Yesterday, I added a new species to the Blue Jay Barrens salamander list. Marbled Salamander, Ambystoma opacum, is a species that I read about and was fascinated by while I was in the fifth grade. After decades of waiting, this is my first ever wild encounter with this species.
Like other Ambystomas, Marbled Salamanders utilize temporary pools as egg laying sites. The thing that sets this species apart though, is the fact that it breeds in the fall and places eggs in the pool while the site is still dry. Eggs hatch when winter rains fill the pools. This gives the Marbled Salamander larvae a head start and slight advantage over those species that place their eggs in the pool later in the season. Marbled Salamander larvae can sometimes be serious predators of smaller salamander larvae and frog tadpoles.
The black and white coloring of this animal is quite striking. Thick rain clouds cast a decidedly gloomy pall over the forest floor, but this bright little salamander glowed as if carrying an inner light. If the coloration is intended as a type of camouflage, it was certainly falling short of the mark on this day.
It’s certainly exciting to have this species is a local resident. I hope to encounter many more of its kind in the years to come.