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Barred Tiger Salamander

Barred tiger salamanderThe barred tiger salamander became the state amphibian of Kansas in 1994. A second grade class at the OK Elementary School in Wichita began the process by nominating it to state representatives and senators from Wichita. Students from across the state joined in the letter writing campaign.

Of the 31 species of amphibians in Kansas, the barred tiger salamander is one of two found statewide. It is the only salamander found west of the Flint Hills.The word amphibian comes from the Greek word amphibious, which means "living a double life." Amphibians spend part of their lives in the water and part on land. The eggs of amphibians are laid in the water where the young hatch into aquatic larvae. The young then live in the water until they metamorphose into their more terrestrial adult form.

The most familiar amphibian is the frog. As amphibians, salamanders go through a metamorphosis. In the late fall adults go to small ponds and cattle tanks where 40 to 50 eggs are laid in clusters attached to twigs and stems underwater. The adults then leave the water and spend most of their time underground.

The eggs hatch in the water and the next stage of life begins, that of the larvae. Salamander larvae differ from those of frog and toad tadpoles in two basic ways. They have external gills and four legs. After several months their gills are absorbed, they grow eyelids, and they leave the water to begin life as an adult.

Salamanders are the least known amphibians. They spend most of their adult life hidden beneath stones or other objects and are chiefly nocturnal. They have four legs of nearly equal length and a long tail.

Unlike lizards, salamanders have smooth moist skin and do not have claws, scales, or external ear openings. The thin skin of adult amphibians allows for quick dehydration so they rarely wander far from water. As further protection from dehydration and disease, the skin of some amphibians, like the salamander, produces mucus that is slimy to the touch.

The barred tiger salamander has the distinction of being the world's largest land-dwelling salamander. It has a maximum length of 13 inches although it generally reaches only six to eight inches. The tiger salamander has been known to live in captivity for more than 20 years. It is black with yellow bars, stripes, or spots. This salamander is not picky about its diet and eats everything from grasshoppers, crickets, and earthworms to fish, tadpoles, and even mice. Like all salamanders in Kansas, the barred tiger salamander makes no sound.

Entry: Barred Tiger Salamander

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: July 2011

Date Modified: January 2013

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.