The spotted salamander is a six-to-eight-inch-long cold-blooded amphibian marked by two rows of yellow or yellowish-orange spots on its black or steel-gray back. The animal ranges from southeastern Canada throughout the eastern United States and is found across South Carolina.
State amphibian. The spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) became the official state amphibian by a law signed by Governor Jim Hodges on June 11, 1999. The designation resulted from the interest and activity of children in the third-grade class at Woodlands Heights Elementary School, Spartanburg, taught by Lynn K. Burgess. Students conducted research and a letter-writing campaign to get an amphibian adopted, enlisting support from scientists, public officials, and other third-graders in the state.
The spotted salamander is a six-to-eight-inch-long cold-blooded amphibian marked by two rows of yellow or yellowish-orange spots on its black or steel-gray back. The animal ranges from southeastern Canada throughout the eastern United States and is found across South Carolina. It lives mostly in bottomland deciduous forests but can also be found in coniferous forests and mountainous areas.
Born with gills, the spotted salamander later develops lungs. The female lays eggs mainly in springtime ponds. Salamanders are seldom seen by people because they live mostly underground, in or beneath rotting wood or leaf litter. All salamanders are predators; they play an important ecological role by consuming vast quantities of earthworms, mollusks, spiders, and insect larvae. They can live twenty-five years or more.
Some legislators and scientists had preferred designating a rare South Carolina species, the pine-barrens tree frog, found in the Sandhills, as state amphibian, but there is agreement that the spotted salamander is a beautiful and important animal. Salamanders are used extensively in scientific research, such as medical studies of limb and tissue regeneration. Scientists consider them important indicators of overall environmental health.
Bishop, Sherman C. Handbook of Salamanders. Ithaca, N.Y.: Comstock, 1943.
Graves, Rachel. “Amphibian Approaches New Status.” Charleston Post and Courier, April 25, 1999, pp. B1, B7.
Petranka, James W. Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1998.