Ringed Salamander

Family: 
Ambystomatidae (mole salamanders) in the order Caudata (salamanders)
Description: 

A slender and elongated salamander, usually with 15 riblike grooves on the sides. The head and neck are somewhat elongated compared to its close relatives. Above, the ground color ranges from dark brown to black. The belly is normally buff-yellow. Sides of the belly are covered with white and black mottling. A series of pale (dull white to yellow) rings usually extends over the back but may be broken at the midline. The rings never completely encircle the body.

Size: 
Length: 5–7 inches.
Habitat and conservation: 
Usually hides under logs and rocks or in burrows made by small mammals, seldom venturing into the open and preferring heavily forested areas. In the autumn, stimulated by heavy rains and cool temperatures, they travel by night to fishless woodland ponds, where they may congregate by the hundreds for breeding.
Foods: 
In our state, ringed salamanders probably eat earthworms, insects and land snails.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Southwestern and central Missouri Ozarks, and in the river hills of the Missouri River in the eastern section of the state.
Status: 
Locally common. A Species of Conservation Concern.
Life cycle: 
Breeds in autumn, usually in September to early November. Cool rains stimulate them to migrate to fishless woodland ponds, where hundreds may gather. From 2 or 3 to 25 males typically court each gravid female. Egg-laying is completed in two days. Each female lays a number of egg clumps, each containing 3–37 eggs, on submerged branches, aquatic plant stems or on shallow pond bottoms. Eggs may begin hatching in 2–3 weeks. Larval period is 6–8 months; metamorphosis is in May or early June.
Human connections: 
This attractive salamander is secretive and seldom witnessed, making each discovery of one a happy occurrence.
Ecosystem connections: 
Like other salamanders, this species is a predator to many small invertebrates, but is itself a target for larger predators, including snakes, hawks, raccoons and other animals. Some animals may depend a great deal upon the seasonal abundance of salamander eggs.