Lee Richardson Zoo Species Spotlight: Barred Tiger Salamander

In this series, we spotlight one of the many fascinating creatures that live at the Lee Richardson Zoo. In this blog, we’ll take a look at the barred tiger salamander!

The Basics:

  • Common Name: Barred tiger salamander
  • Scientific Name: Ambystoma tigrinum mavortium
  • Hometown: American Great Plains
  • Current Address: Lee Richardson Zoo – Finnup Center
  • Conservation Status: Least concern

Meet the Barred Tiger Salamander

The barred tiger salamander is one of the largest salamander species in North America. While they usually grow to around 6-9 inches, specimens have been found to grow up to 12 inches! They are also great survivors, living as long as 20 years.

These salamanders are easy to spot due to their black-and-yellow tiger-stripe appearance. They also have a wide head and a sturdy – but slimy – body. They need to be slimy to stay hydrated, which is important for amphibians.

What’s an Amphibian?

Amphibians are animals that live part of their lives in the water and part of their lives on land. In fact, the word “amphibian” comes from Greek, meaning “living a double life.” Frogs are amphibians, too.

Amphibians begin their lives in the water, where they hatch from eggs to become larvae that swim around and have gills, similar to a fish. As they mature, their body absorbs their gills and they become land-dwelling creatures. This process is called metamorphosis.

Even though they leave the water, Amphibians usually stay close to their original aquatic home.

Life of a Barred Tiger Salamander

Like all amphibians, barred tiger salamanders start life in the water before becoming terrestrial creatures. Unlike frogs, salamander’s have four feet when they are still in the larval stage.

Strangely, some larvae even become cannibals when they are born into more crowded environments. Basically, the creatures that can grow up and eat as much as possible have the best chance to survive – including eating their own kind!

Adult barred tiger salamanders are highly adaptable, living in a variety of environments throughout North America, including forests, grasslands, and deserts.

They are nocturnal, which means they typically only come out at night to avoid being prey for other animals. Salamanders eat just about anything they can find including bugs, slugs, worms, and even small mice!

State Amphibian of Kansas

The barred tiger salamander has the unique distinction of being the official state amphibian of Kansas. In 1993, a class of second graders from Wichita petitioned the governor to recognize the barred tiger salamander for this prestigious honor.

As other students around the state learned of the petition, they joined in a letter-writing campaign to support the measure. And their effort paid off. In 1994, the state made it official!

Go Take a Look

If you would like to see a barred tiger salamander in person, head down to the Lee Richardson Zoo and take a look up close. This slimy little guy can be found in the Finnup center. The zoo is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and admission is free! For more information, check out their website here.

Finney County Convention and Visitors Bureau

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