Common mudpuppy facts, pictures and information. The common mudpuppy is a large salamander found in North America. Unlike many amphibians, it never loses its gills, and upon reaching adulthood does not leave the water.
Let’s find out more about the ‘waterdog’ …
Common Mudpuppy Facts At A Glance
- Other Name(s): Waterdog
- Scientific name: Necturus maculosus
- Type of Animal: Amphibian
- Animal Family: Proteidae
- Where Found: Eastern North America
- Length: Up to 33 cm (13 in)
- Conservation Status: Least Concern
Meet The Common Mudpuppy: Introduction
The common mudpuppy is a large salamander found in North America. Unlike many amphibians it remains entirely aquatic even as an adult. Like the axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum), the mudpuppy never loses the external gills of its larval stage.
The common mudpuppy (and related species) are also known as ‘waterdogs’. It is thought that the species’ names refer either to the external gills (which area said to resemble a dog’s ears) or the sounds the animals make (which some say sounds like a dog’s bark).
The common mudpuppy’s closest relations are the Gulf Coast waterdog (Necturus beyeri) and the Alabama waterdog (Necturus alabamensis).
What Does The Common Mudpuppy Look Like?
In the video below you can see how a mudpuppy moves around under the water.
The common mudpuppy has a flattened body with a square head, a wide tail and short limbs. There are four toes on each foot. The skin is smooth and slippery.
Color varies from individual to individual and can be rusty brown, red, gray or black. Younger individuals have blue-black spots (and sometimes faint stripes) on the back. These markings gradually fade with age. The undersides are whitish or gray.
As a juvenile the common mudpuppy is more strikingly-marked. A dark stripe with a lighter band either side runs along the length of the back.
The common mudpuppy has feathery gills, the size and color of which depend on the amphibian’s habitat. The gills of common mudpuppies found in stagnant water tend to be larger, bushier, and a darker shade of red than those of individuals inhabiting well-oxygenated, flowing water.
The gills of juveniles are less conspicuous than those of adults.
Male and females are very similar in appearance apart from the cloaca – the orifice out of which waste leaves the amphibian’s body – which is more pronounced in the male.
The common mudpuppy is found in eastern North America. Its range extends from Oklahoma and the northern parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama in the USA to southern Manitoba and Quebec in Canada. The species is absent from coastal areas.
Common Mudpuppy Habitat
The common mudpuppy is found in a range of freshwater habitats, including ponds, lakes, rivers, streams and canals.
The mudpuppy is a bottom-dweller and requires plenty of rocks, logs or vegetation under which it can hide. The amphibian can be found in both shallow and deep water – a preference that is seasonal, with deeper water being inhabited in winter and summer, and shallower water in fall and spring.
The common mudpuppy is usually active at night. It tends to hide during the day, although it may emerge from its shelter if the water is murky.
The species is active throughout the year and does not hibernate in the winter. Activity levels tend to peak in late fall and spring.
The common mudpuppy is a solitary animal, only seeking out other individuals during the mating season.
The common mudpuppy’s small eyes can perceive differing light levels, but the species is mostly reliant on its keen sense of smell. It can also detect water movements and changes of pressure with sense organs in the skin.
The common mudpuppy moves around using a combination of walking and short bursts of swimming. When swimming the limbs are held flat against the body, with the mudpuppy propelling itself through the water using its wide tail and a snake-like side-to-side movement of the body.
The common mudpuppy reaches sexual maturity at around 6 years of age.
Mating usually occurs between fall and winter. During this time the amphibians gather in shallow water.
Courtship involves the male circling and touching the female. The male then deposits his spermatophore (a capsule containing sperm cells) on the lake or river bed. The female takes the spermatophore inside the cloaca. It will be stored inside her body for internal fertilization which occurs later in the year.
The female digs a nest in a sheltered location in shallow water. Nest-building takes place between April and June.
In the nest she will lay between 40 and 150 eggs (60 on average), attaching them to the underside of rocks or logs. The eggs are yellowish and round and 5 to 6 mm (0.20 to 0.24 in) in diameter.
Unusually for a salamander, the female guards the nest until the eggs hatch. This takes between 5 and 9 weeks, depending on water temperature. The hatchlings are about 2.5 cm (1 in) in length.
Typically, the juveniles are ready to disperse by the end of August.
What Do Common Mudpuppies Eat?
The common mudpuppy is carnivorous. It is an opportunistic feeder and eats just about anything that it is able to catch and swallow. Its diet includes insects and their larvae, worms, mollusks, crayfish, small fish and their eggs, amphibians (including smaller salamanders) and spiders. The common mudpuppy is also known to feed on carrion.
The common mudpuppy hunts mainly using its sense of smell to locate its prey. The 3 rows of small conical teeth in the salamander’s mouth are used for grasping food before it is swallowed rather than for chewing.
Common Mudpuppy Predators
Common mudpuppies may be preyed upon by large fish, crayfish, turtles, water snakes, the North American river otter (Lontra canadensis) and wading birds such as herons.
Is The Common Mudpuppy Endangered?
The common mudpuppy is rated ‘Least Concern‘ by the IUCN.
The species is widespread and the total population size is estimated to be greater than 10,000 mature individuals.
However, it’s not all good news for the common mudpuppy, and some local populations are in decline. In Iowa and North Carolina, water pollution and siltation from agricultural, industrial and residential areas has had a negative impact on the species.
The common mudpuppy is also occasionally caught by pleasure fishermen. Even if returned to the water, this accidentally hooking can result in injury or death for the amphibian.
Common Mudpuppy Facts: Related Articles
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