Salamander Jelly

I shared an early sign of spring about a month ago when I posted some images of Spotted Salamander spermatophores (Salamander Candy) in a woodland pool near my home. Last week I checked out that pool, and a few others, looking for the next step in the recipe for creating a full-baked Spotted Salamander – the egg masses.

early egg mass

Recently deposited egg mass of a Spotted Salamander (click photos to enlarge)

These jelly-like blobs usually contain 50 to 200+ individual eggs. When first deposited, they are about the size of a golf ball. Over the next few days, the gelatinous mass absorbs water and grows much larger, often almost attaining the size of a somewhat elongate softball.

Spotted Salamander eggs no flash

Early development of embryos from shady woodland pool

Most of the egg masses I saw in the shady woodland pool were still in the “nub” stage – the developing embryos are not yet recognizable as salamander larvae.

Spotted Salamander eggs with flash overhead

Macro shot of egg mass using twin flash

The amount of detail you see depends greatly on the light used to illuminate the egg mass. It will probably take another week or two of warm weather before these hatch.

road side ditch

Roadside ditch containing salamander larvae and eggs

That same day, I traveled to an open roadside site near Jordan Lake where I found salamander eggs in the past during my amphibian workshops for the museum. The site has been altered since I last visited and is smaller now due to some bulldozing nearby.

Spotted Salamander egg mass in net

Egg mass from roadside ditch

To my delight, there are still salamanders hanging on at this site.

egg mass before hatching

These are much further along in their development. They may have been deposited at an earlier date than those from the other location, but since this site receives full sun most of the day, these eggs probably develop faster than those from the shady woodland pool.

egg mass before hatching flash

Egg mass using flash

Again, the angle and type of lighting gives a much different look to the art of the egg mass.

Here are a few close ups of the developing larvae…

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The embryo lengthens after the “bud” stage

early embryos in whale stage

At this stage they remind me of tiny whales or manatees encased in glass bubbles

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You can see a larval form now including the “balancer” under the chin – one of two fleshy appendages the larva has for a few days after hatching that help it maintain position in the water column

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The last stage before hatching. Note the two layers to the egg (all of which is also embedded in a gelatinous matrix with the other eggs). You can also see the symbiotic green algae in the egg layer.

The gelatinous matrix begins to deteriorate right before the larvae start hatching so you get these individual, greenish salamander globes in the water. I think this may be my favorite part of the recipe.

4 thoughts on “Salamander Jelly

  1. Pingback: New Beginnings | Roads End Naturalist

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