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The mudpuppy grows up to 2 feet long and is grey to rusty or dark brown with indistinct bluish-black spots and mottlings. There is a conspicuous dark mark on each side of the side of the head running. The head is flat and squarish with small eyes. Just behind the head are three pairs of conspicuous, bushy, velverty red, plume-like gills. The short, weak legs, which are only useful for crawling, are held against the sides of the body when swimming. Each foot has four fairly long toes. Male and female adults are very similar in apperance. Young mudpuppies are black with longitudinal yellow stripes.
The mudpuppy has poison glands in its skin, but the poison does not affect humans. Sense organs in its skin detect water movement and pressure changes, which helps it avoid predators.
Distribution and Habitat
Mudpuppies are found in streams, ponds, and rivers from southern Canada to the Gulf of Mexico and from the Mississippi and Missouri river basins to New Jersey. They prefer shallow waters in the spring and fall, deeper water (down to 98 feet) in the winter and season.
Mudpuppies mate between autumn and winter, but the female stores the sperm until April to June, when she uses it to fertilize her eggs. She then lays up to 180 yellowish, 1/4-inch-across eggs one by one in a crowded group either on the underside of a log, large stone, or boulder in about 5 feet of water or in a sandy hollow on the riverbed. She will stay near her eggs until they hatch, which takes 38-63 days (the warmer the water, the less time to hatching). Hatchlings retain their yolk sacs until they are about 1-1/2 inches long (at about 2 months). Mudpuppies do not reach maturity until age 5-7 years, and commonly live 20 years or more.
Mudpuppies feed on worms, insect larvae, fish eggs, crayfish, small fish, frog eggs, and, sometimes, carrion. They are opportunistic feeders and it is not unusual for a fisherman to reel in a mudpuppy that got caught trying to take bait off the hook.
Habits and Behaviors
Mudpuppies are generally nocturnal and spend their days under stones or buried in the mud, but they may move around during the day in dense weed. They are solitary except when mating. They usually walk along the bottoms of lakes and rivers, but can also swim with a fish-like movement of their bodies.
Library >> Science >> Zoology >> Reptiles and
Amphibians >> Order Caudata
This page was last updated on June 16, 2017.