Features: Adult Jefferson Salamanders (Ambystoma jeffersonianum) have a grey or brown-coloured back, with lighter underparts. Blue flecks may be present on the sides and limbs. Adults can grow to a total length of 200 mm. Larvae resemble miniature adults, but with external gills, and forelimbs develop before hindlimbs. It is difficult to distinguish between Jefferson Salamander larvae and that of its close relatives, because adult colouration does not develop until the salamanders leave the breeding ponds. Jefferson Salamanders often breed with closely related Blue-spotted Salamanders, producing hybrids. The hybrids are almost always female and have triploid chromosome numbers, rather than the diploid number of the parent species. Hybrids, both larvae and adults, can be difficult to distinguish from the parent species. Adults live in the soil or in leaf litter on the forest floor, and are best seen in early spring when they move to woodland ponds to breed. Eggs are laid in clumps attached to underwater vegetation. By midsummer, the larvae lose their gills and leave the pond.
Status: Endangered Provincially and Nationally
Range: The Jefferson Salamander lives in deciduous forests. Its range extends from New England south to Maryland, and west to Illinois. In Canada, it occurs only in Ontario, where it has been reported from about 30 sites.
Threats: This species requires intact deciduous forest with undisturbed forest floor and unpolluted breeding ponds. It is likely that habitat loss and degradation, caused by urban development and agriculture, are responsible for the declines in this species in southern Ontario. Today, the Ontario populations are small, isolated pockets each numbering a few hundred individuals. Small populations are always susceptible to local extinction due to chance events such as floods, fire or other catastrophes.
Protection: Protection provided by Ontario's Endangered Species Act, 2007 prohibits actions such as killing, capturing, possessing, selling or trading of the species. The Natural Heritage component of the Provincial Policy Statement under Ontario's Planning Act provides for the protection of significant habitat of endangered species. Most populations in Ontario are on private land and are close to urban areas. Populations in Conservation Areas and Provincial Parks receive protection.
Text Sources: Rye and Weller 2000
Last Modified Date: June 2011
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