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
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.
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.
genus & species Necturus maculosus
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