AmphibiaWeb - Proteidae


(Translations may not be accurate.)


8 species in 2 genera

Commonly Called Mudpuppies, Waterdogs, Olms

Necturus maculosus
Photo by Michael Graziano
(Click for family gallery)

This family is exclusively aquatic, paedomorphic salamanders with large, red, filamentous, external gills and laterally compressed tail fins. They are distributed in Europe (Proteus, up to 200 mm) and North America (Necturus, up to 400 mm). One species of Proteus and five species of Necturus are currently recognized. The Olm, or European blind cave salamander, Proteus anguinus, is perhaps the rarest and strangest of all extant salamanders in museum collections. It has reduced eyes, pale/translucent skin, and lives in caves. Little information is available on the reproductive biology of these salamanders, although P. anguinus seems to be capable of some degree of viviparity through the birth of advanced young.

Written by AmphibiaWeb

Notable Family Characteristics

  • Aquatic
  • External gills, elongate form with laterally compressed tails
  • Habitat includes lakes, rivers and streams or caves and underground water sources as in Proteus
  • Nocturnal
  • Internal fertilization
  • Some morphological characters include: 1) maxillae, prefrontals, septomaxillae, ypsiloid cartilage, and nasals absent; 2) teeth on splenial and pterygoid; 3) two pairs of larval gill slits; 4) external gills present; 5) reduction in number of toes; 6) 19 pairs of chromosomes.
  • Disjunct distribution between eastern North America and Europe
Proteidae Richness map

Cartography Credit: Zoe Yoo, UC Berkeley
Range maps sources: AmphibiaWeb, UC Berkeley, and IUCN RedList

Relevant Reference

Roelants, K., D. J. Gower, M. Wilkinson, S. P. Loader, S. D. Biju, K. Guillaume, L. Moriau, and F. Bossuyt. 2007. Global patterns of diversification in the history of modern amphibians. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 104: 887–892.

Larson, Allan. 2006. Proteidae. Mudpuppies, waterdogs. Version 23 August 2006. in The Tree of Life Web Project,

Subfamily Necturinae (7 species)

Genus Necturus (7 species)    [subfamily Necturinae]
Necturus alabamensis account photos no sound/video
Necturus beyeri account photos no sound/video
Necturus lewisi account photos no sound/video
Necturus maculosus account photos no sound/video
Necturus moleri account photos no sound/video
Necturus mounti account photos no sound/video
Necturus punctatus account photos no sound/video
Subfamily Proteinae (1 species)

Genus Proteus (1 species)    [subfamily Proteinae]
Proteus anguinus account photos no sound/video

Citation: AmphibiaWeb: Information on amphibian biology and conservation. [web application]. Berkeley, California: AmphibiaWeb. Available: (Accessed:

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