You may know salamanders, but most of you won’t know mud puppies. Mud puppies are foot-long aquatic salamanders that are amazing because they are one of the few amphibians who are active in the winter.
During the summer months, mud puppies lurk in deep water in lakes where they are safe from predators, but during the coldest parts of the Canadian winter, they travel up streams to hunt for food. That means all their predators are hibernating or can’t see them under the ice… clever puppies!
We are lucky enough to join Fred Schueler and Aletta Karstad who have been observing mud puppies in Oxford Mills, Ontario every Friday night since 1998. It is a rare and wonderful thing to see these incredibly interesting creatures and we are excited to be part of the longest-running winter herpetological study in Canada.
Mudpuppies, are also called waterdogs, because they are one of only a few salamanders that make noises. They get their name from the rather far-fetched idea that the squeaky noises they make sound like a dog’s bark.
Mud puppies have more DNA in each cell than any other living thing so that they can activate enzymes that keep them active in winter where temperatures in the shallow water can be anything from 0 to minus 32 degrees. They breathe through external gills but, as amphibians, are also able to take in oxygen through their skin.
Mud puppies are amazing because of the extreme temperatures that they are able to be active in, despite the fact that they are cold blooded.
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