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• Friday, March 11th, 2011

There is a magical event that happens in the early spring. No one knows what triggers it and no one knows exactly when it will occur. It’s a surprise. Don’t you just love surprises? It is a secret trek of the Spotted Salamanders to their breeding pools.

Vernal Pool in New Jersey

In what seems like impossibly cold weather, these amphibians have waited underground for the first warm evening spring rain. Warm being a relative term because it is still only about 45 or 50 degrees. But without fail, as the rain falls, spotted salamanders come up from their underground burrows and march sometimes by the hundreds, to vernal pools where they’ve been breeding for decades.

 

 

Vernal pools are shallow depressions in the earth where water collects in the spring but dries up by late summer or early fall. Salamanders will not breed in traditional ponds where predators such as fish loom.

Male spotted salamander. Spots are unique like finger prints.

Male salamanders migrate to their breeding pools and hang out in bachelor groups called congregations. But when the females arrive, the party really starts. 40-50 Spotted Salamanders gyrate, rub against each other and rotate their tail in hope of attracting a female’s fancy. If all this foreplay works, she’ll follow him out of the crowd as he swims away. He’ll then deposit a gelatinous sperm packet called a spermatophore. The female will trail him and pick up the spermatophore in her genital opening thus completing fertilization. Within a few days, she’ll deposit 2-3 jelly-like balls with 50-100 eggs in each. The egg sacs resemble snowballs that are attached to underwater sticks. After completing this task, both male and female adult salamanders leave the pool and return to their underground burrow until next spring.

The egg sacs remain underwater for 5-6 weeks when they hatch into tiny, gilled tadpoles. After feeding on small aquatic insects through the summer, the tadpoles metamorphose into miniature adults and leave the water by the fall.

 

 

Category: Amphibians, Seasons
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  1. […] quite common in North America. Recently bloggers reported observing the spectacle in Ohio and New Jersey and other parts of the United […]

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