Visit a temporary woodland pool on one of the first warm days in early Spring and you are likely to see small white spermatophores dotting the leaves. If you return to the pond in the evening you may be lucky enough to see the organism that left these sperm packets. It is the elusive Spotted Salamander. In late Winter or early Spring these animals migrate from heavily wooded areas to temporary breeding pools. During the rest of the year they are difficult to find as they spend their days under logs and in mammal holes, coming out at night to feed.
Males are the first to arrive at the pools and may stay for up to a month before returning to their wooded retreats. Females often arrive several days after the males. Once there they collect the spermatophores and use them to fertilize their eggs.
The eggs are laid in one large mass or several smaller masses. If sticks are present the egg masses are wrapped around them and several females will contribute to this communal egg mass. Eggs are also deposited on leaves lining the bottom of the pond. The mass shown in the picture on the left is the result of several females using the same stick as well as the leaves on the bottom of the pond. In the picture on the right, the light colored eggs are those of the Spotted Salamander while the darker eggs were laid by a Wood Frog. During their development the eggs are protected by a firm gelatinous matrix that surrounds them. This matrix protects the larvae should the pool temporarily dry down.
|The eggs of the Wood Frog develop much more rapidly than those of the Spotted Salamander. And the young tadpoles can sometimes be seen feeding on the algae that forms on the surface of the salamander egg mass. Note how the developing salamander eggs are just beginning to elongate while the Wood Frog tadpoles have already hatched.|
|It will take approximately 8 weeks for the salamander larvae to hatch. When they first hatch they look nothing
like the adults. They have large filamentous gills used for breathing and lack bright yellow spots of an adult.
The gills will disappear and dark pigment will form as they metamorphose and become land dwelling animals.