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Amphiumas: Amphiumidae

Behavior And Reproduction

Amphiumas are active at night and are most active when water temperatures are higher than 41°F (5°C). These salamanders wait in holes for passing prey, or they prowl in search of prey. The strong teeth and powerful bite are used to subdue prey animals. Amphiumas are eaten by snakes and large wading birds.

If a ditch or pond goes dry, amphiumas hide in holes where they lie dormant. Amphiumas have been dug from holes as deep as 3.3 feet (1 meter). Amphiumas live about twenty-seven years and can go as long as three years without food. Amphiumas periodically shed their skin and sometimes eat it. This behavior helps them stay nourished during dry spells. Amphiumas move with a side-to-side wavy motion. They are sensitive to vibrations that they detect with their lateral line system. Amphiumas out of water sometimes make a whistling sound.

Adult male amphiumas may fight during the mating season, and many have scars to show for it. During the breeding season, the cloaca of male amphiumas swells. The cloaca (kloh-AY-kuh) is the chamber in some animals that holds waste from the kidneys and intestines, holds eggs or sperm about to be released to the outside, holds sperm entering a female's body, and is the passage through which young are born. Male amphiumas make sperm from October to May. A male amphiuma courts a female by rubbing his snout against her. The female then rubs her nose along the male's body and coils her body under his, so that his cloaca is joined to hers. The male produces a sperm sac, and the female picks it up with her cloaca.

Fertilization (FUR-teh-lih-ZAY-shun), the joining of egg and sperm to start development, takes place inside the female's body. The female makes a nest in a moist place, usually under a log, leaves, or other cover. The female lays the eggs in beady strings of fifty to two hundred eggs, but there may be as many as 354 eggs in a chain. The female coils around and guards the eggs. It may take as long as six months for the eggs to hatch. The eggs and their jelly-like outer layers are approximately 0.4 inch (1 centimeter) in diameter in large species. Female amphiumas reproduce every two years.


In Florida, amphiuma nests have been found in the nest mounds of alligators.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceAmphibiansAmphiumas: Amphiumidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Amphiumas And People, Three-toed Amphiuma (amphiuma Tridactylum): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, CONSERVATION STATUS