If you’ve never seen a salamander, explore under logs, rocks, and leaf litter; they’re everywhere. The most common species of salamanders found at the CVEEC are the Redback Salamander (Plethodon cinereus), Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum), Jefferson Salamander (Ambystoma jeffersonianum), Dusky Salamander (Desmognathus fuscus), Two-lined Salamander (Eurycea bislineata), and the Red-spotted Newt (Notophthalmus viridescens).
Each of these species, except the Redback, go through an aquatic larval stage; meaning they spend a portion of their life in the water. These salamander larvae have gills and can live in the water anywhere from a few months to a few years depending on the species.
Once salamanders have morphed into their adult stage, they leave the water and move to the forest. (Except for the Red-spotted Newt, which live in the forest in their juvenile stage and return to the water as an adult). In the forest, salamanders spend most of their time underground hunting for worms, slugs, insects, millipedes, and other delicious snacks.
On warm, damp, spring nights, mature adult salamanders will migrate back to their birth pools to mate. Most salamanders lay their eggs in vernal pools to avoid predation from fish found in larger, more permanent, bodies of water. Hundreds or even thousands of salamanders can migrate from the forest to the pools in a single night!
Unfortunately, at the CVEEC this means hundreds of salamanders are crossing the road by our White Pines Campus. In an effort to protect these salamanders, we’ve posted amphibian crossing signs on the road so that people take extra caution not to run these little guys over.
Many species of salamanders are regenerative meaning they can re-grow body parts that have been damaged. This works as a great defense mechanism against predators. If a predator catches hold of a tail, several species can detach their tail to escape! However, this defense does not hold up against heavy car tires.
If you are out and about driving on a warm, damp, spring night, pay close attention to the road to avoid salamander casualties. Though currently abundant in number, with the reduction of habitat and increase in acid rain, we want to protect the salamanders we have left.
Thanks for your help!
For more information on these salamander species, check out the University of Michigan’s Animal Diversity Web.