Ask your local candidate a question.

Saturday, May 25, 2024

NOTES FROM THE FALLEN TREE: Despite Their Size and Showy Yellow Spots, the Spotted Salamander is Elusive

Spotted Salamander (Abystoma maculatum)

Next to wood frogs and spring peepers, the other harbinger of spring I keep an eye out for is the spotted salamander. 

Spotted salamanders are a chunky salamander fairly large in size and dark in coloring with yellow spots scattered throughout their body. They are a member of the mole family of salamanders that reside deep underground outside of their breeding season and can be quite elusive. 

A Spotted salamander, rarely seen in the open. Photo by J. Correa-Kruegel

It’s a fun surprise if you can find them under a log during the day, but the best time to search for them are on those warm rainy nights in spring near vernal pools (bodies of water that are temporary) while they are enroute to mate. 

Typically, the male of the species arrives first and lays a tiny white tipi-shaped sperm packet in the water called a spermatophore. Then the female will pick up the spermatophore with her cloacae (an all-purpose reproductive/ defecation organ) and swim to a deeper part of the pool to lay her eggs in a large cluster. 

Photos by J. Correa-Kruegel –

Studies show that there is a symbiotic relationship between the eggs and the algae they are laid upon. The larvae feed upon the algae while inside the egg, then defecate, which feeds nutrients back into the algae. 

Jennifer Correa-Kruegel, Warren County Naturalist
Jennifer Correa-Kruegel, Warren County Naturalist

Jennifer has a Masters in Parks and Resource Management from Slippery Rock University. She worked as a Park Naturalist for Hunterdon County Park System from 2003-2006 and then at the NJSOC full-time from 2006 - 2020, starting as the Program Coordinator and evolving to an Environmental Educator. Jen is a New Jersey native and has lived in Warren County with her family since 2004. She is excited to be offering programs to this community she has grown to love.