Marbled Salamander

Photo by Jeff Hall

Enlarge photo

Scientific Name: Ambystoma opacum

Classification: Nongame species

Abundance: Common statewide


Species Profile (PDF)


Male and female marbled salamander (Photo by Jeff Hall)

Marbled salamander larvae (Photo by Jeff Hall)

Marbled salamander (Photo by Jeff Hall)

The marbled salamander is a relatively common resident throughout North Carolina. Sporting white or gray bands across its body, this secretive species is known to hide out beneath leaves and logs. Marbled salamanders are part of the “mole salamander” family, which is a group of salamanders endemic to North America, and the only genus in the family Ambystomatidae. The marbled salamander is North Carolina’s State Salamander, thanks, in part, to efforts by the N.C. Herpetological Society, which helped lead the effort to designate state amphibians. The designation became official on June 26, 2013.

The marbled salamander is one of the smaller Ambystomatid mole salamander species found in North Carolina, with adults only reaching lengths between 3½-4½ inches. As with many Ambystomatids, the marbled salamander is a relatively stocky species. Having an overall dark gray or black body, the marbled salamander gets its name from the 4-7 white or gray bands crossing its back and sides, often forming a “marble” pattern. Males are typically smaller than females and, during the breeding season, their silvery-white crossbands become bright white. The larger females have bands that tend to be more silvery-gray than white, although these markings can vary dramatically between individuals. The larvae are typically black or dark brown with light spots along the side. Recently metamorphosed marbled salamanders are gray or brown with pale speckles, and have striped toes.

Marbled salamanders prefer to reside in damp woodlands that are close to floodplain pools and ponds. They are occasionally spotted on dry hillsides, but rarely stray far from moist environs. Overall, they are more tolerant of dry habitat than many other salamanders, due to their burrowing ability. Like the mole, which gives rise to the common name of this family of salamanders, marbled salamanders create burrows and tunnels, and spend most of their time underground. The adults are nocturnal, spending the days under logs and leaf litter or in burrows.

Effective predators, marbled salamanders consume large amounts of food, generally consisting of  terrestrial invertebrates like worms, spiders, slugs, snails, centipedes, and a variety of other insects. Marbled salamanders only eat live prey. The larvae of the marbled salamander are also quite voracious predators, eating zooplankton upon hatching, but adding more prey as they grow, including aquatic insects, isopods, fairy shrimp, snails, worms, and the larvae of other amphibians. The larger larvae will also eat caterpillars and other terrestrial invertebrates that fall into ponds. Learn more by reading the marbled salamander species profile.

The marbled salamander is classified as a nongame species with no open season. It is unlawful for any person to take, or have in possession, any nongame mammal or bird unless that person has a collection license or is collecting fewer than 5 reptiles or fewer than 25 amphibians that are not endangered, threatened, or special concerned species.

There are no reported problems with this species.