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Amphiumas: Amphiumidae

Three-toed Amphiuma (amphiuma Tridactylum): Species Account

Physical characteristics: Three-toed amphiumas have three toes on each foot. Hatchlings are 1.5 to 2.5 (4 to 6 centimeters) long from tip of snout to tip of tail. Young three-toed amphiumas that have recently finished metamorphosis are about 2.5 inches (6 centimeters) long. Adults can be as long as 40 inches (103 centimeters). The back is dark brown to black, and the belly is a lighter shade of the same color. The throat has a dark patch on it.

Geographic range: Three-toed amphiumas live in an area that extends from eastern Texas to southeastern Oklahoma, southeastern Missouri, and southwestern Alabama.

Three-toed amphiumas mainly eat crayfish, but they also eat other water animals. (E. R. Degginger/Photo Researchers, Inc.)

Habitat: Three-toed amphiumas live in swamps, lakes, ditches, and sluggish streams.

Diet: Three-toed amphiumas mainly eat crayfish, but they also eat other water animals.

Behavior and reproduction: Three-toed amphiumas are active at night. Although they usually stay in a small area, some of these salamanders have been known to move as far as 1,300 feet (400 meters) from their main spot.

A male three-toed 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 up the sperm with her cloaca for fertilization inside her body. The female every two years lays 42 to 150 eggs at a time in burrows. Larger females lay larger numbers of eggs. The eggs hatch about five months after being laid. Three-toed amphiumas reach adulthood in three to four years.

Three-toed amphiumas and people: Three-toed amphiumas are edible but are rarely eaten. These salamanders are used for classroom study. Scientists have found several new species of flatworms and tapeworms in three-toed amphiumas.

Conservation status: Three-toed amphiumas are not considered threatened or endangered. ∎



Bernhard, Emery. Salamanders. New York: Holiday House, 1995.

Duellman, William E., and Linda Trueb. Biology of Amphibians. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994.

Lawlor, Elizabeth P. Discover Nature in Water and Wetlands. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2000.

Llamas Ruiz, Andres. Reptiles and Amphibians: Birth and Growth. New York: Sterling, 1996.

Petranka, J. W. Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1998.

Web sites:

"Amphiumidae (Gray, 1825) Amphiuma/Congo Snakes." Livingunderworld.org. http://www.livingunderworld.org/caudata/database/amphiumidae (accessed on April 11, 2005).

Heying, H. "Amphiumidae." Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Amphiumidae.html (accessed on April 11, 2005).

"Three-Toed Amphiuma." Smithsonian National Zoological Park. http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/ReptilesAmphibians/Facts/FacSheets/Threetoedamphiuma.cfm (accessed on April 11, 2005).

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