You can easily distinguish mudpuppies from other salamanders by their bushy, red gills, which they grow at the larva stage. They have flat heads, stubby legs, wide tails, and feet with four distinct toes. Their skin is gray or brownish-gray with black spots, and they can make squeaky voices like a dog's bark, hence the name Mudpuppy.
Mudpuppies live at the bottom of lakes, rivers, ponds, and streams, rarely leaving the water unless it's dirty and polluted. They hide in vegetation or under rocks and cavities, re-emerging at night to feed on crayfish, worms, and snails.
These salamander species are among the largest, growing up to 16 inches, with an average length of 11 inches. And although they have slimy skin, they are not poisonous. Did you know that Mudpuppies lack the thyroid gland, so they fail to undergo metamorphosis?
Lastly, they mate during late fall, laying their eggs the following spring. And the females protect these eggs until they hatch and guard the nest until the young ones emerge and disperse. A female mudpuppy can lay up to 50-100 eggs.
Fun Facts about Mudpuppies
- Although they can spend plenty of time underwater, the mudpuppy will come out to dry land after detecting pollutants or mud in the water; in a way, they act as "bio-indicators" of low water quality due to pollution.
- Although they have feathery gills and slimy skin, mudpuppies have no scales.
- Mudpuppies are amphibians with lungs to gulp air; they rely on feathery red external gills to extract oxygen from the water.
- Female mudpuppies normally lay 50-100 eggs under rocks or in cavities and guard them until they hatch, just like other salamanders.