Guest Author - Sylvie Leochko
The Mudpuppy is one of the species of salamanders. In fact, they belong to the Proteidae family. This family of amphibians is divided in two genuses. The first one is called Necturus, which includes 5 species native to North America and one European species called "Proteus". The 5 Necturus species are: the Alabama Waterdog, the Gulf Coast Waterdog, the Neuse River Waterdog, the Common Mudpuppy and the Dwarf Waterdog. The only European species is the Olm.
This amphibian gets his name from the fact that it is one of the rare species of salamanders to make sounds. Experts compare this sound as the one of a barking dog. Despite the fact this type of salamander has lungs, it also has red external gills and breathes through their skin as well, which explains them being often referred to as water dogs.
The natural habitat of the Mudpuppy ranges from Southern Central Canada to Southern Mississippi, including the following regions: Southern Georgia, the east of North Carolina and the Midwestern part of the United States.
The average size of the Mudpuppy ranges from 20 to 33 cm (8 to 13 in). This type of salamander lives underwater, lurking at the bottom of ponds, lakes, rivers and streams. Contrary to most salamander species, it reaches sexual maturity as larvae. This unique development is called "progenesis". On the other hand, they are recognizable by the presence of their red external gills that never disappear as larvae. This lack of development is called "pedomorphosis".
The use of their gills differs as they enter various types of water and temperatures. In cool highly oxygenated water, their red exterbal gills are closed against the body but in warmer and poorly oxygenated water, they open up to facilitate the oxygen circulation. They hide under rocks in slow moving water as deep as 90 feet.
The Mudpuppy is often stuck at the end of a fishing line, especially during the ice fishing season. Fishermen prefer to cut their line rather than unhook the poor salamander as they falsely believe their slimy skin is poisonous.
This carnivore mostly feed on: fish eggs, small fish, worms, snails and crayfish. They are nocturnal creatures. Among unusual features the Mudpuppy has compared to other salamander species are the lack of an upper jaw and eyelids.
The differences that can be observed between the Mudpuppy and other salamanders at the larvae stage are the longitudinal banding and the presence of 4 toes on their hind legs. The difference between the Siren and the Mudpuppy is quite obvious as the Mudpuppy as front and hind legs as the Siren only has tiny front legs.
How can you identify a Mudpuppy? This amphibian has the distinctive red external gills, flat head, wide tail, stubby legs with 4 toes on their hind legs and their body is either grey or brownish-grey with blue-black spots.
This amphibian also differs from other salamanders if a strange way as the female will not only lay large clutches of eggs that it attaches to submerged logs and stones, it will also guard the eggs until they hatch. The Mudpuppy reaches maturity between 4 and 6 years of age.
The conservation status of this creature is not endangered. Nonetheless, habitat loss and pollution are responsible for the decreasing level of population in some areas. The average life expectancy of the Mudpuppy in the wilderness is 11 years, although some have been known to reach 20 years.
Here are some resources linked to the Mudpuppy!