Rough Year for CTS

Yes, California Tiger Salamander (CTS) larvae were scarce this year. About three weeks ago we seined 13 ponds and found CTS larvae in two of them. In one pond, we netted only one larvae. The other had 40.

We went back to the pond with 40 larvae today and seined 39. They are now much larger, but not showing signs of morphing.

Here’s a couple photos.

pond 26-2 on June 13, 2018 Reaching for a couple larvae DSC_0595

Grabbing for two at once. They’re slippery.

One in the hand - pond 26-2 June 13, 2018 DSC_0590

Here’s one in the hand.

We’ll go back in about three weeks and these guys should be ready to morph and leave the pond.

Amphibian Eggs

Checked a bunch of ponds for amphibian eggs yesterday. Here are some photos of what we found. Check the caption and click on the photos to enlarge.

In addition to frog eggs, we also found newt eggs.

newt eggs DSC_0236[1]

We even found one fresh batch of California Tiger Salamander eggs.

CTS eggs IMG_4769

California tiger salamander eggs. Note the nucleus in this backlit photo.

 

 

 

 

Morphing Tiger Salamanders

It’s the time of year when we seine ponds in search of California Tiger Salamander larvae. We found quite a few last week so I thought this would be a good time to display a few photos of salamanders in different stages of development.

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In this first photo, the larvae is showing signs of leg muscle development and first signs of diminished dorsal fin.

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The dorsal fin on this larvae is further reduced, the leg muscles are improving and some yellow spots are appearing near it’s belly. It’s gills appear to be diminished in size.

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This larvae is further along than the others. Gills are gone, dorsal fin gone and coloration is more like an adult. Assuming they avoid predators, these larvae will leave the pond in the next couple weeks.

 

 

Garter Snake and CTS Larvae

Garter snakes are voracious predators and this is the time of year when they are present at ponds in large numbers.

While touring our ponds with members of the SF Bay Area Chapter of the Wilderness Society, we came upon a garter snake that was in the midst of swallowing a large tiger salamander larvae. It was an impressive sight. The two-foot long snake was working hard to eat a meal that barely fit into his mouth.

When last seen, this garter snake was still swallowing hard.

When last seen, this garter snake was still swallowing hard.

The tiger salamander larvae appeared to be about four and a half inches long and had it’s gills in place.

Another Day at the Ranch

Yesterday was a good day at the ranch.

The day got off on a good note when I spotted a group of tule elk bulls feeding along the side of highway 84. I did you U-turn and snapped a few photos.

Not often does one see tule elk along a major highway.

Not often does one see tule elk along a major highway.

Here they are again.

Here they are again.

Impressive animals.

Arriving about 8 AM, the first item on the agenda was a whipsnake survey. Unfortunately I found only a western fence liizard for my efforts, but did snap a couple more photos.

Basking in the morning sun, every rock had either a meadow lark, horned lark or some other bird on top of it.

Basking in the morning sun, every rock had either a meadow lark, horned lark or some other bird on top of it.

A morning dove perched on the dead limbs of a blue oak.

Morning doves are sleek.

Morning doves are sleek.

It has been a good year for some wildflowers.

The Mariposa lily is a plant that has done well this season.

The mariposa lily is a plant that has done well this season.

We had a crew of eager helpers

We had a crew of eager helpers.

This larvae has almost no dorsal fin, shrinking gills and muscle development in his legs. We expect that he will leave the pond within a few days to a couple weeks.

This larvae has almost no dorsal fin, shrinking gills and muscle development in his legs. We expect that he will leave the pond within a few days to a couple weeks.

On the way home, a bobcat walked across the road in front of me. I snapped a photo before he went out of site. I think I’ve photographed him before.

Took this photo from about 100 yards.

Took this photo from about 100 yards.

Tiger Salamander Larvae Approach Metamorphosis

Here are some of the better photos we’ve taken of California Tiger Salamander larvae this summer.  These larvae are all showing various signs of morphing into terrestrial juvenile CTS. These photos were all taken under the supervision of biologist, Joe DiDonato, who has a state and federal permits for handling CTS.

We began to monitor CTS larvae in May. Initially, our take was larva all under 50 mm in length. Look where they are now.

This larva measured 122 mm in length. It is beginning to develop the some of the adult coloration. It's gills are 16mm, showing signs of shrinkage.

This larva measured 122 mm in length. It is beginning to develop the some of the adult coloration. It’s gills are 16mm, showing signs of recession.

This 141 mm larva is quite large. It is showing coloration changes.

This 141 mm larva is showing coloration changes.

120 mm in length

120 mm in length

 

140 mm length, 17 mm gills and coloration changes.

140 mm length, 17 mm gills and coloration changes.

105 mm long and showing signs of morphing.

105 mm long and showing signs of morphing.

123 mm in length and 166 mm gills.

123 mm in length and 16 mm gills.

124 mm in length with gills down to 3 mm, this is a metamorph that will leave the pond any day.

124 mm in length with gills down to 3 mm, this is a metamorph that will be ready to leave the pond any day.

120 mm in length with 16 mm gills, this larva also has a reduced dorsal fin.

120 mm in length with 16 mm gills, this larva also has a reduced dorsal fin.

These larvae are representative of 42 CTS larvae seined at the proposed Ohlone West Conservation bank on July 24th, 2014.  Yesterday, August 21, our crew seined 27 in similar stages of development, including another larva that was a metamorph ready to leave the pond. We believe that larvae similar to the ones shown have been leaving the pond and moving into the upland on a regular basis over the past few months. However, it is very difficult to validate exactly when they leave. We are continuing to develop ways to pin down the exact time that these larvae leave the pond and move into mammal burrows, primarily those of the California ground squirrel.

Of the five ponds in which we have recorded successful breeding at on various years, three are completely dry at this time and two still have significant water.

This has been a difficult drought year for the CTS, but we are convinced that the diversity of our ponds, including both seasonal and near perennial, has been beneficial to CTS breeding.

CTS Almost Ready to Leave Ponds

It’s time for the California tiger salamander larvae to morph into land dwellers. This past week we finally netted a larvae that had lost it’s gills and taken on the physical characteristics of adult salamanders. This is what we’ve been waiting for so we know the larvae are achieving the physical development necessary to allow them to leave the pond and inhabit the upland.

Here’s the CTS larvae photographed three weeks ago

This larvae was about 125 mm in length - the largest of the day.

This larvae was about 125 mm in length – the largest of the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a CTS metamorph we caught from the same pond last week. Note that the gills are just stubs at his point. (click on photo to enlarge)

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