Spotted salamander breeding season is slowly but surely coming

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It’s been a long, cold, snowy winter, but it seems to finally be leaving us. That means spotted salamanders and other amphibians will be out soon for their annual vernal aquatic nuptial extravaganza. I spent some time out last night and today. The only sign of amphibian life was a very sluggish Jefferson salamander spotted by some other hikers moving over a blanket of snow at the North Chagrin Reservation.

Right now things are still rather wintry at Windhover Pond even after a lot of thawing. So, more warmth and rain is needed to wake things up. Anticipate updates on the potential timing of salamander walks within the next few weeks.

With how severe the winter weather has been for us, there are a few reasons to think it might have been good, or at least benign, for spotted salamanders:

1) A persistent blanket of snow means insulation against severe air temperatures.

2) A persistent blanket of snow also means lots of water (see below), which could create a nice pleasant moist saunter for moving amphibians, or create new or longer lasting breeding vernal pools.

3) Amphibians are ectotherms (cold-blooded), which means the amount of energy they burn is directly proportional to the temperature of their environment. So, while we spend the winter cursing the cold and running up our energy bills, ectotherms benefit by paying lower energy costs than they would during warmer years.

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Still about 6 inches of snow at the pond.

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Lots of snow = lots of water. This photo is taken from outside of the fence looking in. Our drift fence is currently within the perimeter of the pond in some areas.

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About Scott Thomas

I'm a graduate student seeking to contribute to our understanding of how ecology, evolution, and their interplay contribute to the abundance and distribution of animal populations. Since 2011, I have been a part of the Niewiarowski Lab, where I help run a long-term demographic study of an Ohio breeding population of spotted salamanders.
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