Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Mole salamanders’

New Jersey’s Amphibious Amazons

Thursday, March 16th, 2023

by Christine Healy, Wildlife Biologist

I felt confident, after the mild conditions that we experienced in January and much of February, that March would skip the “lion” phase of the well-known adage and come in and out like a lamb. I was clearly incorrect…

In anticipation of the amphibian migration, I thought it would be fun to write about some of the most unique adaptations displayed by three early-breeding vernal pool obligates that we target during our Crossing program. These species require access to temporary wetlands in order to complete their life cycles and are thus at greater risk of motor vehicle collisions than other amphibians that don’t rely on these resources. As I started drafting this, I kept thinking about parallels between the behaviors that I chose for each species and superheroes/villains whose background and abilities relate. And so, I’m kicking off this series with our very own Wonder Woman, the Jefferson Salamander.


Crossed One Off the Bucket List

Wednesday, March 8th, 2023

by Christine Healy, Wildlife Biologist

Every January, once the confetti has settled from the new year’s celebration, I start thinking a lot about amphibians and preparing for their springtime migration. That behavior, however, is not collectively adopted by all of our local frogs and salamanders. Different species have found different ways to adapt to the challenges of a complex lifecycle that relies on environmental factors to inform physiological changes. Wood frogs, as well as spotted and Jefferson salamanders, have conformed to an early spring breeding strategy. Once the ground thaws and snow melt has raised the water level in vernal pools, they are on the move. Since amphibians in temperate climates hibernate (or more correctly, brumate – the “cold-blooded” equivalent), you might think that their appearance in February and March means that they lead the pack. While this seems a reasonable assumption, it’s actually incorrect.

A close up of an adult Eastern tiger salamander

Salamanders: The Renaissance Men and Women of Temperate Ecosystems

Thursday, February 2nd, 2023

by Christine Healy, Wildlife Biologist

According to an old English proverb, good children should be seen and not heard. If that’s the case, salamanders could be thought of as the epitome of obedience- rarely uttering a sound (though some species are capable, including mole salamanders and newts) and often visible only during migration events or chance encounters along hiking trails. Because they don’t command our attention in the way that flashy birds and charismatic mammals do, they may be easily overlooked. Indeed, amphibians are one of the least studied classes of vertebrates- and the most threatened, with 41% currently facing extinction. Though staggering, that statistic is likely quite conservative as almost a quarter of species known to science are considered data deficient by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This is concerning- not only for supporters of the intrinsic value of wildlife- but also from a practical standpoint…

A 1975 study conducted in Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, NH, estimated that an average of 2,950 salamanders of five species (primarily red-backed) occurred across each hectare of the site. Using this figure, they calculated the total weight, or biomass, of salamanders and found it to be roughly equivalent to all small mammals and > 2x that of birds present during peak breeding season. Extremely high densities and biomass place a surprising amount of power and responsibility on the shoulders of these small creatures.