Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Integrated Environmental Sciences

First Advisor

Donald A. Merkle, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Dana P. Johnson

Third Advisor

Daniel C. Bowman


The Mole Salamander (Ambystoma talpoideum) has been known from Virginia for over two decades, but no intensive research on this state-rare species had been pursued prior to this project. Various aspects of mole salamander natural history were studied over a seven-year period throughout a seven-county area of central Virginia. New state distribution records for the species were recorded from Amherst, Appomattox, Buckingham, Campbell, Nelson, and Pittsylvania Counties. These records include a range of extension with the most northern occurrence known for this species in the United States.

Drift fence/pitfall trap studies were conducted on three ponds in two counties. Two distinct periods of immigration occurred in this species: one in the fall and another in late winter-early spring. The intensity of each period varied yearly depending on climatic conditions. Some individuals remained in breeding ponds for periods exceeding six months. Standard biometric measurements were taken, including values for: tail length, snout-vent length, weight, and breeding condition. These values were recorded for all larvae, adults, and paedomorphs captured during this investigation.

This study reports the first documentation of paedomorphic individuals found in the state for this species. Paedomorphs were found in four counties. The occurrence of these individuals was dependent on the presence of breeding ponds with more permanent hydrologies than those of vernal pools. Metamorphosed paedomorphs appear to retain remnants of their paired ventral stripes, making identification of transformed paedomorphs possible.

Recommendations are presented for the conservation of this species in Virginia.



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