. of Kentucky Press, Lexington, KY
  • 1009 - Bishop, S.C., 1943, Handbook of Salamanders, 555 pgs., Comstock Publ. Co., New York, NY
  • 1102 - Cochran, D.M., C.J. Goin, 1970, The new field book of reptiles and amphibians, 359 pgs., G.P. Putman's Sons, NY
  • 2130 - Blair, W.F., A.P. Blair, P. Brodkorb, F.R. Cagle, G.W. Moore, 1957, Vertebrates of the United States, 819 pgs., McGraw-Hill Book Co., Inc., NY
  • 3639 - Smith, H.M., 1978, Amphibians of North America, 160 pgs., Golden Press, New York
  • 3843 - Burch, P.R., J.T. Wood, 1955, The salamander Siren lacertina feeding on clams and snails, Copeia, Vol. 1955, pg. 255-256


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Verified County/City Occurrence

Amelia County
Caroline County
Charles City County
Chesapeake City
Hanover County
Isle of Wight County
King and Queen County
King George County
Sussex County
Virginia Beach City
Westmoreland County
Verified in 11 Counties/Cities.

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