The mudpuppy or waterdog is one of the largest salamander species within existence today and is also fully aquatic. They are named due to the dog bark like vocalized noises that they make, and are one of the few salamander species that is actually able to make vocalized noises. These creatures are often assumed to be poisonous; however this is a mistaken assumption and holds no truth.
Mudpuppies do not hibernate. They do however reproduce in a rather unusual way. These creatures mate in the fall and the female then waits until spring to lay her eggs. The male then joins the female mudpuppy in a sheltered area, perhaps under a rock or lock located in shallow water. The male mudpuppy then begins the courtship taking part in a type of swimming ceremony.
As he swims and crawls around the female mudpuppy, he deposits a mass of jelly like sperm which the female then moves over top of and takes them into her cloaca. In April or May she will then deposit anywhere from 50 to 100 eggs within a nest that she digs out under rocks or sticks in the water.
After she lays these eggs it usually takes anywhere from 30 to 50 days for them to hatch. During this time the female mudpuppy stays with her nest until they eggs hatch, but will then swim away once the babies emerge during their larval stage.
The larva mudpuppies will begin to grow legs when they are about a month old. It will be a light color with dark gray stripes and unlike most amphibians does not go through the metamorphosis during this larval stage that allows them to exist outside of the water. It is for this reason that the mudpuppy is confined to be a completely aquatic creature during all stages of its life. The mudpuppy also retains its three sets of gills into adulthood.
These creatures take up to two years or so to reach their full adult size and it is then that they lose their stripes. It reaches sexual maturity within 5 years and can then live for an additional 25 years or so. The adult mudpuppy lives under rocks and logs within the water and has been seen at depths up to 70 feet. These creatures on average will reach a length anywhere from 8 to 13 inches, one of the largest mudpuppies ever discovered was a whopping 19 inches.
Mudpuppies, sometimes also known as waterdogs, are one of only a few salamanders that make noise. They get their name from the squeaky vocalizations that they make that resemble a dog’s bark. Among the largest of the salamanders, these creatures can exceed 16 inches in length with the average usually being more like something around 11 inches. They can be found from southern central Canada, through the Midwestern United States, east to North Carolina and south to Georgia and Mississippi.
Mudpuppies typically reside on the bottoms of lakes, ponds, rivers and streams and never leave the water. They often hide themselves in vegetation and underneath rocks and logs. They emerge at night to feed on whatever type of prey they are able to catch. Anything from crayfish to worms or snails.
These salamanders are easily classified by their busy, red external gills, which they grow as larva and never lose. They also have flat heads, wide tails, stubby legs and feet that are equipped with four toes. Their bodies are gray and brownish-gray with blue-black spots.
The female mudpuppy reproduces by laying large clutches of eggs and guards them until they hatch. This is a very unique trait among salamanders. The loss of habitats and pollution are putting a pressure on some local populations of mudpuppies, however they have no specific conservation status.
Unlike many of their amphibian cousins, mudpuppies never form lungs to breathe air through. Instead they rely on their gills that are located behind their heads to breathe under water such as fish do. Young mudpuppies have a yellow stripe on each side of their backs. These creatures are slimy and difficult to handle since their bodies have no scales.
Mudpuppies mate in late fall, but the females do not usually begin laying their eggs until the following spring. Females generally deposit anywhere from 50 to 100 eggs in a nest cavity under a rock or something along those lines. It takes 1 to 2 months for these eggs to hatch. It takes 4 to 6 years for mudpuppies to mature and they can live to be more than 20 years old.
Mudpuppies are locally common throughout the ranges in which they reside, however there are a few populations that have been in decline throughout certain areas. They can be found in a variety of aquatic habitats as they are a completely aquatic creature that never leaves the water. Habitat destruction and pollution are among two of the reasons the number of mudpuppies has been declining in recent years. Polluted waters and the loss of ponds and lakes through development is a threat to some populations and because of their sensitive skin these creatures are especially vulnerable to toxins in the water.
Some populations are also threatened by persecution as some anglers have been known to kill them for falsely believing that they may be a threat to the populations of game fish. In Iowa, mudpuppies are in fact listed as an endangered species, while there is also concern for their well being and population in Maryland and North Carolina. Whereas other species in other parts of the world are typically placed in the category of “least concern”.
A mudpuppy is a type of salamander and is classified as being an amphibian, although it is the only aquatic species of salamander within existence today and also never leaves the water.