A Salamander Surprise
Yesterday (3/9/14), I stopped in at the nature center to walk my dog with my Dad, but not without my binoculars and camera, of course! At one point on the trail, my dad and I hopped down into Wildcat Creek and he lifted up a rock to find an adult mother salamander! She was with her 10-20 eggs that were attached to the underside of the rock! The little salamander embryos were visible inside of the tiny eggs and it was so amazing to see these soon-to-be salamander larvae! The salamander we found was a Southern Two-lined Salamander – Eurycea cirrigera. We felt bad enough for having disturbed her home and eggs, so we did not pick her up. As a result, I got some terrible, but still recognizable shots of the mother, but sadly not of the eggs because we put down the rock as soon as we realized there were eggs on it so as to have the least impact on them. This species likes to inhabit small streams, springs, seeps, swamps and hardwood forests around these water sources. In late winter, the adults migrate to streams, reproduce and the mother stays with her eggs until the hatch. Once hatched, the larvae will remain aquatic for usually one and a half years before becoming an adult. This species feeds on terrestrial (adults) and aquatic (larvae) invertebrates. It serves as prey for a number of animals like other salamanders, mammals, snakes, fish and birds. This species is in a complex with the Blue Ridge Two-lined Salamander – Eurycea wilderae – that lives, as its name suggests, only in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The species only overlap in a thin strip in the northern part of the state, but are not known to hybridize regularly. For me, salamanders are a rare sight around Dunwoody, so it deserves quite a celebration when I find one!