Marbled Salamander [Ambystoma opacum] 2
Picture taken on April 30th 2018 showing 28 week old Marbled Salamander [Ambystoma opacum] larvae having hatched the previous fall with Spotted Salamander [Ambystoma maculatum] eggs,showing embryos inside the eggs [If you look closely you see the gills, balancers and eyes on of some the larvae].I always felt that these were some of the finest pictures that I was fortunate enough to take.In the sense that it gives a prospective on growth and the advantages of hatching the previous fall vs in the spring.Not that hatching in the fall is a guarantee for success.The winters can be excessively harsh and vernal pools can freeze solid to the bottom,killing all the Marbled larvae for that year.Hatching in the spring means they don't [the Spotted larvae] have to deal with all the hardships of winter.But the Marbled larvae that do survive the winter have a big head start in growth and size,evident in the pictures,Marbled larvae even feeding on the eggs and later the larvae of the Spotted.The pictures also show the different strategies two different Ambystoma species have for ensuring their survival.
A nice group of 32 week old A.opacum larvae.Pa.6-26-20
32 week old Marbled [A.opacum] larva with a 6 week old Spotted [A.maculatum] larva.Pa.6-26-20.It won't take the Spotted larva nearly as long to reach the same size due in part to not over wintering like the Marbled has,over the winter and under the ice growth rate slows.But by hatching last fall and over wintering has given the Marbled lava a decided advantage in its survival strategy,by not only getting a head start on the other vernal pool competition [Spotted Salamanders for one] but also by being in the vernal pools already in spring,can feed on not only Spotted salamander eggs masses but also the Spotted larvae like this small larva pictured above.Like everything else in nature life can be hard even in a vernal pool but every creature has a strategy for survival but unfortunately not all are able to survive the challenges and make it.
Again same beautiful 32 week old A.opacum larva as seen in the previous two pictures.Showing the usual white spots on the side are a more solid line [this occurs to most all Ambystoma opacum larvae as metamorphosis is reaching the final stages] and please notice the large white spot in front of the forelimb,and the almost solid white under the forelimbs vs the back forelimbs has a more usual blotchy appearance underneath.Pa.6-26-20
Same 32 week old A.opacum larva as seen below showing the wonderful speckled pattern on its head.And notice the white spot before its forelimb continues along the forelimb ending in a white patch.Pa.6-26-20
This A.opacum larva at 32 weeks old has all but lost its gills.Notice the unusual markings on its tail,and the usual distinct spots on its side have blended to make one almost solid line.Also has one large white spot in front of its forelimb. Pa.6-26-20
This is the same A.Opacum larva as shown earlier,showing the regeneration of it's left toes.Pa.6-26-20
32 week old A.opacum larvae,notice the larva on the right has lost it's left hind limb and it is now in the process of regenerating,even the toes are starting to grow back,amazing!Pa.6-26-20
At 32 weeks old this Ambystoma opacum larva is almost ready to leave the vernal pool as a juvenile salamander,notice it's gills are all but gone.Pa.6-26-20
These are four 32 week old Ambystoma opacum larvae,three of which have all but lost their gills as metamorphosis to land is really starting to accelerate.Pictured with a Wood frog tadpole [Lithobates sylvaticus].Pa.6-26-20
At 32 weeks old this beautiful light colored Ambystoma opacum larva still has its gills.Found in a vernal pool where most of the larvae have all but lost their gills as metamorphosis is all but complete and soon they will be leaving their watery home of the last 8 months to a life on land.Pa.6-26-20
These are three different Ambystoma embryos developing inside their eggs.First is a Jefferson,from left to right,[Ambystoma jeffersonianum].The second is Spotted [Ambystoma maculatum].The third is Marbled [Ambystoma opacum].Spotted and Jefferson lay their eggs in late winter and spring in water in eggs masses,whereas Marbled lay their eggs in fall on land in nests.Notice the algae inside the eggs of the Jefferson and Spotted.The following is from Valerie Ross "Spotted Salamanders embryos,a recent study found,have algae living inside their cells.While scientists have long known that the two species are symbiotic,each helping the other to survive,new findings show that the arrangement is more intimate than previously thought.It is the first such organism-within cell partnership-known as endosymbiosis-ever observed in vertebrates."! have also now read that the they are finding the algae living inside the adult Spotted salamanders cells as well!I think this is all very exciting,two organisms growing and living together as one,and depending on each other to survive.I have observed for many years and at different locations algae also inside the eggs of Jefferson's,as seen in the first picture.I have not read or heard of this symbiotic relationship happening in Jefferson Salamanders,but from my own observation believe it to be occurring in Jefferson's as well.
Two beautiful 30 week old Marbled Salamander larvae [Ambystoma opacum].Pa.6-10-20.They seem well fed and in great shape,soon ready [in the next few weeks] to metamorphosis and leave their watery home and a life on land as juvenile salamanders,never to return to the water again.
I see this every spring Ambystoma opacum larvae of different sizes all hatched last fall,in the same vernal pool.Pa.6-10-20.I have often wonder as to why there could be such a difference in growth.It seems that some larvae are more aggressive when it comes to stalking,finding and eating food,which does include each other.
