Mabee's Salamander
Ambystoma mabeei

Common Name:

Mabee's Salamander

Scientific Name:

Ambystoma mabeei



Amby is Greek for "a cup", stoma is Greek for "a mouth"


mabeei is in honor of W. B. Mabee, who collected the first specimen known to science.

Average Length:

3 - 4 in. (7.5 - 10.2 cm)

Virginia Record Length:

Record length:

4.5 in. (11.4 cm)

Virginia Wildlife Action Plan Rating Tier II - Very High Conservation Need - Has a high risk of extinction or extirpation. Populations of these species are at very low levels, facing real threat(s), or occur within a very limited distribution. Immediate management is needed for stabilization and recovery.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: This species has a relatively small head and long slender toes. Silvery white flecks are abundant on sides, but sparse on the back *947*. The color above is deep brown and the vomerine teeth are not in multiple series and wholly between the inner nares. The teeth on the margins of the jaw are in a in a single row. There are 13 costal grooves, counting two in groin. The length is up to 102 mm *1009*. This is a small, stout moe salamander with a reletively small head reaching a maximum SVL of 71.7 mm (2.75 inches) and a maximum total length of 122.1 mm (4.75 inches). The tail comprises approximately 68% of the total lemgth. The snout is rounded and projects beyond the lower jaw. The head is widest at the corner of the mouth. The eyes are small yet prominent. The forelimbs are slender, the hindlimbs more stout, but not muscular. The toes are characteristiclly long, with the longest toes on the hind feet being greater than 50% of the foot length. There are 13 coastal grooves and 1-1.5 coastal folds lie between the adpressed limbs. The tail is compressed in the distal half. The color in life is dark brown to gray-brown above and paler below. Whitish flecks occur laterally and may be so abundant as to form a mottled pattern. Such markings continue ventrlaterally on the body and extend laterally the entire length of the tail. These whitish markings run onto the dorsum, but usually become more sparse, brownish, and indistinct. The underside is brown to brownish-gray, sometimes mottled with grayish markings on the throat. The males are about 15% longer than the females. During the breeding season gravid females are noticably more rotund than the males and spent females. At this time the males have swollen vents. Hatchling larvae from North Carolina average 8.5 mm total length and begin transformation at about 50 mm. Metamorphs from Southampton County are 60.1-70.4 mm total length. Larvae are of the pond type, brown and cream to yellow above, and pale with semi-translucent skin below. The dorsal fin originates above the forelegs and is , at its highest, as high as the tall musculature. The tail is mottled with brown, except at the base where there is a characteristic light mid-dorsal stripe. The body has 2-3 dark stripes on the sides which usually merge on the tail. The most ventral two lateral stripes are sometimes difficult to discern. Larvae of this species differ from others in having an immaculate venter, a mid-dorsal light stripe including the base of the fin, and rounded toes *9286*.

REPRODUCTION: The breeding season is in the late fall to early spring. The female attaches the eggs singly or in loose chains to leaves, twigs, or other bottom debris in shallow ponds. The clutch size is 2-6 eggs *1014*. The larval period is spent in ponds. Metamorphosis occurs in April and May when juveniles leave the ponds for a terrestrial life, returning only to breed. Adults move to North Carolina breeding sites in the fall and winter. There have been reported mass movements of adults during heavy winter and spring rains *9286*.

BEHAVIOR: This species is found in savannas in burrows at the edges of bogs or ponds. They also occur in low wet woods and swamps *1014*. They are found in areas adjacent to water such as ditches and pools and has been found under pieces of paper or small logs in sandy areas adjacent to water *947*. The eggs are attached to leaves, twigs, or other bottom debris in shallow ponds. The aquatic larvae hatch after 9 to 14 days and average 8.5 mm long. The transformation occurs in late spring at sizes of 50 to 60 mm *1014*. The diet is unknown. In North Carolina, transformed larvae may move a considerable from the breeding ponds while adults may either move from the ponds or remain in the dry pond bottoms. They are active at night and non-territorial *9286*.

References for Life History

  • 947 - Mitchell, J.C., Hedges, S.B., 1980, Ambystoma mabeei Bishop (Caudata: Ambystomatidae): An addition to the salamander fauna of Virginia, Brimleyana, Vol. 3, pg. 119-121
  • 1009 - Bishop, S.C., 1943, Handbook of Salamanders, 555 pgs., Comstock Publ. Co., New York, NY
  • 1014 - Martof, B.S., Palmer, W.M., Bailey, J.R., Harrison, III J.R., 1980, Amphibians and Reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia, 264 pgs., UNC Press, Chapel Hill, NC
  • 9286 - Terwilliger, K.T., 1991, Virginia's endangered species: Proceedings of a symposium. Coordinated by the Virginia Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries, Nongame and Endangered Species Program, 672 pp. pgs., McDonald and Woodward Publ. Comp., Blacksburg, VA


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Verified County/City Occurrence

Gloucester County
Hampton City
Isle of Wight County
James City County
Mathews County
Newport News City
Southampton County
Suffolk City
Surry County
Sussex County
York County
Verified in 11 Counties/Cities.

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