Spotted Salamander introductions at a new recipient site in Atlanta

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Right here in Atlanta, we have huge black-purple salamanders with bright yellow spots — the Spotted Salamander!

Background

Spotted Salamanders are an incredible and secretive species, and even though they live right here in Atlanta, most people have never seen one. We are right in the middle of Spotted Salamander breeding season, so now is your chance!

Spotted Salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum) are an ephemeral wetland breeding amphibian, meaning they breed in seasonal pools (or puddles) that do not hold water (typically) for more than a few months. Most of them (as high as 90%) breed in the same puddle they were born! Unfortunately, there are not many of these puddles left in Atlanta, and we at AF have only been able to find 2 remaining populations inside the 285 perimeter. Spotted Salamanders are incredibly sensitive to habitat alteration and require a suitable ephemeral wetland, as well as upland habitat to persist. If there is a road or other obstruction in between where they live (uplands) and where they breed (ephemeral wetland), then the salamanders will be forced to cross the road or obstruction during their seasonal migrations, and that can be extremely detrimental to them.

Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve

One of the 17 egg masses detected this year at Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve. Notice the surrounding gelatinous matrix around the individual eggs, which can identify these eggs from frog eggs which lack this matrix. (photo by Kevin Blackwell)

If you have been following our work, you may be aware that we have successfully repatriated the species to a third location — the Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve (CSNP) in partnership with the preserve (where they hadn’t been seen in a couple of decades). Working with the board and managers there, we have been able to return the species to the preserve by introducing eggs and larvae from a nearby population, while CSNP partners restored habitat by removing invasive plants. We are measuring our success by the fact that enough of our releases have now reached adulthood, and are returning to the pond to breed. We have found eggs for the past 4 years, including 17 egg masses this year alone!

With the establishment of Spotted Salamanders at Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve, we have increased the known populations of the species from two to three!

You can join us for the 4th annual Salamander Stroll of the preserve on March 15th! Click here to learn more: https://atlantasciencefestival.org/events-2020/107-salamander-stroll/

Anonymous Recipient Site
We have been working with the dedicated people at an anonymous recipient site to introduce a new, and 4th population of Spotted Salamander to the Atlanta landscape. Our partners wish to remain anonymous to protect the new population of Spotted Salamanders from would-be collectors. A few years ago, dedicated land managers at the site began constructing an artificial wetland from an old borrow bit. We consulted with them on its development to insure it would function well for Spotted Salamanders. They also paid special attention to the upland habitat by restoring native plants and removing invasives. Once the pond was ready we began introducing Spotted Salamanders by releasing 30 mid-stage larvae in the pond 2 years ago, and returned this week with small portions of egg masses collected from the first introduction site (Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve).

Portions of Spotted Salamander egg masses were collected for the introduction experiment. You can see here there are eggs in 2 different stages of development, indicating that the Salamanders bred at at least 2 separate rain events at CSNP. (photo by Anonymous)

Mark (Executive Director at AF) and Sarah (Conservation Research Assistant in the AF Bridge Program) preparing to introduce the eggs to the wetland. (photo by Anonymous)

Gently lowering the eggs into the water in the recipient pond. (photo by Anonymous)

For more information and to get involved in our Metro Atlanta Amphibian Monitoring Program, see the program’s website: www.maamp.us

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