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Tiger salamanders are large, mostly terrestrial amphibians belonging to the Ambystomatidae, or mole salamander, family. Given their ubiquity and adaptability, tiger salamanders can be found across many different environments and habitats throughout North America. If you find yourself in Mexico, the United States or Canada, chances are you are not too far away from a tiger salamander habitat.
Tiger salamanders are native to North America, and can be found in practically every part of the continent, except for parts of the Great Basin, Appalachia, New England and northern Canada. Their range stretches from southeastern Alaska to the eastern Canadian province of Labrador, south throughout nearly all of the United States and into the southern edge of central Mexico.
Tiger salamanders will inhabit two distinct types of habitats during the course of their lives; larval salamanders have gills and require a purely aquatic habitat, while fully metamorphosed adult salamanders are terrestrial, or land-dwelling. During their larval stage, tiger salamanders can be found in small freshwater ponds, pools and slow-moving streams, both temporary and permanent, clear and muddy, that lack predatory fish.
Adults require habitats that feature loose soil with or without established burrows, and a source of acceptable water for breeding. They can reside in a number of environments, from mountains and forests to marshes and grasslands. Because adult tiger salamanders spend a significant amount of time buried beneath the surface, they can withstand changes in weather and climate, and are one of the few species of salamander that has been able to make a home in the more arid parts of North America.
Tiger salamanders are opportunistic carnivores as adults, and will readily eat worms, grubs, frogs, insects, snails and other salamanders. Young tiger salamanders will eat many other animals within their aquatic habitat, including aquatic insects, small crustaceans, insect larvae, other salamander larvae and small fish. Tiger salamanders are efficient and prodigious predators, controlling populations of pest insects in some parts of their habitat.
Adult and larval salamanders provide a food source to predators. Adults often are consumed by snakes, birds of prey, badgers and bobcats, while larval salamanders are preyed upon by aquatic insects, other salamander larvae and snakes.
Within their geographic range, tiger salamanders are among the most prevalent of salamander species, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Whereas many species of amphibians have difficulty adapting to changes in their environment, tiger salamanders are incredibly adaptable, in some cases showing resistance to environmental pollution and rapid changes in their environment. Tiger salamanders will readily inhabit many habitats within their range, provided there is suitable earth for them to burrow into and appropriate water sources (those without the presence of predatory fishes) for them to use for breeding.
- University of Michigan Museum of Zoology: Eastern Tiger Salamander
- Reptiles and Amphibians of Missouri; Tom R. Johnson
- The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Ambystoma tigrinum
- National Geographic: Tiger Salamander