Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Pond Breeding Streamside Salamanders Confirmed

Wood Frogs had a brief breeding frenzy just a few days following the salamanders.  In some years the Wood Frogs spend as much as two weeks in the pond.  This year they’ve been active for a night or two and then absent for a couple of nights before returning.  I try to keep twigs and branches away from the shoreline so the frogs and salamanders are forced to deposit their eggs in deeper water, but winter ice storms broke some branches from the shore hugging dogwoods and these ended up getting covered with eggs.  Fluctuating water level can easily leave these eggs hanging in the air.  Part of my daily routine is to check the eggs to see if a rescue operation is in order.

My floating branch, staked out in the deepest part of the pond, successfully attracted the majority of breeding frogs.

The Wood Frog egg masses have effectively camouflaged those of the salamanders.  This branch rises and falls with the water level, so the eggs are safe from desiccation.

A few egg clusters were attached to dead twigs floating in the water.  Those that I’ve found at the edge of the pond have been relocated to the toad pool.

While gathering up some Wood Frog eggs, I noticed this patch of moss that had come loose from the pond bottom.  On the underside of the moss was a collection of eggs that had to have come from a Streamside Salamander.  I want to make it clear that the moss I am referring to is the terrestrial type that established itself in the pond bottom during the dry season.  This is not algae, which many people refer to as pond moss.

Streamside Salamanders, which normally lay their eggs beneath flat creek rocks, have utilized the moss mats as an alternate substrate.  I imagine that the activity of the breeding salamanders detached a large area of the moss mat from the pond bottom and that is the reason so many patches of egg bearing moss are now floating free in the pond.

Embryo development is well underway.  The pond water temperature fluctuates and tends to stay warmer than that in the stream.  I suspect that this accelerates development of the pond reared Streamside Salamanders over that of their creek bound relatives.

There are dozens of moss chunks floating about the pond.  Oxygen produced by the moss causes the mats to float green side up.  Most of those I checked carried a load of eggs beneath.

Eggs could also be seen around the edges of moss mats still maintaining contact with the pond bottom.  I imagine that the bottoms of these mats are also egg laden.  Now I know that the Streamside Salamanders are definitely breeding in the pond.  I’m happy to have this confirmation, but presence of the Streamsides in the pond also makes it less likely that I actually have the look-alike Smallmouth Salamander living at Blue Jay Barrens.


  1. Fascinating! What a great post. Thanks.

  2. Thanks Lois. I've been reading the story of your journey north. I'm assuming that you're already back in Ohio.

  3. I'm marking this for a reference later. Interesting they utilized the moss mats in place of rocks. We were recently looking at newts that supposedly only lay eggs under rocks in fast-moving sections of streams. I wonder if they can adapt during this x-dry CA year.

  4. Hi Katie. If the traditional breeding areas are not accessible, I guess the options are adapt or skip a year.