| *Does not include all Michigan Species of Salamanders
MICHIGAN SALAMANDER INFO PAGE
Salamanders are four-legged (usually), long-bodied, tailed amphibians. Most Michigan Salamanders
begin life in the water, as salamander larvae, except for the Red-backed Salamanders, which are born
from eggs on land, looking like small versions of the adults. The salamander larvae hatch from jelly-like
eggs, and breathe through their gills. Most salamander larvae will lose their gills, develop lungs, and
move onto land within a couple months to a year, although the Mudpuppy will keep its gills and spend its
entire life within the water. All of Michigan’s salamanders are strict carnivores.
Blue-spotted Salamander: This salamander is named for the blue spots, although they are
sometimes white or gray, that cover its black or gray body. They generally hide during the day, under
leaves, logs, or even dirt, and then move around (if needed) at night. They have similar body types to
the Tiger and Spotted Salamanders, although they are generally smaller. The Red-backed Salamander
has a much thinner and longer body type than the Blue-spotted.
Mudpuppy: This salamander spends its entire life in the water, breathing through its gills. The gills are
usually red, brown, or some color in between, and they stick out from the neck region of the salamander.
This is the largest species of salamander in Michigan. They are often caught by ice fisherman and
tossed on the ice to die, simply because of their “ugly” appearance. Mudpuppies are a very important
part of the aquatic ecosystem they are from, and we on Team Reptile strongly encourage people to
simply put them back in the water if they happen to catch one.
Red-backed Salamander: This salamander is named for the reddish coloration that is sometimes on
their back, although they can also have a gray or black back. When they have a black or gray back they
are referred to as a lead-back (pronounced “led”). Red-backed Salamanders do not have actual lungs,
and instead absorb oxygen through their skin. The female of this species actually lays eggs on land
rather than in the water, and the young then hatch as smaller versions of the adult. This is the most
common species of salamander in Michigan.
Eastern Newt: This salamander species is very unique; they begin life in the water as larvae, then lose
their gills and move onto land. After a few years on land (called the Red Eft stage) they will move back
into the water where they will usually spend the rest of their lives. Their appearance also changes as
they move onto land. As a juvenile newt, and again as an adult, they are usually a greenish color on their
back and yellow on their underside. During the Red Eft stage, they are often red on their back and
sides, and more brownish underneath. In both stages they tend to have bright reddish or orange spots
on their back.
Tiger Salamander: This is the largest land-dwelling salamander in Michigan, and can be recognized
by the yellow, white, or gray “stripes” that often cover its black body. They are part of the Mole
Salamander Family, along with the Spotted and Blue-spotted Salamanders, and they tend to burrow
underground to help protect themselves from predators. They are also sometimes found in cellars and
in Michigan basements.
Spotted Salamander: This salamander is named for the large round spots that are on its black body.
These spots are usually yellow on the body, while the head sometimes has orange or reddish spots.
Spotted Salamanders are usually smaller than the Tiger Salamander, and larger than the Blue-spotted.
They, like the other species of the Mole Salamander Family, tend to burrow underground to help protect
themselves from potential predators.
Four-toed Salamander: This salamander is named for the four toes on their hind feet. The back of
this salamander is usually orange or brown, with some gray color blended in. There are usually dark
spots on a light colored belly. The females often remain with their eggs during incubation. The eggs are
laid on land, however they are deposited so that the larvae can fall into the water as they hatch.