Sunday, May 12, 2019

Salamanders in the Drain

My house in Southern Ohio sits atop a small cellar that was part of an old farm house constructed in 1875.  A drain pipe runs from the cellar to a point near a seasonal pond in front of the house.  During the wet season, a seasonal spring emerges from the brick in one corner of the cellar and flows across the floor to the drain.  For some reason, beginning just a couple of years ago, salamanders have been coming up the drain and making themselves at home in the cellar.  Here are a few species that wandered in this past winter and spring.

Jefferson Salamander – This species is the first to arrive at the pond during the breeding season.  They sometimes lay their eggs as early as December.

Streamside Salamander – This uncommon salamander is almost identical in appearance to the Smallmouth Salamander.  The main difference between the two species is in the location and method of laying eggs.  Smallmouth Salamanders breed in still pools and deposit multiple eggs in a jelly-like mass.  Streamside Salamanders breed in small headwater streams or pools and deposit their eggs singly, but in close proximity so as to form a grouping of several eggs, beneath rocks, logs, leaves or other flat bottomed debris. Streamside Salamanders begin their breeding activities very soon after the Jeffersons.

Red-Spotted Newt – Adults of this species are typically found in permanent bodies of water, but they are also able to survive in seasonal pools that are dry during the summer and early fall.

Southern Two-Lined Salamander – I don’t normally find this species far from rocky creeks.  The instinct to disperse is present to some degree in all animals.  When conditions are right, the animal just takes off and travels.  Some die and some colonize new areas.  This individual may have been in dispersal mode.

Marbled Salamander – This species lays its eggs in the fall in locations that will contain water when the end of year rains begin.  Once inundated, the eggs hatch.  Adults commonly wander during late winter and spring rains.  I’ve lived here for 34 years, but it was just two years ago that I saw my first Marbled Salamander.  That individual was found in my cellar.  Even though I’ve seen this species each year since, all individuals have been found in my cellar.  I’ve yet to encounter one outdoors.

On warm days, I gather up the visitors and release them outdoors.  There is an old brush pile just upstream of the pond that seems to me to be an ideal release point.