Friday, April 29, 2011

Jelly Dance

When my boys held one of these miraculous gelatinous salamander egg masses...
... the first question they asked was, "How can a salamander lay all those eggs?".
The boys were thinking the spotted salamander is quite a handful, but obviously not big enough for laying that volume of eggs.
Spotted Salamander
   Well, the short answer is that when the spotted salamander laid those eggs, the eggs were much smaller. Then after the eggs were laid, the egg jelly swelled with water. That answer is good enough for a bog slog, but the real answer more complicated.  Just look at the picture below and notice the several layers of jelly surrounding the embryos. They each have their function and a lot of how's and why's to expound on. Maybe someday I'll delve into more details on salamander egg jelly. 
For now, let's just say that the jiggling jelly layers are doing their jobs.
   As I mentioned in my last post, there is more going on in those egg masses than jiggles and wiggles. The embryos are not actually wiggling yet, but they do move. Their motion could be described as a slow, but graceful circling around inside the egg. I timed some embryo's rotations, and a full circle took about four minutes. This turning is accomplished by cilia created currents, not by muscular action.  The embryos are almost constantly gliding around like clock hands. What an amazing thing to watch!
 I took these next three pictures over a span of a minute or so, to illustrate the embryo's rotation.
... and round
... and round we go.
In your mind, picture (in fast forward) all of the embryos in this egg mass rotating in different directions.
That's what I call the jelly dance.
 There will be even more to admire about the eggs in my next post.
More to explore:


  1. What a fascinating handful. I have newts in my pond and for awhile they were just jelly-like small handfuls but nothing in comparison to this.

    BTW welcome to NBN - April (from Christian Nature) and myself will be offically welcoming you to the network next Wednesday in our NBN blog post.

  2. Oh how utterly fascinating. And your pictures are amazing.

    I want to see. I want to see.

    Gotta find a pond near me.


  3. Sybil,
    It's nice to know you enjoy the photos. I have been struggling to get good ones with my old Pentax K100, especially getting the wider angle pics to focus. In a week or so I'll be using a new Nikon, and I expect it will be easier to get good pictures.
    Hope you find a good pond. The jelly dance is about over down here.