Ambystoma opacum larvae,looking right at you!Pa.6-10-20
A very dark Ambystoma opacum larva,pictured above and below.Pa.6-10-20.Even looking like the ends of its limbs were dipped in ink.Notice too the unusual broken spot pattern.
Three Ambystoma larvae species.Top,maculatum [Spotted].Middle,jeffersonianum [Jefferson].Bottom,opacum [Marbled].Pa.6-4-20
A unusual silver sided [light colored] Ambystoma opacum larva with a Wood Frog tadpole [Lithobates sylvaticus].Pa.6-1-20
After many years of trying to get all three Ambystoma species of larvae [the three in our area,Pa.] in my photographic tank,I was finally rewarded last week.It was very exciting!I only know of two places that have all three,and it finally all came together.Top is maculatum [Spotted],about 4 weeks old,notice the line or strip from the eye to the nose,only seen at this earlier age.Middle opacum [Marbled],hatched last fall and is approximately 32 weeks old.Notice the grey,pigmented chin,only marbled larvae have this.Also notice metamorphosis to land is starting to be seen as the larva is losing it's aquatic tail and starting to take on the shape it will have for the rest of its life.Bottom is jeffersonianum [Jefferson],at 8 weeks old.At this age Jefferson are by far the heaviest of all larvae and again at this age they are thicker and more rounded and also notice the long fore toes a sure sign of Jefferson [In time the rear toes will be just as long].They also have a more aqua color appearance than either the Marbled or Spotted.They also have a more distinct line that separates the white of its belly and the coloring on their sides,found above their row of faint spots.Marbled always have the brighter row of spots followed by the Spotted and then by the Jefferson,which can be very faint.The reason the Jefferson and the Marbled are so close to the same size even though the age difference is so great is partly due to the fact that the Marbled larva body is changing due to metamorphosis and will be leaving the water to a life on land within the next few weeks,as stated before in the tail and also the body gets thinner as do all larvae at that time [metamorphosis].Marbled and Spotted larvae can be very hard to tell apart,but Marbled are almost always darker and as stated earlier have that grey,pigmented chin,whereas Spotteds do not.Anoth good way to tell is the time of year.Marbled having hatched the previous fall are always larger.Keep in mind that Spotted larvae on rare instances will over winter and metamorphosis the following year.Again look for the grey chin of Marbled,Spotted larvae will have a clean,white chin.Pa.6-4-20
Unusual silver sided Ambystoma opacum larva.This larva is 28 weeks old having hatched last November 2019.At 2 inches long metamorphosis to land is not too far off,perhaps another month.Please notice the silver spots on its tail,what a beautiful sight my first time back at a vernal pool.Pa.6-1-20
Yesterday was a wonderful and a big day for me,as it was the first time for me visiting a vernal pool and seeing Marbled salamander larvae since before my surgery in February.It was very emotional for me,as there were times I thought this day would never come.But it would not have been possible,if it were not for friend Kristin.Thank you Kristin for all your help,patience and kindness,but mostly your friendship.She helped me in every way even helping me getting into my waders and tieing wading shoes.When I told her I would like to sit down,the next thing I know she put me down into her lap and slid me down her legs till I was on the ground!We had a great day and we saw so many wonderful things,including hundreds of larvae,on a beautiful and unforgettable day!Pa.6-1-20
A beautiful 28 week old Marbled Salamander larva [Ambystoma opacum].Pa.6-1-20
A female Fairy Shrimp [Eubranchipus ?].Pa.2-3-20.Please notice her developing eggs in her brood pouch.
The beautiful Fairy Shrimp [Anostraca branchiopoda].A female [you can tell by the white tail],Fairy shrimp are a food source for salamander larvae.Pa.1-29-20
The beautiful Fairy Shrimp [Anostraca branchiopoda].With Ambystoma larva.Fairy shrimp are a food source for salamander larvae.Pa.1-29-20
Ambystoma opacum larva with the beautiful Fairy shrimp [Anostraca branchiopoda].Pa.1-29-20.Fairy shrimp are a food source for salamander larvae.Although this one seems a little full right now!
Caddisfly larva with home made of strips of grass,in vernal pool full of Ambystoma opacum larvae.Pa.1-12-20].I have seen bigger versions of insect larva [green sedge Caddisfly] catching and eating Ambystoma larvae,eating it while still very much alive [pictures below],I know it's nature but it was a terrible thing to witness.
A comparison picture of two beautiful leucistic Ambystoma larvae that I was fortunate to find in 2018 and 2019 respectively.Jefferson [Ambystoma jeffersonianum] top picture and Marbled [Ambystoma opacum] bottom picture."Leucism is a condition in which there is partial loss of pigmentation of the skin,hair,scales or cuticle,but not the eyes."Please notice the beautiful "gold dust" coloration in the gills of the Marbled larva.Also please notice that right hind toes of the Jefferson larva are in the process of regenerating after being lost-most likely another from another larva
First larvae of the new year.10 week old Ambystoma opacum larvae,notice the larva on the right and in close up pictures below has white strips at the forelimb area instead of the usual spots.Pa.1-12-20 [hatched 1st week of November 2019]
A ten week old A.opacum larva,that hatched the first week of November 2019,that still has a balancer on the left side of its head.Pa.1-12-20
Sunnylite illuminating those brilliant white spots on the side of a 10 week old A.opacum larva.