Four-Toed Salamander

Scientific name: Hemidactylium scutatum

Mi’kmaq Translation: Translation Unknown

French Translation: Salamandre a quatre orteils

Gaelic Translation: Teine-dhealan ceithir-ladhragach

Physical Description

The four-toed salamander is slender. On top, they are orange to reddish brown in colour with patches of black spots along their sides. The sides of the head, tail and legs can vary from orange brown to reddish brown above those small patches of spots. It is the only species of Nova Scotia salamander with a white belly. Male snouts are long and square, while female snouts are short and round. The back feet have four toes instead of five. These salamanders breathe through their skin and through a special lining in the roof of their mouths, they do not have lungs.

Size

Newly hatched larvae measure 1.2cm in length

Adult males measure 4.5 to 7.9cm in length

Adult females measure 4.4 to 9cm in length

Range and Distribution

In Canada, the four-toed salamander is found from the great lakes’ region and east, through southern Quebec and in isolated areas of the Atlantic Provinces. In Nova Scotia, most reports are from the south-central region and mainland Cape Breton. These populations are widely separated throughout the Province.

Habitat

Four-toed salamanders prefer damp, mossy habitats. They are closely linked to sphagnum moss and peat bogs that border streams. These areas are of particular importance during the spring breeding season. Adults have been found in woodland habitats during the summer months.

Diet

They eat a large variety of small invertebrates including ticks, spider, springtails, midges, beetles, fly larvae, ants and snails.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Four-toed salamanders' mate in the fall, and nesting occurs the following spring. The females lay up to 80 eggs between the sphagnum plants. These moss patches are often at the bases of standing dead conifers, stumps or logs, where the eggs will cling together. The nests are shared among the population but only a few females stay with the eggs until they hatch after eight weeks. When the larvae hatch, they wriggle further down through the sphagnum and drop into the water. They remain aquatic for the six weeks leading up to their development into terrestrial juveniles. Sexual maturity is reached two years after this development. Individuals can live up to 9 years of age.

Status

SARA: Of Least Concern

COSEWIC: Not at Risk

Threats

The loss of habitat, road mortality, climate change, pollution and the use of herbicides and pesticides all contribute to threats faced by these salamanders.