Monday, May 5, 2014

Toad Pool Update

Salamander larvae are developing quickly in the warm waters of the toad pool.  The plump belly on this guy attests to the fact that the pool has no shortage of food items suitable to hungry young salamanders.

Vegetation has filled in nicely around the pool.  Unfortunately, no toads have yet visited.  Depressions in the mud bottom are the result of deer traffic.  Several deer trails intersect here.  Recent rains have recharged the ground water reservoir responsible for keeping the pool full, so there should be no repeat of last year’s disastrous premature water loss. 

Salamander larvae do nothing but eat.  Large heads accommodate large mouths and the salamander will eat anything it can get through its mouth.

External gills on the back of the head will remain until the salamander has developed enough to leave the water and begin a terrestrial existence.  The developing front legs can be seen directly below the gills.  The rear legs are just beginning to emerge.  This individual needs about another four weeks before it ends its larval stage.

Wood Frog tadpoles remain plump and are growing rapidly.  Hind legs will begin to show in another week of so.  It’s likely that the piece missing from this tadpole’s tail was removed by a hungry salamander larva.

Even though they are not predatory, Wood Frog tadpoles also live to eat.  They feed on plankton, algae and decomposing plant and animal matter.  Their feeding activities clean away algae and keep the water clear.  Their waste products feed plankton and algae, so the more they eat, the better conditions are for more food to grow.  This is how masses of tadpoles manage to prosper while crowded together in small puddles.

Some of the largest salamander larvae are a potential threat to the Wood Frog tadpoles.  I usually think of salamander larvae as fragile creatures, but they can be terrors to other aquatic life in the pool.

I saw this salamander trying to swallow something that had been reduced to a pulpy white mass.  It just couldn’t quite get the whole thing in its mouth.  I’m sure that the salamander wasn’t going to give up and whatever the food item was, it eventually went down.

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