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Four-Toed Salamander

Fact File

Scientific Name: Hemidactylium scutatum

Classification: Amphibian

Size: Up to 4 inches

Distribution: They are found throughout most of Virginia. Preferred habitat is hardwood forests with adjacent or imbedded wetlands such as swamps and temporary pools. They avoid wetlands with fish. Sphagnum mats are an important element because they lay their eggs in the moss.

Identifying Characteristics

Adults and juveniles are reddish brown and enamel white on the belly with black spots. Their rear feet have 4 toes instead of the 5 in other salamanders.

Did You Know?

Adults will break off their own tails at the constriction point when attacked by a predator. The detached tail wiggles and directs the predator’s attention away from the salamander’s body.

Role in the Web of Life

Mating occurs on land and females return to wetlands to lay 4–80 eggs in late winter and early spring. Females will remain in the sphagnum with the eggs until they hatch. Adults and juveniles eat invertebrates. Marbled and Spotted Salamander larvae and Red-spotted Newts eat the larvae. Birds, shrews, and Ring-necked Snakes eat adults.

Conservation

Species appears to be secure in Virginia.

Last updated: February 22, 2021