New video features Michigan’s largest fully aquatic salamander - the mudpuppy

Mudpuppies act as an early warning system for environmental problems but are often misunderstood.

March 5, 2018 - Author: Mary Bohling, Michigan Sea Grant, Michigan State University Extension

Michigan Sea Grant in partnership with Herpetological Resource and Management, Eastern Michigan University, United States Geological Survey, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Division, Belle Isle Aquarium, and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has produced a new video featuring mudpuppies.

Mudpuppies are Michigan’s largest, fully aquatic salamander. Often referred to as ‘bio-indicators’ because they are sensitive to pollutants and water quality, these salamanders act as an early warning system for environmental problems but are often misunderstood.

Some common myths that the video seeks to dispel are noted below: 

                                    FICTION         VS.            FACT

Mudpuppies are a type of  fish.

Mudpuppies are actually an amphibian and although they have lungs and can gulp air they rely on their feathery red external gills for oxygen.

Mudpuppies that are thrown on the ice by anglers will revive in the spring when the ice melts.

Unfortunately if a mudpuppy freezes it will die. When thrown on the ice mudpuppies will eventually suffocate or freeze to death.

Mudpuppies eat so many fish eggs that they decrease sport fish populations.

Their diet is mostly crayfish, insect larvae, snails and small fish (including invasive round gobies). There is no evidence that they impact fish populations, and they more likely benefit them by helping control non-native species.

Mudpuppies are not protected in Michigan and can be collected all year round.

In 2016, the mudpuppy was elevated to a species of special concern and is now protected by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. When you catch them, please put them back.

Mudpuppies compete with game species for food.

While mudpuppies do eat some of the same species as game fish, they also play an important role in controlling invasive species such as the round goby and they help keep water clean by feeding on sick or dead animals.

Anglers who hook them should cut the line because they are poisonous.

Although slimy, mudpuppies are not poisonous. Anglers should gently remove the hook and return them to the water.

Other interesting facts about mudpuppies

  • Mudpuppies mate in late fall but the females do not lay their eggs until the following spring.
  • Mudpuppies have no scales and their skin is very slimy.
  • Females usually lay 50-100 eggs in cavities or under rocks.
  • Eggs hatch 1-2 months after being laid.
  • Mudpuppies can live for more than 20 years and can take up to 10 years to reach sexual maturity.
  • Mudpuppies are also called waterdogs because of the barking sound they sometimes make.

Video viewers are also encouraged to help conserve mudpuppies and other amphibians and reptiles by reporting sightings in the Michigan Herp Atlas to help better protect and conserve Michigan’s biodiversity! You can also learn more about Mudpuppies and their conservation at the Mudpuppy Conservation page on Facebook.

Michigan Sea Grant helps to foster economic growth and protect Michigan’s coastal, Great Lakes resources through education, research and outreach. A collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University and its MSU Extension, Michigan Sea Grant is part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant network of 33 university-based programs.

Tags: environmental & outdoor education, fisheries & wildlife, lakes, michigan sea grant, msu extension, natural resources, streams & watersheds


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