Genus/species: Siren lacertina
This is the largest of the sirens and they are known to exceed
three feet (.9 m) in length. Sirens resemble overgrown larvae.
They have long eel-like bodies and external gills. They are
olive to black in color with a lighter belly. Young sirens
have a light stripe on their sides, which is lost over time.
They lack hind limbs and have relatively weak fore limbs that
are not used in swimming or crawling. Their tail is laterally
flattened and appears to have a fin around the edge.
Distribution and Habitat
There are only three species of sirens. This species ranges
from Virginia south along the Atlantic coast through Florida
and into the gulf coast of Alabama.
This fully aquatic siren is found in a greater variety of
habitats than the other sirens, including ditches, streams,
rivers, swamps, lakes, ponds, and some bays. They spend most
of their time buried in mud or sand.
Diet in the Wild:
They are effective predators of most aquatic animals, but
have been found to eat vegetation occasionally. Carnivorous,
they eat crayfish, aquatic insects, worms, snails,
and small fish. They hunt at night and spends daylight
hours hidden under debris or logs on the bottom. They use
a lateral-line system to aid in prey location.
They are fed earthworms and crayfish two to three times a
Siren reproduction is a mystery because mating has never
been observed. The males lack the gland that secretes
spermatophores and the females lack a receptacle in which
the sperm is stored. This suggests that they practice
external fertilization, however, the female lays eggs
singly on widely dispersed aquatic plants. This suggests
that the eggs were fertilized before they were laid. Either
sirens have internal fertilization unlike that seen in
any other salamander or the male follows the female around
during egg-laying, fertilizing each individual egg. Scientists
do know that the eggs are laid in either late winter or
early spring and the larvae hatch about two months
It is estimated that they reach maturity in two to three years.
Captive sirens have lived to be 25 years of age.
The greater siren in uncommon throughout its range, although
it may be common in some locations. It does not seem to be
threatened at present. The greatest potential dangers are
draining habitats and using aquatic herbicides to clear vegetation
Sirens are generally regarded as the most primitive of living
salamanders although their ecology and natural history are
poorly known. They lack hindlimbs and are completely aquatic
throughout their lives, as evidenced by their external gills.
This salamander can aestivate to survive. If the siren’s
body of water dries up it can burrow in the mud bottom and
secrete a cocoon of mucus and shed skin that covers its
body to prevent water loss. All body functions slow down,
some by 70 percent, and it can live for more than a year,
until the pond refills with water.
When grasped, they commonly emit a yelping sound.