Once again we say Happy Birthday to Impurest’s Guide to Animals as we celebrate two years since the first Issue. While that is a landmark it’s nothing compared to the millions of years that last week’s animal, Triops cancriformis, has been around. This week’s animal mixes the words sweet and slimy together to make an adorable amphibian companion. Hope you guys enjoy.
Issue #110 – Common Mudpuppy
Kingdom – Animalia
Phylum – Chordata
Class – Amphibia
Order – Caudata
Family – Proteidae
Genus – Necturus
Species – maculosus
Related Species – The Common Mudpuppy, despite appearances are not related to the Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum), and represent one of the two genus in the family Proteidae, the other being the Olm (Proteus anguinus) (1)
The Muddiest of Puppies
The Common Mudpuppy is a rust coloured large salamander, which achieves a length of 30cm. The most notable feature of the Mudpuppy is the large external gills left over from the larval stage that most newts and salamanders go through. These neonatal features have been retained, due to the lungs and skin being inefficient at respiring enough oxygen for the animals need. In water bodies with very little oxygen dissolved in the water the gills are much larger, whereas in well oxygenated water the gills are much smaller (2). Mudpuppies are largely nocturnal, with animals spending the day hidden among stone and submerged logs out of the scope of predators.
Mudpuppies are predators themselves, and feed on any animals that they can fit in their mouths including fish, invertebrates and even smaller mudpuppies as well as other salamanders. Both juvenile and adult mudpuppies have few predators, although water birds and otters are known to feed on the salamanders. The main predator for the species are human (Homo sapiens sapiens)fisherman, which catch the salamanders as bycatch, often discarding them on lake shores in the misbelief that the species has a negative fish of fish stocks.
Common Mudpuppies are sexually mature when they reach six years old, with males releasing spermatophores onto the lake bottom, with females internally storing these packages until they are ready to ovulate. When ready to lay eggs, the female deposits up to sixty eggs on the underside of a stone or a log, with the tadpoles hatching around a month later. The newly hatched tadpoles are around two centimetres, and after using up the attached egg yolk, become active predators of small invertebrates (3).
Five Fun Common Mudpuppy Facts
Mudpuppy populations in the southern part of their range are known as Waterdogs.
Both Mudpuppy and Waterdog come from the whining squeaky vocalisations the species makes which reportedly sounds like a dog’s bark.
Common Mudpuppies are able to produce a toxic slime from their skin if provoked by predators.
In clear water, the skin of the mudpuppies gets darker to provide additional defence against sunlight (4).
While most amphibians hibernate in winter, Common Mudpuppies remain active all year round, even when the surface of their lake homes are frozen over.
2 - Halliday, Tim R., and Kraig Adler (eds.) (1986) "Salamanders and Newts." The Encyclopaedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford: George Allen and Unwin, pp. 18–31
3 – Gans, C., and R. A. Nussbaum (1981) "The Mudpuppy." Vertebrates, a Laboratory Text. Ed. Norman K. Wessells and Elizabeth M. Center. 2nd ed. Los Altos, Calif.: W. Kaufmann, pp. 108–41.
4 – Chiasson, Richard B (1969). Laboratory Anatomy of Necturus. 3rd ed. Dubuque: Wm C. Brown
1 - http://cdn1.arkive.org/media/7C/7CC37F50-4DB9-48E0-9E2F-CE4E45FBB74C/Presentation.Large/common-mudpuppy-resting-on-stream-bed.jpg
2 - http://www.naturenorth.com/Herps/images/Map_Mudpuppy.jpg
3 - http://fl.biology.usgs.gov/c1258_Dodd/circ1258_plates_17a.jpg
Well, that’s two years of animal blogs and we’re not stopping there. Next week we’ll either be foaming at the mouth or hopping mad as we look at next week’s creature. Until then critic, comment and suggest future issues as well as making sure you check past issues in Impurest’s Bestiary.