Proteidae – Mudpuppies

Unlike other salamanders, they never lose their gills, allowing them to spend their lives underwater

In the eastern United States, a lesser-known group of salamanders, affectionately known as waterdogs, graces the aquatic landscapes with their unique presence, offering a fascinating glimpse into their distinctive attributes and ecological significance. These aquatic aficionados are meticulously adapted for life in the water, equipped with gills and a streamlined body shape that facilitates their graceful navigation through aquatic realms. While their size typically remains modest, often measuring less than 15 cm (6 inches), some individuals push the boundaries, attaining lengths of up to 20 cm (8 inches).

Waterdogs exhibit a striking and distinctive appearance, characterized by broad heads, small eyes, and a short, flattened tail that collectively contribute to their intriguing visage. As carnivores by nature, they actively engage in the intricate dynamics of their ecosystems, feasting upon insects, worms, and various small invertebrates. Their carnivorous habits play a pivotal role in controlling insect populations, influencing the complex web of life within their aquatic habitats.

Proteidae salamanders are also known for their unique skin folds, often called “dorso-lateral skin folds.” These folds give them a distinctive appearance and help increase their surface area, which aids in respiration through their skin.

Despite their ecological significance, proteid salamanders remain relatively obscure in scientific research. Their behavior and ecological intricacies remain largely undiscovered. Some species are threatened or endangered due to habitat destruction, pollution, and other human activities.