Why Did the Salamander Cross the Road?

5:51 PM

It's that time of the year again...well actually most likely it has already past. It's the time of year when our tailed amphibian friends, salamanders, wake up from a long winter and begin their quest to mate and lay eggs. Further south this process beings earlier; but here in Ontario in early April just after the snow has melted and the rains begin, the salamanders emerge. Rainy nights in early April provide your best chance of seeing these amphibians near small ponds or still water. And while they don't announce their presence vocally, as the Spring Peepers do, they are often found in the same pools that the early frogs call from. Salamanders favor vernal pools for laying their eggs. Females attach the eggs to debris in the pools such as sticks or plants, while the male fertilizes them as they are laid. Vernal pools are small bodies of water that vary in size and depth. The key characteristic of vernal pools is that they are temporary and dry up by the middle of summer (for more information on vernal pools visit the Ontario Vernal Pool Association's website).

I should clarify that not all salamanders lay their eggs in water. Some species lay their eggs on land and guard them while the eggs develop. For example our Red-Backed Salamanders lay their eggs in naturally occurring cracks and crevices or in rotting logs. I should also clarify that not all salamanders breed this early in the season, some species in Ontario do not breed until May, June or even July. The salamander species I am referring to, which breed in April, are in the genius Ambystoma, the mole salamanders. In Ontario this includes: Yellow-Spotted Salamanders, Jefferson's Salamanders, Blue-Spotted Salamanders and Small-Mouth Salamanders.

During this time of the year, if your out driving on a rainy night watch out for our amphibian friends as they make their way to various breeding locations. They are often seen crossing roads which unfortunately in many cases leads to their untimely death.

Enjoy the below early Spring amphibian photos from this and previous years:

A vernal pool.

This Jefferson's Salamander crosses the road during a rainy
April night in search of a mate and a vernal pool.

This Jefferson's Salamander crosses the road during a rainy
April night in search of a mate and a vernal pool.

A young Yellow-Spotted Salamander.

Blue-Spotted Salamander eggs in a pool.

Eastern Newt, Red Eft stage.

Eastern Newt, Red Eft stage.

Spring Peeper in a vernal pool. This pool was also host to lots of salamander activity, Jefferson's and Yellow-Spotted Salamanders as well as Eastern Newts were all easily spotted.

It's not hard to see where Spring Peeper's get the Latin name Pseudacris crucifer from.
The 'X' or 'cross' marking is easily visible on this one's back.

With one of the loudest sound's in the animal kingdom for its size, this male Spring Peeper
(who is only about 30 mm long) announces his presence to all the ladies nearby. My ears
were ringing after this photo shoot!

Happy Herping!

~ Kristen Martyn

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