Friday, March 9, 2012

Yellow-Spotted Salamander's Night At The Pool

   Wow! Last night was "Salamander night"!  

   Here in north-central Pennsylvania it was the first (this spring) warm, rainy night after a stretch of mild weather. Since that's what brings the Yellow-spotted Salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum) out of the woods seeking the vernal pools in order to mate, we went out "salamandering".  Yes, we found the salamanders in a frenzy of activity at the vernal pool.  The salamanders were also out in force crossing the roads as they migrated from the forested mountains down to the pools.
Yellow-spotted Salamander crossing a road
Yellow-spotted Salamander crossing a road
   Here in this photo I can see three of the Yellow -spotted Salamanders.  The boys are "measuring" one of them.  Another one is to the right near the youngest boy's foot.  The other salamander is way back in the brightest glare of the car's headlight reflection on the road.
Salamander night

   Yellow-spotted Salamanders weren't the only amphibians out crossing the roads during this rain storm.

 We saw many frogs and some other kinds of salamanders as well.  Oh, the carnage on the busy paved roads.  The squashed salamanders on the dirt road was bad enough.
 Anyway, here is a picture of a Yellow-spotted Salamander.
Yellow-spotted Salamander - Ambystoma maculatum
Yellow-spotted Salamander - Ambystoma maculatum
   Aren't they cute?  The rows of yellow spots contrast nicely with the salamander's black body.  These salamander grow fairly large... many of the ones we saw probably measured about 7 inches long.
   All this road crossing and crawling about is for the purpose of getting the salamander's eggs fertilized and deposited in the temporary pools. The benefit of having their larvae hatch in a temporary pool, is because the pools will dry up in the summer = no fish and therefore less predators.

The next photos show some of the incredible gathering of Yellow-spotted salamanders in the vernal pool.

A group of these salamanders is called a congress. What a sight!
Yellow-spotted Salamander mating congress in a vernal pool
Yellow-spotted Salamander - Ambystoma maculatum - mating in a vernal pool
   Last night, when I took these pictures, there were, perhaps, a hundred spotted salamanders in this small vernal pool.  Tonight I looked again at the vernal pool.... not one salamander was visible.  Last night really was "Salamander Night".
  Soon the salamander egg masses will show up in the pool.  In the photo below, a female salamander is plump with eggs.
A female Yellow-spotted Salamander - Ambystoma maculatum
Here is a photo of a mass of Yellow-spotted Salamander eggs.  Unbelievable, eh?
Yellow-spotted Salamander eggs
How does the salamander lay all those eggs?  ...see my post on salamander egg masses.

These spotted salamanders are really cool-looking.  Even more amazing are the salamander's larvae as they gaze out of their green eggs...they have truly "gone green"... see my post from last spring about the
Salamander's green egg
solar powered salamander eggs and my other post about the eggs' algal symbiont, Oophila amblystomatis.
Yellow-spotted Salamander
Yellow-spotted Salamander - Ambystoma maculatum
These amazing salamanders had their night at the pool last night.... I'm thrilled to have again witnessed that event.
Just think; soon all those hundreds of salamanders will disappear into the woods for another year.
Meanwhile, back at the quiet pool, some fascinating things will still be happening with the salamander's eggs.  (see the links above )


  1. Dana, I feel like we've come full circle from that amazing post last year of your son holding the salamander egg mass. That post prompted my chum and I to go out in search of similar pools in our area. Sadly our search was not successful, but we had a lot of fun looking.

    They sure do make salamanders big in your area. Here we have blue spotted and red striped ones that maybe go up to two or three inches long ....

  2. Great photos. I didn't know if was possible to see a group like that in a vernal pool.

    1. Thanks!
      Yes, it's quite a sight to see all those salamanders in a vernal pool. I wish I would have gone a few yards farther that night... to another small pool where, a few days later, I found evidence that many more salamanders had been there.