Ambystoma maculata, the Spotted Salamander

Adult Spotted Salamander
Adult Spotted Salamander, being all spotty.

It is mid March, and Spotted Salamander,  Ambystoma maculata, eggs are developing . They lay their eggs at the coldest time of the year in vernal or ephemeral pools, a.k.a. big puddles. They will fill an appropriate puddle with egg masses right now, turning the puddle into a bowl of weak and slimy lime jello.

Spotted Salamanders are named for the two rows of intense yellow spots over a black body. These are good sized salamanders, up to 25 cm. They are slightly moist, like most amphibians, and have four toes on the front feet and five on the back. They are carnivorous and fossorial (live underground), so are mostly fighting to worms and isopods and the like but seldom seen. Also they are poisonous, so don’t put them in your mouth. Since these are salamanders, you also have to mention that they have lungs. Lungs are not a given with salamanders.

Ambystoma means “blunt mouth” and maculata means spotted. And they are in the mole salamander family, Ambystomatidae, which is appropriate considering the fossorial bit. So they are well named.

Egg mass
There are 14 embryos in this egg mass found in 2015.

Breeding in ephemeral pools is a good idea if your eggs need water and you can walk. There are lots of little invertebrates to eat in puddles, but no fish, so your young have a fighting chance of survival, fish being quite fond of amphibian eggs. A good puddle is hard to find, what with humans filling them in and all, so the spotteds will walk quite a ways to get to one, over half a mile. And once they have found a good spot, they’ll come back year after year. One single ephemeral pool can contain all this year’s offspring for an entire county. Pretty impressive for a puddle.