Critter of the Week: Mudpuppy

CONSERVATION STATUS

 

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Amphibia

Order: Urodela

Family: Proteidae

Genus: Necturus

Species: N. maculosus

 

MUDPUPPY RANGE


The mudpuppy is a large salamander that lives its entire life in an aquatic environment, and usually grows over a foot long. Also known as a water dog, they can be found in lakes, rivers, ponds, and muddy waters in North America. The mudpuppy got its name because it produces loud squeaks that sound like a dog barking.

 

 

Mudpuppies are easily identified by their bushy, red gills. What’s unique about their gills is they develop them as larva but never lose them like other salamanders do. Scientists believe that it has to do with their mutated thyroid gland. Also, the warmer and murkier the water that the mudpuppy lives in, the longer its gills will be!

 

 

Mudpuppies have three rows of teeth to eat their prey, which usually consists of small fish, insects, molluscs, worms, and anything small enough to fit in its mouth. Their teeth are not used for chewing but instead to hold its prey in its mouth while the mudpuppy consumes it. Since the mudpuppy’s jaw is not flexible, it cannot eat larger prey.

Main predators for the mudpuppies are birds, snakes, and large fish. The slime that coats the mudpuppy is not poisonous like with other salamanders. Therefore, the mudpuppy’s main line of defense is simply swimming away and hiding. If a mudpuppy lives in darker waters, it can be active all day without having to look out for predators.

 

 

Mudpuppies will mate in late autumn or winter. The males will release sperm packets that females will pick up. Once the female is ready, she will fertilize her eggs and lay 20-200 eggs in underwater burrows. The females will guard the eggs until they hatch, which is very unique for salamanders. Depending on the water temperature, the eggs will hatch within two months.