Mole salamanders can be found in southeastern and central United States, extending along the Gulf Coastal Plains from southern South Carolina to eastern Texas and as far inland as Illinois. Separate populations also persist in Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, northern South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama. This species is not present in southern Florida or southern Louisiana.
Larvae and paedomorphic adults live in fishless ponds, while terrestrial adults can be found in forested uplands and floodplain forests near ponds. Terrestrial adults are commonly founds under rocks, moist dirt or leaf litter and often live in underground burrows. Females lay their eggs underneath the water on twigs or other underwater debris.
The average size of the mole salamander is 3-4 inches. They are heavily built, most distinguished by their black, protruding eyes and disproportionally large head and legs. Mole salamanders are typically brown, grey or black in color, but their patterning differs in each individual, ranging from small blue dots and brown spots to bright yellow bars. These salamanders possess yellow, feathery external gills as larvae, which extend behind their heads. Mole salamanders are facultatively paedomorphic, meaning they can either remain in their aquatic larval form or transform into terrestrial adults.
Learn more with Schechter Natural History's Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians