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Maintenance and reproduction of marble ambistoma

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Marble ambistoma (Ambystoma oracum) is quite widespread in North America from Florida to the Great Lakes.

Marble ambistoma is a small, 10-12 cm long, ambistoma. It is interesting because it constantly lives on land, it is often found in hollows of trees.

Unlike others, ambisto breeds in the fall. In September - October, it lays eggs on land, not in water and not in the whole caviar sac, but in separate lumps of caviar. The place of laying is small holes in the forest, among the forest litter. The female, laying 50-200 eggs, remains to guard them. The diameter of the egg is 2.7 mm, with shells 4.2–5 mm.

The pit with caviar should be flooded with autumn rains, and in this case larvae 19–25 mm long with large feathery gills hatch from the caviar. In June of the following year, that is, after 7–9 months, having reached 63–74 liters, they metamorphize. In the event that there was no rain in the fall and the cavities did not fill with water, the larvae hatch only in the spring and the female is with the eggs all this time, obviously moisturizing them with skin secretions.

Maturity occurs at the age of 15-17 months.

Terrarium for marble ambistome

Terrarium: top tightly closed by a lid.
A type: forest terrarium (under the corner of the forest).
Dimensions: A couple will need a terrarium with a volume of 60 liters or more.
The substrate (substrate): since marble ambistomes dig holes for themselves, a thick layer of sphagnum moss or mulch is required. If you want to watch your ambistoma, then as a substrate use white paper towels, which are changed 2-3 times a week. Towels are kept wet, i.e. periodically sprayed with drinking water (without chlorine).
Cleaning: full cleaning of the terrarium and its contents is done every 2-3 weeks.

Temperature: 18-24 ° C, marble temperatures do not tolerate high temperatures (from 30 ° C and above). Usually a terrarium with these amphibians is installed in a cool room, away from heating appliances.
Lighting: Intensive lighting is not required. it's a night amphibian. For irradiation, UV lamps of low power are used.
Humidity: medium.
Plants: thickets of living forest plants.
Water: Steady and shallow, as ambistomes can drown.
Decor: a reservoir (or a large shallow ditch), thickets of strong living plants, flat stones, driftwood, i.e. everything that creates secret places.

Ambistoma - description, characteristic, structure

Outwardly, the ambistoma is very similar to other caudate amphibians - the salamander, and in their homeland in America, as well as in a number of English-speaking countries, they are called mole salamander, because most of the life of ambistomes is spent underground.

The adult ambistoma has a strong, dense body with noticeable longitudinal grooves on the sides and a long tail that is rounded at the base. The leather is smooth, without roughness. The legs are thin and short. The forelimbs have 4 fingers, the hind legs are five-fingered. The head is wide, flattened, with small eyes.

Most ambistos have rather spectacular skin color with rich colors and a wide variety of patterns: from blue spots to wide yellow stripes.

All members of the family have double concave vertebrae and are distinguished by the absence of an angular bone on the skull. Palatine teeth are transverse.

The average lifespan of an ambistoma is from 10 years or more.

Marble Ambisto Feeding

Feeding: They only hunt live moving prey. The lower the temperature of the amphibian content, the less often they are fed. At a temperature of 15 ° C, one adult ambistoma is fed 4 crickets a week, at 18 ° C they give 4-6 crickets twice a week, at high temperatures the frequency of feeding and the amount of food increases.
Most of the captive marble ambistos are obese, so watch out for their weight!
Can give: earthworms, small insects, granular feed for terrarium animals (before feeding, the granules are pre-soaked in water), slugs, spiders, two-week crickets, wax moth larvae.
Can not feed: a lot of wax wax, as it is very oily and harder to digest.
Feeding frequency: Adults are fed with ambist every 2-3 days.
Water: drinking. Change daily, preferably immediately as it becomes contaminated.
Mineral Feeding / Vitamins: for adults marbled with ambistos, the food is sprinkled with vitamins and calcium once a week, for young people 2-3 times a week.

Axolotl, or larva of an ambistoma

Ambistomes have gained fame due to their larval stage - axolotl, which early becomes sexually mature and can reproduce without having finished the metamorphosis and not turning into an adult amphibian. This phenomenon is called neoteny and occurs mainly if the larvae have to develop in deep ponds with cool water. In shallow and warm waters, complete metamorphosis occurs without fail.

Very often, the name "axolotl" is applied to the larva of a Mexican ambistoma. In fact, axolotl is the larva of any ambistoma. In a literal translation from the Aztec languages ​​axolotl (axolotl) means "water dog (monster)", which is quite true. Due to the disproportionately large head, wide mouth and tiny eyes, it seems that the axolotl is constantly smiling. The external gills sticking out to the sides, in some species represented by branching processes, complement the not very pleasant impression. Axolotls, like other larvae of tailed amphibians, are predators, moreover, they are able to regenerate damaged or lost parts of the body, even internal organs.

At home, having the necessary experience, axolotl can be turned into an amphibian by artificial means, gradually transferring amphibian to a dry environment or adding the hormone thyroxine to its food.

Socialization / taming

Compatibility: Marble ambistomes can live individually, in pairs or in small groups. Attention! Ambistomes should be the same size, as there is evidence that larger ones can eat small cousins.
Behavior: males are territorial to each other. If there is enough space in the terrarium, then aggression is reduced, but males will still experience constant stress, which can affect a decrease in appetite, the development of various diseases and a decrease in interest in reproduction.

Types of ambitions, names and photos

The biological systematics of ambistomia is periodically reviewed. The genus ambistome includes 33 species, the genus giant ambistome includes 1 species and several subspecies. The following is a description of some of them:

  • Tiger Ambistoma(Ambystoma tigrinum)

grows to a length of 28 cm, with half the length of the body is the tail. There are 12 grooves on the sides of the amphibian, and the skin color can be dark brown or olive green with yellow stripes or spots scattered throughout the body. The front legs have 4 fingers, the hind legs - 5. During the day, tiger ambistomes hatch in holes, and at night eat worms and prey on mollusks and various insects. Axolotls of tiger ambistomes are often kept as aquarium animals. Particularly popular are albinos - individuals bred artificially, which are distinguished by external gills of bright red color. Tiger ambistoma lives on the shores of lakes, ponds and rivers from northern Mexico to Canada.

Photo Credit: Daniel D. Dye

  • Marble Ambistoma(Ambystoma opacum)

differs in a strong, stocky physique and bright gray stripes on the body: in females more gray, in males somewhat whiter. The body length of an adult marbled ambistome is only 10-12 cm. Representatives of the species lead a secretive lifestyle in dense, moist forests, among fallen leaves, hiding in burrows and under fallen trees, and are also often found in tree hollows. The larvae of marble ambistomes undergo a complete metamorphosis in 2-6 months, eating daphnia, cyclops, and other zooplankton. Large specimens also eat eggs of other amphibians. The diet of adult marble ambists consists of millipedes, worms and gastropods, including snails and slugs. Unlike other ambistos, marble ambistomes breed in the fall. The habitat of marble ambistomy runs through the territories of the eastern and western US states: from Connecticut and Florida to Texas and Illinois.

Photo by: Vernon Parish, Kisatchie National Forest

  • Yellow Spotted Ambistoma(Ambystoma maculatum)

species of small amphibians, growing up to 15-25 cm in length. Amphibian is distinguished by black skin with bright yellow spots on the back, although pure black specimens are found. A distinctive feature of the species is an amazing fact: Oophila amblystomatis algae settle in the body of the ambistoma even at the stage of the eggs, which stain the eggs and embryos in green. For reasons unknown to science, the animal immune system does not respond in any way to the presence of foreign organisms. Yellow-spotted ambistomes live mainly underground, and appear on the surface only on rainy days. Amphibians feed on worms, slugs and various insects. The species range extends through the eastern territories of the USA and Canada. The yellow spotted ambistoma is also a symbol of South Carolina.

  • Ringed ambistoma(Ambystoma annulatum)

poorly studied species, whose representatives spend most of their lives in shelters. The body length of the ambistoma is 14-18 cm. The amphibian feeds on worms, snails, and insects. The range of the species is limited to deciduous and mixed with pine forests located in mountainous areas in the southwestern United States in the states of Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri. An ambistome lives in the forests, preferring to stay close to small ponds.

  • Short-headed Ambistomashe texas salamander(Ambystoma texanum)

a species that got its name thanks to a small head with a short wide muzzle. The body length of adults is from 10 to 18 cm, 14-16 costal grooves pass along the sides. Males are slightly inferior to females in size and differ in tails that are more laterally compressed. Skin color varies from black to light gray, the back and sides are covered with silver spots. The diet of an adult short-headed ambistoma is made up of insects (butterflies, spiders, millipedes), as well as earthworms, slugs and snails. Representatives of the species live in humid forests and meadows near fresh water bodies; mature individuals are sometimes found on mountain slopes. The species range extends from Ohio, through Nebraska and Kentucky, all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

  • Spotted Blue Ambistoma(Ambystoma laterale)

got its name due to the blue-blue or whitish spots covering the body of adults. The size of mature specimens does not exceed 8-14 cm. Males are smaller than females. Young individuals who have just completed the metamorphosis have a dark brown color with yellowish spots or stripes on their backs, although the skin color may be completely black. Ambistomes find their main source of food, various invertebrates, in fallen foliage, under logs and stones. Blue-spotted ambistomes prefer moist, low-lying forests of deciduous and mixed type, sometimes they live in urban parks, near water bodies. The species range extends from southeastern Canada, through New England to Indiana and New Jersey.

  • Mesh ambistoma(Ambystoma cingulatum)

differs in a mesh pattern of silver stripes on a black or dark gray background, located throughout the body, with the exception of the belly. In some individuals, a silver mesh is replaced by light rings on the back. The body length of adults, taking into account the tail, is 8–13 cm. Reticulated ambistoma is a typical inhabitant of moist forests in the southeastern US states.

  • Pacific Ambistoma (Dicamptodon tenebrosus)

species of giant ambistos with a body length of 30-34 cm. The habitat passes through the territory of North America, including Canada, Washington, covers the states of Oregon and California. Amphibian prefers to settle in moist forests, along river floodplains and lakes, in swamps. It feeds on small rodents, mice and shrews, other amphibians, snails, slugs. Pacific ambistomes are able to dig deep and long burrows, where they hide from light and heat. At a time of danger, they often make loud sounds that resemble a growl, and can bite quite painfully.

Cultivation of marble ambistos

Breeding: marble ambistomes breed on land, they lay eggs at the bottom of dried ponds and swamps, which are flooded by autumn rains. Reproduction occurs at a temperature of 23.3-26.5 ° C.
Training: before breeding, males and females are seated. At the male, ready for breeding, the cloaca swells, the female becomes thicker, because caviar matures.
Adjustable Terrarium / Aquarium: White paper towels (slightly moistened with water) or wood bark (mulch) are placed in the terrarium as a substrate. In the terrarium they make a slope, at the bottom of which there is a pool with a water level of 2.5-5 cm. The substrate near the water should be thick and soft so that the female can dig a hole for caviar. The male spermatophore is similar to a jelly cone 4-4.5 mm wide and up to 6 mm high. The female remains near the eggs until the eggs are flooded with water (in the nature by autumn rains). Caviar affected by the fungus must be removed immediately by hand! Caviar is transferred to a shallow aquarium with drinking or spring water. Without water, caviar will not develop.
The ratio of males and females: 1:1.
Number of caviar: up to 200 eggs.
Incubation period: larvae hatch for several days.
Youth feeding: starter food for larvae of marble ambistomes - artemia nauplii, enchitreus, cut tubule, daphnia and cyclops (attention, large cyclops prey on larvae!). After 1-2 weeks, the larvae are offered artemia, daphnia, bloodworms, coronet, a whole tubule maker and cut lumbriculus.
Young ambistos (after metamorphosis) are fed every day with small insects (fruit flies, 10-day crickets), earthworms and slugs. The feed is sprinkled with vitamins and calcium before feeding. When young people turn six months old they are transferred to an adult terrarium.
Aquarium for larvae: water temperature 23.3-26.5 ° C. The composition of the water is checked twice a week, the pH should not be lower than 6.5. At high levels of ammonia or nitrite, water is replaced. Once a week, a mandatory change of 10-20% of water is carried out.
Every day larvae waste products and not eaten food are removed (via a siphon) from the aquarium.
Marble larvae cannot be irradiated with ultraviolet rays. Larvae close to metamorphosis (signs - thickening of the tail and closure of the external gills) are transplanted into the aquarium, in which a gentle exit from the water to the land was made. Water should be constantly filtered, every day the sponge from the filter is washed. When crowded, the larvae of marble ambistomes grow quite slowly.
Flat stones, mulch or paper towels are placed on land, and several secluded places are arranged.

Where do ambistomes live?

Deciduous moist forests with soft soil and thick litter are the favorite habitats of the ambist. Most representatives of the genus are endemic to North America: the range begins in southern Canada, includes the territory of southeast Alaska and Mexico.

Ambistoma lives alone, on land, approaches water only during the breeding season. During the day, an amphibian hides in independently dug shelters or burrows left by other animals, and comes to the surface at night, or when it rains or the first snow. Some species of ambistos winter in the same burrows.

Ambisto marble diseases

Disease: marble ambistomes, caught in nature, almost all are infected with helminths, so they are dewormed, after 14-21 days they worm away again.
Disease predisposition: Damaged areas of the body (bites) are often affected by saprolegnia, which can lead to the death of larvae.
Major diseases: amphibian disease
Notes: In summer, marble ambists can be kept outside.

What does an ambistoma eat?

Ambistome larvae are extremely voracious and, in addition to various zooplankton (Daphnia, Bosmin, Cyclops), eat fish eggs and their relatives. The diet of adult ambush living on land consists of various invertebrates and their larvae: worms, grasshoppers, crickets, slugs, snails, millipedes, spiders, beetles. Under adverse conditions, for example, in a drought, an ambistoma can go without food for quite a while, hiding in its shelters.

Breeding ambist

For breeding, ambistomes need water or seasonally flooded areas of the forest, therefore during the mating season amphibians can be noticed during mass migrations to breeding sites. Most species of ambistois breed in the spring, but some do this in the fall (ringed and marble ambistomes).

Males lay a spermatophore with an ambish, and females take it as a cesspool and, in turn, lay caviar bags containing from several tens to 500 eggs with a diameter of up to 2.6 mm.

Ambistoma caviar, deposited in warm waters, develops within 19-50 days, after which larvae from 1.3 to 1.7 cm in length appear.

Larvae continue to live and develop in water from 2.5 to 4 months, during which their fins and gills gradually disappear, their eyes become covered for centuries, the lungs develop, and the body acquires a characteristic color for the species.

Ambistomes go to land, growing to 8-8.6 cm, and develop further, leading a land-based lifestyle.

Females that breed in autumn do not enter the water, but lay eggs in low places, which in the spring will surely be flooded with water. Eggs are laid in portions under fallen trees and driftwood, in small dug holes. In rainy weather, the larvae hatch the same fall, in other cases, they hibernate and will be born immediately as soon as the nest is flooded.

Appearance

The body of the marble ambistome is stocky with a short tail (up to 40% of the entire body length). The head is wide. In appearance, it is somewhat similar to a salamander. Teeth are transverse. The skin is smooth. Paws are short (without claws), four toes on forepaws, five on hind legs. The number of transverse stripes on the body is 3-8, on the tail 4-8. The vertebrae are biconcave. Females are larger in size than males.

The main color is shiny black with 4-7 transverse white (in males) or silver (in females) marks. The belly is black. Young amnistas have a brownish tint on the back of the head, on the sides and on the fingers, instead of clear light marks there is a whitish or silver coating. As they grow older, youth darkens. Sometimes spots merge into stripes. Completely black individuals are rare.

Fluctuate from 9 to 12 cm.

Habitat

Marble ambistomes inhabit various habitats: deciduous and mixed forests of foothill or coastal plains, near small lakes, streams, rivers and swamps, forest floodplains, tall grass prairies (western part of the range) and rocky slopes. The mountains rises to 700 m above sea level. The species is more tolerant of dry habitats than other species of ambisto and salamanders.

Larvae of marble ambistomes feed on zooplankton (for example, copepods and cladocera), tadpoles eat small insects (mosquitoes) and their larvae, aquatic crustaceans, as well as eggs and larvae of other amphibians. Adults prey on isopod crustaceans, snails and slugs, worms (oligochaetes), millipedes, caterpillars and other small slow invertebrates.

Adult marbled ambistomes are nocturnal, and larvae are nocturnal. For most of their life, amphibians hide under rotten logs, stones or in fallen vegetation, they can also be found in hollows or burrows (abandoned by rodents) and only during the breeding season do ambistomes leave their shelters and go in search of a partner. With a lack of food, amphibians become aggressive towards each other.

In the season, droughts are buried deep in the ground and there await an unfavorable period. Cold, high temperature and drought make ambisto hide in shelters, and heavy rains and high humidity, on the contrary, stimulate their exit to the surface. Prefers soil acidity pH 5.5-7.7.

Protective behavior

When a predator attacks, a marble ambistome takes a protective position (the head goes down, and the tail, on the contrary, goes up and a poisonous secret is generated from the glands in the tail), or tries to hide.

Social structure

Leads a solitary lifestyle, gathering in small clusters only during the breeding season.

Beetles, salamanders, frogs and possibly millipedes eat caviar of marble ambists.

Arthropods (dragonflies, spiders, beetles and their larvae), adult greenish newts and birds (for example, kingfishers) prey on larvae.

Snakes (striped nerody, western garter snake), raccoons, birds (ducks and owls), possums (virgin opossum), skunks, shrews and weasels prey on adolescents and adults.
When eating adult marbled ambists, predators do not touch the tail, because it contains glands that produce poison.

Breeding

Marble ambistoma is a type of amphibian that breeds on land, not in water. Reproduction occurs once a year.
In autumn, before the start of autumn rains, males begin to migrate to breeding sites. They usually move at night. At the sites where reproduction takes place, males arrive 7–10 days earlier than females.

One male can postpone up to 10 spermatophores. Fertilization is internal, the female crawls on the spermatophore and captures it with the edges of her cesspool.

At the bottom of dried ponds, ditches and quarries (under vegetation, roots or in mud), the female lays eggs (30-250 pcs, diameter 1.9-2.8 mm, with a shell 4-5 mm) in separate clumps. She guards the masonry until the autumn rains fill the pond. If the caviar does not fill with water, then the larvae do not develop until spring and all this time the female takes care of her: moves, flips and protects. There are cases when a female leaves the nest before it is flooded.

The thick and sticky shell of the caviar protects the embryos from dehydration.

In the "hungry" years, the reproduction of females is greatly reduced.
With a lack of suitable places for caviar, in one place there are several clutches from different females.
Embryo mortality is very high due to hypothermia, dehydration, predation or fungal infection.

The offspring of marble ambistome

Embryo development is delayed, and the larvae exit from the eggs is stimulated by hypoxia when the clutch is flooded with water. With a lack of oxygen, the production of digestive enzymes begins, which dissolve the jelly-like capsule and the larvae exit the eggs. Newborn larvae of marble ambistomy with a large yolk sac, 10-14 mm long. Larvae, feeding on zooplankton, grow very quickly. Growth also depends heavily on the population density of the reservoir, the amount of food and water temperature. Larvae prey more on ostracods, cladocerans, copepods and isopods, crustaceans, chironomids, amphipods, and dipterans.

Usually during the day, larvae stay at the base of the reservoir, and larvae that approach metamorphosis (with a length of 49-72 mm) remain at the base of the reservoir even at night.
The larvae of the marble ambistoma have a strong body, the external gill feathers, the dorsal fin is high, runs throughout the body and ends on the tail. The color of the back is from black to gray, a dashed line runs along both sides, a scattering of dark dots on the stomach.

Metamorphosis of larvae in the south of the range occurs after 2 months, and in the north it takes 8-9 months.

In Illinois, metamorphosis begins in June-July, in New York in June, in Maryland, New Jersey and northern Georgia in late May - early June, in West Virginia in mid-May, in North Carolina from mid-April to May, in Alabama. March-April, and in Louisiana in mid-March.

Going to land, young ambistomes do not go far from the reservoir. In the afternoon they hide under snags, stones and fallen leaves.

Having reached puberty (in the breeding season), amphibians return to the same place where they were born.

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