Thursday, August 07, 2008

Precious Water!

Many of us take water for granted. We would not have lasted too long in the field yesterday if we did not have an ample supply of water. The creature around us are not any different. They too are stressed by the current drought.

A Squirrel Treefrog (Hyla squirella) made its way into the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest at some point during the week and was unable to find water and possibly food. We put the frog into a plate of water and put it outside on the porch. It only took a few seconds for a very young Carolina Anole (Anolis carolinensis) to make its way from its sheltered position behind the mural to the plate and a share of the life-sustaining water.

A Marbled Salamander (Ambystoma opacum) on the maintenance trail to the barn was not as lucky. It appears that the salamander expired recently as its smell was still attracting flies to the ant-covered carcass. Not only is water crucial to keep adult 3"-5"-long Marbled Salamanders alive, water is what triggers their eggs to hatch. "Ambystoma opacum differs from the other ambystomatids in at least three significant ways. First, it is a fall breeder migrating to Carolina bays in advance of the significant rainfall that is required to fill the bays. Second, females lay their eggs on land (usually under a log or similar cover object), rather than directly in the water. Finally, once the eggs are laid, the female stays to guard the clutch, whereas other Ambystoma in the Southeast lay their eggs and leave. When the bays fill, water inundates the nest and triggers hatching. Females then leave their offspring behind and depart from the bay. This unusual strategy virtually ensures that the young marbled salamanders are the very first salamanders to hatch each year, which may give them a considerable advantage over potential competitors, such as the larvae of other salamander species." (from University of Georgia Savannah River Ecology Laboratory)

Images by Mark Musselman

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