Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Streamside Salamander Eggs Hatching

One of the photo opportunities that spent years on my want list has just been removed.  I’ve always wanted to take pictures of Streamside Salamander eggs hanging naturally in the water below the rock to which they were attached.  I’ve taken shots of the eggs on an overturned rock, but in those shots the eggs have lost the buoying properties of water and are all flattened down.  Yesterday, things worked in my favor and I got the shots I wanted.

Streamside Salamanders lay their eggs beneath large, flat rocks that have their under surface below water level.  Each egg is individually attached to the rock.  The rock to which these eggs are attached was moved violently down the creek bed by the flood in early March.  The eggs were probably laid soon after the rock arrived at this site, so I’m estimating these eggs to be about 40 days old. 

They may be clustered tightly together, but each egg is independent of the rest and attached only to the rock.  Flowing creek water moves between the individual eggs to keep each developing larva well supplied with oxygen.

The larvae are moving freely about within their eggs.  Hatching should occur soon.

Here’s the setup I used to photograph the eggs.  That’s a five gallon aquarium supporting the rock.  The salamanders usually use larger rocks, so it’s taken a while to find an egg cluster beneath a rock that was light enough not to crush the aquarium.  I thought I had one earlier in the year, but the flood carried it off before I could get back to take pictures.

The rock and aquarium fit together perfectly.  My only problem was reflection off the glass.  It took practically all of my clothing to make a cover large enough to eliminate reflections. 

Newly hatched larvae are showing up in other parts of the creek.  Most of these are in pools associated with large, immovable slabs of limestone that offer secure egg laying sites.  Eggs beneath those rocks would not have been bothered by the raging flood water.

That rock in the center of the shot supports the eggs.  It will surely be relocated by the next big rain, but it should stay in place long enough for the eggs to hatch.

I hope some of the larvae survive to adulthood.  A school of hungry fish wait in the pool a dozen feet downstream of the eggs.  The standard rule is Fish + Salamander Larvae = Well Fed Fish.


  1. Thanks for these pics. Up until now I realized I've never thought or given much attention to metamorphosis which takes place with Salamanders is the same for frogs and toads. Though I'm sure I've at least seen this in a documentary flim somewhere. At least you've touched my thinking deeper on an specific aspect of Salamander cycling that I may have lightly brushed over in times past.

    Thanks Steve.

  2. Wow! Fantastic Post--very informative.

  3. Hi Kevin. Frogs and toads have always gotten the bulk of the attention with respect to the amphibian life cycle. This is probably because they are much more noticable. Salamander breeding activities are usually carried out at night during inclement weather conditions in secluded locations, so most people never think about them.

    Thanks Marie.