Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Green Salamander and Eggs

It sounds like a bad attempt at a Dr. Seuss rhyme, I'll admit. In reality, it is a really fascinating life cycle for an amazing animal, the Green Salamander, Aneides aeneus. This species is a medium-sized (8–14 cm), dark-bodied salamander with yellowish green, lichen-like speckles across its body. Its body is also somewhat flat to get into tight crevices between rocks. It has square-tipped digits with sticky pads, which aid in climbing. Below is a close-up of the unique toes.

Normally, salamanders are usually found in damp environments, like pond edges, under rocks in creeks, or under logs or rocks in moist areas of the forest. Salamanders can breathe through their skin and the moist conditions facilitate this.

But these salamanders are found in rock crevices, usually of sandstone and sometimes limestone, granite or dolomite. They stay hidden during the day, then come out at night to feed and run around. The rock facings are cool in temperature, but it is not where I would expect a salamander.

The eggs of this salamander are laid by the female in the summer. These amazing eggs are held together by strands of mucus to the roof of a crevice and the female salamander will attend these clusters of clear eggs. The clutch of eggs can range between 10-32.

Normally, most salamanders will lay eggs either in the fall or spring, depending on the species, and the larval stage will hatch out and swim around in a vernal pool. But there are no vernal pools on a cliff. These salamanders will develop completely within the watery egg and hatch out as little microsalamanders, totally developed! Amazing!

These wonderful creatures are on the decline due to habitat loss and collectors. It is State Endangered in Indiana and Ohio. That is one of the reasons I will not post where we found the Green Salamanders. Collecting is a big problem. We are hoping public education and involvement will help this fascinating creature survive and not become extinct.

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