When walking in the springtime woods you often see small temporary pools of water gathered in woodland depressions. These are called vernal pools. The vernal pools are a necessary part of a salamander life cycle. This time of year, salamanders are looking for love, they don’t have loud calls or squawks to let the ladies know where they are, but they sure can dance! Salamanders dance at night and the best dancers get the girls. The eggs are laid singly or small groups on twigs or sticks at the edge of the pools. In about a month, the young hatch and spend time in the pool searching for small and very small insects. These super small insects help the salamander grow into a larger larval form that can live on the forest floor as the vernal pool dries up. By the end of the summer the salamanders are large enough to eat worms, slugs, beetles, spiders centipedes, mosquitoes and other insects.
Here in Lake Zurich, we have the spotted salamander and the rare blue spotted salamander. The spotted salamander has yellow spots and grows to about 4-7 1/2 inches. The one with the dark black body and pale blue spots, when full grown, is only 4-5 inches. The blue spotted salamander is only found in our area of Illinois. They favorite places to hunt are in small abandoned burrows under logs and leaf litter in oak flat woods, oak woods on marsh edges and moist savannas.
Blue spotted salamanders can lose their tails and re-grow a new one. They will only do this if they feel threatened by predators or as a form of defense. These special small blue spotted salamanders are a species of concern here in their home habitat and throughout the region due to habitat loss and fragmentation. Ancient Oaks Foundation has been busy restoring and creating habitat for these significant bug zappers. Though they are small, these guys are a significant piece of the habitat puzzle. When you spot blue spotted salamanders in a local woodland you know that spot is healthy and biologically diverse.
Have salamanders, have habitat!
Til next time!
AOF Board Member
Mary has worked for McHenry County Conservation District for 16 years and has been a “founding” member of the Village of Lake Zurich’s Tree Commission for 20 years.