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Vernal Pool Obligate Species

3-15-17 vernal pool IMG_4814This is the time of year when vernal pools become a main attraction for certain breeding amphibians and invertebrates. Most of these ephemeral wetlands, due to evaporation and transpiration, dry up during part of the year and therefore cannot support a population of fish. This makes them a highly successful breeding environment for creatures that need water in which to reproduce, for both they and their eggs stand a much better chance of surviving without predatory fish.

Vernal pools attract certain species of amphibians and invertebrates that are completely dependent upon these pools for parts of their life cycle (obligate species). In much of the Northeast these include wood frogs, spotted salamanders, blue-spotted and Jefferson salamanders, marbled salamanders (southern N.E.), eastern spadefoot toads (southern N.E.), vernal fairy shrimp (southern N.E.) and knob-lipped fairy shrimp (northern N.E.). If you discover a woodland body of water that has one or more of these species breeding in it, you have found what is technically referred to as a vernal pool. (Photo insets clockwise:  Wood Frog, upper right; Blue-spotted Salamander by E. Talmage; Spotted Salamander)

The next Naturally Curious post will be on 4/18/17.

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6 responses

  1. Victoria Davis

    I heard some amphibians made their way to the vernal pools during one of our early warm spells and then the cold came back. Just wondering if we lost a lot of amphibians.

    April 13, 2017 at 7:30 am

  2. Kathie Fiveash

    Spring Pools

    These pools that, though in forests, still reflect
    The total sky almost without defect,
    And like the flowers beside them, chill and shiver,
    Will like the flowers beside them soon be gone,
    And yet not out by any brook or river,
    But up by roots to bring dark foliage on.

    The trees that have it in their pent-up buds
    To darken nature and be summer woods –
    Let them think twice before they use their powers
    To blot out and drink up and sweep away
    These flowery waters and these watery flowers
    From snow that melted only yesterday.

    Robert Frost

    April 13, 2017 at 7:42 am

  3. Alice Pratt

    I really love to see all these animals in our yard! Lots of different waters near us, a small pond, swampy area, brooks, so: different kinds of frogs, toads & turtles….spotted, painted & snappers are often around. Have seen 3 Spotted Salamanders…..much fewer Red-backed, than years before. Many encounters with Peepers, hopping around & off my plants! Fortunately been hearing them a lot!

    April 13, 2017 at 8:05 am


    Hi Mary, We have recently moved to Manhester, NH. We have so many of these vernal pools behind our house and in face overflowing brooks too. We are now hearing high pitched sounds at night. Are those peepers which I believe are tiny frogs are could they be like the one you show in the upper right corner of your post? Thanks, Connie

    April 13, 2017 at 10:48 am

    • Hi Connie,
      The high-pitched sounds are coming from spring peepers (the photo is of a wood frog, a much larger species). For such a small frog, peepers have a mighty loud voice – when there are a lot of them they sound like sleigh bells! Wood frogs make a “clacking” call, much like a duck’s quacks, or two stones hit together. I’ve written numerous posts on peepers, one of which can be seen at . They are less than an inch long, and well camouflaged, but if you sit still long enough, they will resume peeping and their inflated vocal sacs will give them away!

      April 19, 2017 at 3:26 pm

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