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Department of Natural Resources


Introduction | Agency Resources |Anatomy |Bibliography | Salamander Facts | Defense | Life History | Species List | Gallery | Glossary |


Five species of salamanders are listed as either state threatened or state endangered in Illinois as of 2001. Three of these species are at the edge of their geographical range and have never been very widespread in Illinois. The other two species have been greatly affected by habitat degradation and habitat loss. The endangered silvery salamander (Ambystoma platineum) is peculiar. It is a triploid, all-female, pond-breeding species known in Illinois from only one natural population. Sperm are needed only to prompt the development of the eggs. In Illinois, the sperm are obtained from the smallmouth salamander (Ambystoma texanum). The endangered dusky salamander (Desmognathus fuscus) and the threatened Jefferson salamander (Ambystoma jeffersonianum) occur in only two counties each in Illinois and are at the western edges of their ranges. The dusky salamander inhabits small spring-fed streams and stream banks while the Jefferson salamander is a woodland species that migrates to small temporary or fish-free ponds to breed in the spring. The endangered hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis), an aquatic species dependent on large, rocky streams, has been nearly extirpated by stream siltation. The threatened four-toed salamander (Hemidactylium scutatum) once occurred nearly statewide but now is known from only eleven scattered counties where bits of suitable habitat remain.

The primary conservation concerns for Illinois salamanders are habitat degradation, habitat fragmentation, and habitat loss. Many populations have been eliminated, reduced, or separated through loss of habitat. Draining wetlands, channelizing streams, removing temporary woodland ponds and sloughs, and clearing forests have all contributed to the decline of salamander populations in Illinois. Individuals of three Illinois species (hellbender; lesser siren, Siren intermedia; mudpuppy, Necturus maculosus) are completely aquatic, and three-fourths of the remaining species have a gilled, aquatic, larval stage. These species require high-quality waters to live in at some point in their life cycles.

The state-endangered dusky salamander (Desmognathus fuscus) occurs in only two Illinois counties, where it lives along spring-fed headwater streams. Note the distinctive white line that extends from its eye to its lower jaw.

No photographs included within this information may be used on the internet, publications, or any other form of media without the photographer's express permission. All rights reserved.

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