Illinois is home to 20 native species of salamanders and newts. Newts are a subgroup of salamanders. Salamanders belong to the genus notophthalmus. The state's extensive woodland and wetland habitats make it a suitable home for many forms of amphibians. Native salamanders vary greatly in size, appearance, lifestyle and habitat, with some being terrestrial while others are more fully aquatic.
The most numerous salamanders in Illinois are mole, or ambystomatidae, salamanders. Mole salamanders get their name because they have stout bodies and dig burrows they live in or hide in. The largest of Illinois' ambystomatidae salamanders is the Tiger salamander, which grows to just over 12 inches. The smallest native species is the mole salamander, which grows to just over 4 inches in length. Other native species in this family are Jefferson, blue-spotted, spotted, marbled, silvery and small-mouthed salamanders
Other common salamanders in the state are brook, or Eurycea, salamanders, which are members of the lungless Plethodontidae family. Family members include the southern two-lined salamander, which grows to 4 inches, the long-tailed salamander, which grows to just over 6 inches and the cave salamander, which grows to just over 7 inches in length. All three species are found in slow-moving streams, in shady forested areas or cave mouths.
Slimy and Woodland Salamanders
Illinois is home to three species of the plethodon, or slimy woodland salamander genus. This genus is also part of the lungless salamander family. The eastern red-backed salamander is small and only grows to 4 inches in length. The northern zigzag salamander grows to the same size. The northern slimy salamander is larger and grows to just under 7 inches in length. All three species are mainly terrestrial and are found in damp, shady forests near small pools.
The remaining Illinois salamanders and newts are found in different genera in the lungless salamander family. The state has two large salamander species. The western lesser siren grows to 46 inches and has a slender body. The hellbender salamander is slightly shorter, at 44 inches, but is much broader and heavier. The smallest of Illinois' salamanders is a four-toed variety that grows to less that 4 inches in length. The remaining native species are the spotted dusky salamander, the mud puppy and the eastern newt. The eastern newt is the only member of the notophthalmus genus in Illinois.
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