Ambystomatidae – Mole salamanders

Native to US and Canada; members in this family are mostly terrestrial

Ambystomatid salamanders, a group predominantly inhabiting the diverse landscapes of North and Central America, boast an array of remarkable characteristics that render them both unique and ecologically significant. Sharing similarities with plethodontid salamanders, they are renowned for their burrowing tendencies and extraordinary ability to respire through their skin and mouth lining.

These salamanders are often notable for their size, with certain species stretching up to a remarkable 50 cm (20 inches) in length. Their physical features include stocky bodies and truncated legs, specifically adapted for the intricate art of tunneling through soil and leaf litter. This distinctive adaptation equips them to thrive in various habitats, encompassing the depths of forests, expansive grasslands, and serene wetlands.

Ambystomatid salamanders, true carnivores at heart, play pivotal roles within their ecosystems by contributing to the regulation of insect populations. Their diet comprises a smorgasbord of small invertebrates, ranging from insects to worms, affirming their status as integral components of local food chains.

Despite their ecological significance, some members of this remarkable family face imminent threats. Habitat destruction, pollution, and various human activities have placed certain species at risk, with several teetering on the brink of endangerment or already listed as threatened.