Roughly a month after spotted salamanders participate in frenzied courtship dances, deposit spermatophores (males) and take the spermatophores into their bodies (females), the resulting eggs have developed into larvae. These juvenile, gilled salamanders are still contained inside the gelatinous eggs, but the eggs are dissolving fast, and the larvae will soon be swimming free within the vernal pools where the eggs were laid.
Many spotted salamander larvae do not survive this long. Eastern newts, caddisfly larvae, leeches, fly larvae and even turtles feed on the nutritious eggs. Meteorological conditions also contribute to the fate of spotted salamander eggs. Their situation is especially precarious because they develop in vernal pools, which often dry up by summer’s end, thus forcing a rapid metamorphosis for amphibious inhabitants. Hot temperatures can evaporate the water before metamorphosis is completed, and cool temperatures can slow down their development. Inevitably some will survive to adulthood, and the inch-and-a-half to two-inch salamanders (see insert photo), having shed their gills and developed lungs, will adapt to a terrestrial life.
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