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CRITTER SPOTLIGHT: Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum

Happy Sunday Watershed Explorers,


Mrs. Morissette loves all amphibians, but I do have several favorites. One of those is the spotted salamander scientifically known as Ambystoma maculatum. This fairly large salamander holds a sweet spot in my heart. They are absolutely beautiful and if you are lucky enough to ever find and hold one, their little eyes blinking up at you is just priceless.


On April 12th, my family and I were doing some extensive yard work and upon raking leaves out of one of our mulch beds, Mr. Morissette (who knows that I love these little beauties) turned to me and said, "Guess what I just uncovered?" Sure enough, it was an amazing specimen of the spotted salamander. I do become like a kid in a candy store upon seeing critters this magnificent. After my girls took their turn holding it with the garden gloves on, we placed the precious creature in a bucket for photos and returned it to the mulch in our front yard. Here it is pictured below! I have to admit that I would have loved to have kept it as a pet, but I know all too well that these critters require great care and they are important to the environment, so sadly, but respectfully, we set it free.

Here are some details about the spotted salamander. I have decided to break it up into categories which I will use for future critter spotlights.


Habitat:

Adult spotted salamanders are found in forests abutting rivers. They spend their time in leaf litter, under fallen logs or dead wood, and sometimes they will even create burrows in the ground.

Spotted salamanders lay their eggs in temporary pools otherwise known as vernal pools. Due to the nature of these pools, they are not suitable for fish and therefore are very safe for spotted salamander eggs. Larvae hatch from eggs and remain there for about 2-4 months before reaching the juvenile stage.


Diet:

Adults use a sticky tongue to catch prey. They eat worms, snails, slugs, millipedes, centipedes, spiders, and other insects. Sometimes they will even eat smaller salamanders.

Larvae are very aggressive and will eat small insects and crustaceans. As they get bigger, they will eat larger prey such as frog tadpoles and even other salamander larvae.


Watershed Role:

Spotted salamanders like other amphibians, help to control insect populations. Even though they are still pretty common, populations have decreased due to habitat destruction. Spotted salamanders need vernal pools for breeding and if these pools are destroyed they don't have safe places to lay their eggs, therefore decreasing the chances for survival.


I hope you enjoyed this week's critter spotlight. If there is a critter that you would like to see in a future spotlight, please email me!


I want to leave you with one more picture. I decorated a toilet seat that I was going to share with all of you. Here is the inside cover, look whose there!!!

I hope you have a great day scientists and please stay tuned for this week's honoring Earth Day posts.


Much love,

Mrs. Morissette

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