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Department of Natural Resources


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Salamander Facts

The mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus) and lesser siren (Siren intermedia) spend their entire lives in water and never lose the gills, tail fins, and gill slits that they developed as larvae.

Eight species of Illinois salamanders (family Plethodontidae) have no lungs and breathe mostly through the skin and lining of the mouth.

A constriction ring at the base of the four-toed salamander's (Hemidactylium scutatum) tail allows this animal to detach the tail and distract a potential predator.

The smallest Illinois salamander is the four-toed salamander (Hemidactylium scutatum) at a length of four inches (10 cm). The largest Illinois salamanders are the hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) and lesser siren (Siren intermedia),          each of which may attain a length of 18 inches (46 cm).

The female zigzag salamander (Plethodon dorsalis) guards her eggs for up to three months as the embryos develop. She usually does not eat anything during this time.

There are no male silvery salamanders (Ambystoma platineum). The females are triploid, having three sets of chromosomes per cell instead of the usual two sets. This species is the result of a hybridization between the Jefferson (Ambystoma          jeffersonianum) and blue-spotted (Ambystoma laterale) salamanders.

The skin of the eastern newt (Notophthalmus viridescens) contains powerful chemicals, including tetrodotoxin, that deter predators.

When disturbed, the redback salamander (Plethodon cinereus) displays a defensive behavior in which it remains immobile, then curls into a tight coil with its head under its upraised tail.

If its pond or stream dries up, the lesser siren (Siren intermedia) burrows deeply into bottom sediments, secretes a mucous "cocoon" around itself, and aestivates for several months until the pond fills again.

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