Friday, March 25, 2011

Spotted Salamanders

Unlike the majority of salamander species native to the Captina Creek watershed the spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) does not reside in stream habitat, but instead prefers upland vernal pools. Spotted salamanders are members of the mole salamander family along with Jefferson salamanders (Ambystoma jeffersonianum) and the marbled salamanders (Ambystoma opacum) which also occur in eastern Ohio.  Few people ever see mole salamander adults due to their fossorial lifestyles.  Adult spotted salamanders may spend 50 weeks out of a year in an underground burrow emerging breifly only to migrate to pools to breed.  More commonly encountered are the eggs and larvae inhabiting wooded vernal pools located on undisturbed hillsides. Adults emerge with the first warm rains of early spring an migrate en masse to home pools where they will stay for 2-3 weeks.  After breeding the adults will exit pools and return underground in mammal burrows or under large rocks and logs.  Though the spotted salamander probably resides throughout the entire watershed region populations seem most prevelant in western areas.  More sampling needs to be done in eastern tributaries to try to fill in the void.

A cluster of spotted salamander eggs recently deposited in a
small pond in Wayne township.  Females will attach the masses
to underwater vegetation often in large "rafts" similar to those
of the wood frog.

A spotted salamander adult.  Adults range from 6-9" in length
A characteristic shared by the mole salamanders is a thick,
stocky body with pronounced costal grooves on each side. 

A closeup view of a spotted egg mass.  The mass consists of
individual eggs clustered inside of a gelatinous protective
covering.  The mass is spherical in shape as well.

Not the greatest picture due to glare but the white clumps on
the pool bottom may be spermatophores deposited by males
which are then picked up by females using their cloacas.  Once
fertilized internally the eggs are deposited by females on
submerged vegetation. 

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