South Carolina is a state in the United States that is located in the country’s southeastern region. The state has an area of about 32,030 square miles, which makes it the 40th largest state in the US. Colloquially known as The Palmetto State, South Carolina was the eighth state to be admitted to the union after its admission on May 23, 1788. The state has a deep culture and history that have come to be the basis for the state symbols such as the flag and state animals. The state’s official amphibian is the spotted salamander.
State Amphibian of South Carolina
The spotted salamander, which is scientifically known as Ambystoma maculatum, was designated as the official amphibian back in 1999. Incidentally, the salamander is also Ohio’s state amphibian. In the case of South Carolina, the salamander was chosen after a yearlong drive by third graders from Woodlands Heights Elementary School in Spartanburg. The salamander is unique in that it is the only indigenous amphibian species in the state.
The stout and diminutive animal usually grows to lengths of between 5.9 and 9.8 inches with a body that is mainly black. In some cases, the body can have a color that is bluish-black, dark brown, dark green, or dark gray. The underside of the body can be either pink or slate gray. The top side of the body (from the head to the tail) is spotted with two rows of irregular bright yellow spots. The spots get closer to a truer yellow towards the tail. Larvae are typically greenish-yellow or a light brown.
Young ones (larvae) and adults have different diets. The young ones mostly feed on zooplankton while the diet changes to larger organisms like amphipods and isopods as the larvae grow. The diet of adults includes even bigger organisms like spiders, insects, slugs, millipedes, and others.
The reproduction season usually comes about when the temperature and moisture levels are high, which is mostly between March and May. When this happens, hundreds of thousands of the amphibians migrate in numbers to their yearly breeding ponds. Just like most amphibians, the eggs laid by the females form egg masses by holding on to plants growing in the ponds. On average, a female lays around 100 eggs that hatch after a month or two. The time of hatching depends on the water temperature. The young larvae reach the juvenile stage anywhere between two and four months. Incredibly, they can have a lifespan of more than 30 years.
Behavior and Habitat
The spotted salamander makes its habitat in hardwood forests that have seasonal ponds that serve as breeding grounds. By breeding in seasonal pools, they ensure that their eggs do not become the diet of predators such as fish. The nocturnal animals spend a lot of their time beneath the ground, that is, they are fossorial. The winter usually brings about their hibernation underground until the breeding season. As a defense mechanism, they can hide, amputate their tails to escape from the grasp of a predator, or emit a toxic liquid. Just like other salamanders, the tail eventually grows back.