Vernal pools are a special type of wetlands feature that supports a range of organisms specially adapted to their changing nature. In a vernal pool, sometimes there is water and sometimes there is not. This makes a perfect habitat for marbled salamanders (Ambystoma opacum) and many other amphibian species.
The marbled salamander lives much of its life underground, out of sight beneath logs, rocks, and forest litter. But during their autumn breeding season, the males and females will migrate to a dry vernal pool (or another dry area near a freshwater source) to mate. The female will lay eggs and stay with them to keep them moist. When the rain comes, the eggs are triggered to hatch. The young marbled salamanders will live in the water in their larval state until they have gone through their metamorphosis and are ready to live on land. This usually takes two–nine months. In addition to vernal pools, the females may also choose to lay their eggs near the banks of a slow-moving stream, a pond, or any other area close to freshwater prone to seasonal flooding.
The eastern United States is the native range of the marbled salamander, from New Hampshire to northern Florida, and west to Texas, Missouri, and Illinois. The Appalachian Mountains of this region are known as a particular hot spot for salamander biodiversity with over 72 species found documented, but the marbled salamander is largely absent from the higher elevations.
Human development of wild lands is responsible for the loss of the suitable habitat for marbled salamander breeding, and this loss continues each year. Marbled salamanders are just one of the life forms that rely on vernal pools and wetlands. The loss and fragmentation of their habitat pose a threat to their continued health and survival on the planet.
Why are vernal pools and other seasonally flooded aquatic areas important in the life cycle of the marbled salamander?
How are species of fungi threatening the survival of salamander species and other amphibians?
What types of predators hunt the marbled salamander, and what special defense mechanisms can it use?
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry biodiversity Noun
all the different kinds of living organisms within a given area.
Encyclopedic Entry: biodiversity fragmentation Noun
breaking up of large habitats into smaller, isolated chunks. Fragmentation is one of the main forms of habitat destruction.
a new or immature insect or other type of invertebrate.
complete change in form and structure from one part of the life cycle to the next, such as caterpillar to pupa, and pupa to butterfly.
species range Noun
native, geographic area in which an organism can be found. Range also refers to the geographic distribution of a particular species.
Encyclopedic Entry: species range vernal pool Noun
ponds or small bodies of water that are dry for at least part of the year, and usually do not have fish. Also called an ephemeral pool.
area of land covered by shallow water or saturated by water.
Encyclopedic Entry: wetland