What eggs are those?

On a visit to Chapel Hill on March 22 I was astonished at how many spotted salamander eggs/embryos were present in ponds of the area, especially in and near the UNC North Campus site.

If you are not too familiar with spotted salamanders eggs you may not realize that they can present a variety of patterns from clear, to greenish to milky white. The younger egg masses are clear or milky (the latter a variant with tiny crystals of protein in the jelly matrix for some as yet unknown reason). As they age a symbiotic green alga begins to grow inside the embryonic capsules and this is assumed to have a beneficial effect on supplying oxygen to the larvae.

An egg mass of a wood frog (from Grayson County, VA) is shown for comparison- in general they are clear and contain larger numbers of eggs per mass and the individual jelly capsules are more distinct. But they can also get quite greenish as they mature.

Since both of these species avoid ponds with fish they have relatively few places to breed in Grayson County. I think migrating shorebirds such as solitary and spotted sandpipers probably take a considerable toll of the hatched larvae if given an opportunity.

Bill Dunson
Galax, VA