Vernal Pools III: Phenology of Spotted Salamander Egg Laying
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Ephemeral ponds serve as predator-free habitat for larvae of several amphibian species that would otherwise be consumed by fish. These temporary pools also contain a variety of crustaceans that provide food for growing salamander larvae. Adult spotted Salamanders (Abystoma maculatum) live underground but undergo mass migration to ephemeral ponds to lay eggs during late winter and early spring. Surveys of these egg-laying events demonstrate that there is a relationship between weather cues and spawning events. We studied the phenology of spotted salamander egg laying in seven vernal pools on the Sewanee domain. We hypothesized that egg masses would be more abundant after a rise in temperature and an increase in precipitation. We also compared egg laying among the seven ponds and with data collected in 2010. We counted the cumulative number of egg masses weekly in all seven ponds for six weeks in late February through the end of March 2011. We found that precipitation events and cooler maximum temperatures occurred before the major spawning events. Total egg mass numbers varied greatly among the seven ponds, with the highest number occurring at the end of Brakefield Road. Egg mass totals from the present season were considerably higher than the totals for 2010. These results demonstrate that there is a relationship between weather patterns and Spotted Salamander spawning events on top of the Plateau, but that the number of egg masses laid varies considerably by pond and year, perhaps due to unstudied factors such as resource abundance.
SubjectScholarship Sewanee 2011; University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee; Undergraduate Research; Spotted salamander eggs; Ephemeral ponds; Salamander larvae
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