Photo: Mudpuppy on a branch

Mudpuppies spend their entire lives underwater and are distinguished as the only salamanders that make sound—a dog-like barking.

Photograph by Breck P. Kent/Animals Animals-Earth Scenes

Map

Map: Mudpuppy range

Mudpuppy Range

Fast Facts

Type:
Amphibian
Diet:
Carnivore
Average life span in the wild:
11 years
Size:
8 to 13 in (20 to 33 cm)
Did you know?
Fishermen who hook mudpuppies will often cut their line rather than touch these extremely slimy amphibians, believing incorrectly that they are poisonous.
Size relative to a tea cup:
Illustration: Mudpuppy compared with tea cup

Mudpuppies, also called waterdogs, are one of only a few salamanders that make noise. They get their name from the somewhat embellished notion that their squeaky vocalizations sound like a dog's bark.

Among the largest of the salamanders, mudpuppies can exceed 16 inches (41 centimeters) in length, although the average is more like 11 inches (28 centimeters). Their range runs from southern central Canada, through the midwestern United States, east to North Carolina and south to Georgia and Mississippi.

Mudpuppies live on the bottoms of lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams, and never leave the water. They hide themselves in vegetation and under rocks and logs, emerging at night to feed on whatever prey they can catch, including crayfish, worms, and snails.

Mudpuppies are easily distinguishable by their bushy, red external gills, which they grow as larva and never lose. They have flat heads, wide tails, stubby legs, and feet with four distinct toes. Their bodies are gray or brownish-gray with blue-black spots.

Females lay large clutches of eggs and guard them until they hatch, a unique trait among salamanders.

Mudpuppies are common throughout their range and have no special conservation status. However, habitat loss and pollution is putting pressure on some local populations.

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