Thursday, July 1, 2010

Marbled Salamander

I was given a suggestion to write an article about a salamander. Not a specific salamander, just one of the 500 different species. So I chose this guy! Marbled Salamanders (Ambystoma opacum) are found throughout the Eastern United States, though you won't spot them too often. They are part of the genus Ambystoma, which is commonly known as the mole salamanders. They are nocturnal and spend most of their time hiding underneath things, hence the name. Marbled Salamanders can be spotted during their breeding season, when they take part in some interesting activities.

Image from Reio
What are these activities? Well, the Marbled Salamander is pretty unique in that it doesn't actually lay its eggs underwater. After the males and females mate in the fall, the males disappear off into the wilderness while the females go and find a suitable location to lay her eggs. This area may be a tree, a ditch, anything... just as long as it will eventually be covered with water. She lays her eggs there and guards over them, also a bit unusual for a salamander. When the rain comes, her eggs become submerged and then hatch. If they don't come... then they remain dormant and hatch during the spring wet season. After hatching the young salamanders grow rapidly, sometimes reaching metamorphosis after only a few months.

The Marbled Salamander is named because of the silvery bands that form patterns on their otherwise black bodies. They have long tails that comprise up to 40% of their body length, and they grow to be about 4inches long as adults. They have big appetites and consume (among other things) insects, worms and snails. Marbled Salamander have quite a few predators of their own, and in some local areas their habitats are being threatened by humans. Overall though, they are listed as being of Least Concern due to their wide range and overall stable population trend.

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