Skip to main content

Ringed Salamander

Ringed Salamander
Peter Paplanus/CC BY 2.0

Species of Greatest Conservation Need


Ringed salamanders are moderately large, stout salamanders with narrow heads and small eyes. Their name derives from their color pattern, which is black with narrow yellow rings. The yellow rings may or may not be complete across the back and they do not extend to the light-gray to yellow belly. On the tail, the rings are more distinct but also break on the underside. Ringed salamanders have long tails that are nearly round in cross section.


Ringed salamanders can reach up to just over 9 inches in total length. Most adults vary from 5 1/2 to 7 inches in total length.


The distribution of ringed salamanders in the United States is small, extending west to east from eastern Oklahoma through central Arkansas and north to south from southeastern Illinois to central Arkansas.

Life Cycle

Like other species of mole salamanders (genus Ambystoma) ringed salamanders spend most of the year underground, except for when they breed. Adult ringed salamanders migrate to temporary ponds during rainstorms in late fall. Migrations typically last only a few days. Once in the ponds, courtship occurs and males deposit a spermatophor on the pond bottom and females pick up the spermatophore with their cloaca. This usually occurs during the first or second night in the ponds, and by the third night, females have deposited their eggs. Eggs are deposited in large clumps of about 100 eggs, and the clumps are attached to vegetation in the water. The small eggs (about one-eighth of an inch in diameter) hatch in 9 to 16 days and the larvae spend the winter in the ponds. Larvae feed on a variety of aquatic invertebrates including ostracods and cladocerans.

As the larvae increase in size, they include larger invertebrates in their diets and occasionally eat other salamander larvae. Adults feed on a variety of invertebrates and likely eat a lot of earthworms.

How To Observe

Ringed salamanders are very difficult to observe, but it is possible to see them by visiting known breeding ponds at night during the first large rains in the fall. In Oklahoma, this species has a closed season and cannot be collected. 

(This profile was created by Dr. Laurie Vitt as part of a partnership between the Wildlife Department and the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. It was funded as part of a larger grant to survey and inventory amphibians and reptiles of the Wildlife Management Areas of Oklahoma:  T-35-P-1.)   

Explore more Oklahoma Amphibians

Plains Spadefoot
Photo by: Andy Teucher/CC BY-NC 2.0
Gray Treefrog
Photo by: Jena Donnell/ODWC
Spring Peeper
Photo by: USFS

Want the 58 amphibian and 94 reptile species and subspecies that can be found within the state's boundaries in book format?  Head to the Outdoor Store to purchase "A Field Guide to Oklahoma's Amphibians and Reptiles".  Each account shares detailed photos of the animal along with a physical description, information about the food and habitat preferences, and notes on the life cycle and habits of the species. Revenue supports the Wildlife Department's Wildlife Diversity Fund.
For information on taking or attempting to take reptiles and amphibians or possessing reptiles or amphibians consult the current regulations.