The great salamander meander

The Yellow spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) migrates early in the spring. This species is fossorial, meaning it spends most of its time underground.


On the first night of the year with a steady, sustained rain, these amphibians travel from the forest to the river, where they will mate and lay huge piles of mucusy eggs (called “jelly masses”).


On a good year, when it is warm, hundreds can be found migrating. This winter was pretty harsh, however, so fewer were spotted (pun intended).  They return to the same pond via the same route every year.


This salamander is the only known vertebrate to have a photosynthetic symbiosis. Their egg masses contain a symbiotic photosynthetic algae.


“Yeah, I’m awesome.”




Because they are ectothermic, they charge up in your warm hands. I like to think our body heat gives them a little help in their journey.

They are astoundingly cold to the touch…this year they were migrating while there was still ice and snow on the ground. Amazing critters.





The photo makes it look like they stand out but they’re actually incredibly well camouflaged!

We “spotted” six or seven different salamanders. Sometimes there are thousands in this area.



“Mmmm, I like endotherms.”


The fertilization is internal, and they have an elaborate mating ritual. The males lay spermatophores, or packets of sperm, and the females pick up the packets with their vents.


Gravid female


“I’ll migrate up your arm!”

After standing out in the freezing rain until 3 am, I was feeling a little ectothermic myself!  Nonetheless, spring is slowly springing!


9 thoughts on “The great salamander meander

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