The tiger salamander is a large amphibian that can reach 33 cm. Their light-bottomed body usually has grey, green or black spots. Their eyes are large, their mouth small and their body and legs robust. They feed on insects and worms, although adults may eat mice or small frogs.
They undergo metamorphosis in the wild. Adults are terrestrial, inhabiting temperate and humid forests, without much dependence on water — although they need it for reproduction. They often live in burrows, and are extremely loyal to their birthplace, travelling long distances to return to the water to breed.
Tiger salamanders only have a 50% chance of breeding more than once in their lifetime. Males push lightly on the female to initiate mating, then deposit a spermatophore on the bottom of the lake. The female picks up the bundle and lays the already fertilised eggs on vegetation.
While locally common in many regions, numbers of this species have declined over time. One of the greatest threats faced by this salamander is the destruction of its habitat, as well as deforestation and acid rain.
It is a species with great potential for laboratory work — it is used as a biological model.