Necturus maculosus
(Rafinesque 1818)

nĕk-tŭr-ŭs — măk-ū-lō-sŭs

Species in Need of Information

An adult male Mudpuppy from Franklin County, Kansas. © 2018 Travis W. Taggart.
An adult Mudpuppy, from Allen County, Kansas.© Suzanne L. Collins.
Two adult Mudpuppies from Greenwood County, Kansas. Image © Suzanne L. Collins.
An adult Mudpuppy from Franklin County, Kansas. Image © Suzanne L. Collins, CNAH.

The Mudpuppy is a large, obligate aquatic salamander with a large flattened, square head, small eyes and a pair of distinctive, red feathery gills on each side of its head. They are neotenic (retaining larval characteristics into maturity [no transformation]) and retain large external gills throughout their life. In the more clear and cool streams (e.g. Shoal Creek), their gills may be reduced, but are still quite noticeable. 
They are gray or reddish-brown, to dark brown with irregularly spaced diffuse-edged blotches on the back. Rarely, the spots may merge to form stripes. There is typically a diffuse dark stripe that runs from the nostril, through the eye, to the gills. The belly is whitish to light gray to light yellow, and may be spotted along the sides or spotted throughout. Specimens from the Marais des Cygnes river drainages have a greater incidence of belly spotting than specimens from elsewhere in the state, however, all populations in Kansas may be quite variable in this respect (Taggart 2003; George and Slack 2010).
Four toes are present on each of four well-developed limbs. The cloacae of mature males have two prominent papillae directed backward. In the breeding season, the cloacae of males are swollen. Female cloacae are slit-like and often lighter in coloration. Young Mudpuppies are dark brown with longitudinal yellowish stripes.
Neosho/Verdigris drainage: Adults normally 200-250 mm (8-9¾ inches) in TL; largest Kansas specimen: male (FHSM 7496) from Allen County with SVL of 211 mm and TL of 307 mm (12 inches) collected by Travis W. Taggart on 22 February 2003; exceeds maximum length throughout range, as reported in Conant and Collins (1998).
Marais des Cygnes drainage: Adults normally 200-330 mm (8-13 inches) in TL; largest specimen from Kansas: sex undetermined (KU 209746) from Osage County with SVL of 262 mm and TL of 385 mm (15¼ inches) collected by Tom Mosher on 4 April 1988; maximum length throughout range: 19¼ inches (Conant and Collins, 1998).

The Mudpuppy is confined to the Marais des Cygnes, Neosho, and Verdigris drainage basins in Kansas. They may be found in ponds, lakes, and in streams with a surface connection to perennial waters. They seek shelter under logs, rocks, or among vegetation. They are rarely seen but are occasionally found under rocks in shallow water or collected on hook and line by anglers. They have been reported in water as deep as 30 meters.

(, Museum Voucher) (, Observation) (, Literature Record)
Open icons are questionable records; Click on a marker to view details. Export Google Earth (.kml)
  • Occurrence Summary:  
  • 61 Total Records 
  • 58 Museum Vouchers 
  • 3 Other Observations 
Some county occurrences indicated below may be too imprecise to map above.
County Breakdown: County Name (# occurrences):
Allen (9); Anderson (1); Bourbon (1); Chase (1); Cherokee (2); Crawford (2); Douglas (1); Franklin (19); Greenwood (5); Lyon (3); Miami (7); Montgomery (1); Morris (2); Osage (3); Unknown (1); Woodson (3);

Natural History:
In the fall, Mudpuppies form shallow-water mating aggregations in sheltered areas under rocks or logs. Males deposit a spermatophore, that is picked up by the female, and stored until late spring. In the spring, females excavate nest cavities (10cm to 3 m deep) under rocks or logs (the entrances are on the downstream side) and lay 18 to 180 eggs (5 and 11 mm in diameter) on the cavity ceiling. Depending on water temperature, Mudpuppy eggs take 1 to 2 months to develop. The larvae are 20 to 25 mm in length upon hatching and spend most of their time in leaf beds and other sheltered areas. Mudpuppies reach sexual maturity and 4 to 5 years of age, at a body length of about 20 cm.
Rundquist and Collins (1977) reported an adult Mudpuppy (KU 174546) discovered while being consumed by a Common Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon) in a shallow area of Shoal Creek at Schermerhorn Park, Cherokee County.

Occurrence Activity:
White dates indicate there is at least a single recorded occurrence on that date. The darker blue a date is, the greater the relative number of observations for that date.
An obligate aquatic salamander, the Mudpuppy is incapable of surviving for extended periods of time outside of water. As such, they are especially sensitive to environmental changes. The implementation of a continued systematic survey regime at both historic and new localities is needed to adequately asses the status of this salamander in the state. Little is known of this salamander in the state because they are difficult to collect.

1818 Rafinesque, Constantine S. Further account of discoveries in natural history, in the western states. The American Monthly Magazine and Critical Review 4():39-42
1885 Cragin, Francis W. Recent additions to the list of Kansas reptiles and batrachians, with further notes on species previously reported. Bulletin of the Washburn College Laboratory of Natural History 1(3):100-103
1885 Cragin, Francis W. Second contribution to the herpetology of Kansas, with observations on the Kansas fauna. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 9():136-140
1933 Smith, Hobart M. The Amphibians of Kansas Thesis. University of Kansas, Lawrence. 383pp.
1953 Schmidt, Karl P. A Check List of North American Amphibians and Reptiles. 6th Edition. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois. 280pp.
1977 Rundquist, Eric M. and Joseph T. Collins. The amphibians of Cherokee County, Kansas. Kansas Biological Survey, Lawrence. 12pp.
1983 Ireland, Patrick H. and Ronald Altig. Key to the gilled salamander larvae and larviform adults of Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. Southwestern Naturalist 28(3):271-274
1984 Altig, Ronald and Patrick H. Ireland. A key to salamander larvae and larviform adults of the United States and Canada. Herpetologica 40(2):212-218
1985 Cooper, John E. and Ray E. Ashton, Jr. The Necturus lewisi Study: Introduction, selected literature review, and comments on the hydrologic units and their faunas. Brimleyana (10):1-12
1989 Collins, Joseph T. New records of amphibians and reptiles in Kansas for 1988. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (75):15-18
1995 Moriarty, Emily C. and Joseph T. Collins. First known occurrence of amphibian species in Kansas. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (100):28-30
2003 Taggart, Travis W. Geographic distribution: Necturus louisianensis. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (5):10
2003 Taggart, Travis W. Kansas Herpetological Society 2003 spring field trip. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (5):3-4
2004 Taggart, Travis W. Life history. Necturus louisianensis. New maximum length for entire range. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (10):11
2006 Taggart, Travis W. Distribution and status of Kansas herpetofauna in need of information. State Wildlife Grant T7. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt. vii + 106pp.
2008 Taggart, Travis W. KHS 2008 spring field trip. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (25):2-3
2010 George, Steven G. and William T. Slack. Evidence of a contact zone for Mudpuppies (Necturus sp.) in the lower Mississippi River basin. IRCF Reptiles and Amphbians 17(3):156-157
2012 Rohweder, Megan R. Spatial conservation prioritization of Kansas for terrestrial vertebrates. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 151pp.
Account Last Updated:
2/4/2020 3:26:38 PM

Travis W. Taggart © 2020 — Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Fort Hays State University