Celebrating the Year of the Salamander, Part IV

November 14, 2014   |   Brett Amy Thelen
A gorgeous spotted salamander rests on leaf litter. (photo © John Clare)

2014 is the Year of the Salamander

Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC) — a national coalition of biologists, land managers, and individuals dedicated to the conservation of amphibians, reptiles, and their habitats — has designated 2014 as the Year of the Salamander, a time to illuminate, educate, and celebrate all things salamander. In salute, here’s one last story from the Harris Center’s salamander files.

Salamanders are One of a Kind

A volunteer uses a smartphone to photograph a salamander's spot pattern. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)

Salamanders can’t go anywhere without being hounded by paparazzi. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)

In addition to their stop-you-in-your-tracks-and-then-tell-everyone-you-know-about-it charisma (see Celebrating the Year of the Salamander: Part II), spotted salamanders are one of a kind: that is, each individual adult spotted salamander has its own unique spot pattern.

This past spring, we piloted a project to photograph the spot patterns of spotted salamanders encountered at the North Lincoln Street amphibian road crossing in Keene, and we were able to identify five individual salamanders on their migrations both to and from their breeding wetland. This new, minimally invasive “mark-recapture” technique could potentially provide meaningful information on year-to-year survival of spotted salamanders that must cross roads to reach their breeding pools. In the words of one of our Salamander Brigade volunteers, it’s also way cool.