Starting as early as January, but typically February/March, males and females return to fishless, temporary or permanent ponds to breed. Tigers will breed as soon as the ice melts and the picture on the right was taken in January of a male walking across snow to get to the breeding pond. Tiger salamanders perfer slightly deeper water than the rest of Long Island's mole salamanders.
They mate in the water, where the male deposits a spermatophore on the pond bottom. The female, using her back legs, picks up the spermatophore and deposits it in her cloaca. One to two days later, the female lays ~200 eggs, usually in deeper water, in several small masses containing 50-75 eggs. The masses are normally attached to submerged sticks and vegetation. The egg mass on the left is fresh and the center of the egg is round (brownish spot). The egg mass on the right is a few days old and you can see the center of the egg (embryo) is changing shape as the embryo develops). The eggs with white centers are no good and probably were infertile.
The eggs develop slowly in the cold water and hatch in about four weeks. You can see the gills forming in the right hand picture.
Larvae hatch out fairly small and are ~12 mm long. They have external gills.
Depending on water temperature, larvae develop quickly. First growing front legs, then back.
They get bulkier, with bigger heads and start eating larger prey items.
(4 weeks and 35mm long)
Nearing adult size now, they are big and agressive feeders. They are nearing metamorphosis and will be leaving the pond soon.
(8 weeks and 70mm long)
July and it's time to leave the pond. During rainy nights they start venturing into the forest. Metamorphs can be fpound under cover near the pond. They will disperse over several days. They will not return to the pond site until fully mature, 2 to 3 years later.
Gills become very bushy and legs are stocky and getting stronger.
Gills are shrinking away now. This occurs rapidly over a few days. They will gulp air from the surface now and remain near shore. Their color and shape is changing and they are looking more like the adults. The tail is long and slender, no longer paddle shaped.