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Eastern Lesser Siren

Fact File

Scientific Name: Siren intermedia intermedia

Classification: Amphibian, Order Urodela, Family Sirenidae

Conservation Status:

Size: Up to 27 inches

Life Span: Their lifespan in the wild is unknown but in captivity they live 6.3 years

Identifying Characteristics

This salamander retains it’s juvenile features as an adult such as it’s feathery external gills. The salamander itself has a long eel like body with reduced forelimbs that have four toes 31-35 costal grooves from the head and no hind limbs. The salamander can range in color from dark brown to olive gray and have a lighter belly with scattered irregular black spots on their backs. When they are young they also have a stripe along the side of their head that is yellow or red in color and a faint darker stripe with a lighter stripe within it running along their sides that fade as they mature.


This is a fully aquatic salamander found in pine laden woodlands as they prefer water with Acidic PH within local waterbodies they prefer ponds and ditches and require that the water-source is wet six months of the year.


This is a nocturnal species of salamander that forages the bottom of steams for crayfish, worms and mollusks as well as aquatic vegetation. Due to the thick vegetation and night time habits of this species they have reduced eyes and use chemical cues to search for their prey.


Found in freshwater along the east coast from Alabama to Virginia; This species occurs in the Coastal Plain and it prefers shallow wetlands such as beaver ponds, swamps, slow moving streams, and ditches where the bottom is covered with organic debris and vegetation. It has a patchwork natural distribution leading to it’s conservation risk in Virginia being so profound.

Salamander reproduction and juvenile behavior

These salamanders are one of the species that hatch synchronically and develop their forelimbs by day 55, reduced tails by month 2 and reach maturity at the age of 9 months. This species hides their 200-300 eggs within debris covered cavities underwater between the months of May and November where they take 35 days to hatch during this time the male remains above this hidden eggs and will defend them, aerate the eggs and maintain the location forgoing food in favor of protecting their offspring for up to one week after hatching.

Did you know?

These salamanders have a unique survival mechanism allowing them to thrive despite droughts as they aestivate. This means they burrow into the riverbed and secrete a mucus that reduces their water loss as they reduce their metabolic rate entering into a behavior reminiscent of hibernation for up to 16 weeks depending on the size of the salamanders are larger ones are more likely to survive due to having more fat stores.

Role in the Web of Life

This salamander species is one of the early colonizers in marine ecosystems and is a dominant species during that time as a keystone predator for newly formed waterbodies which they migrate to during seasonal rains; nevertheless in Virginia it is not common and a Tier III Species of Greatest Conservation Need in Virginia’s Wildlife Action Plan. Due to their populations being isolated because of flood control plans and wetland draining.


Sickler, S. 2018. “Siren intermedia” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed August 03, 2023 at

Virginia herpetological society. Eastern lesser Siren. Accessed 8/3/23

Updated 2023 : Mara Snyder

Last updated: January 22, 2024

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