Vernal Pool

I’m 52 years old, and I still like to go mucking around in the ponds.  I guess all those years of singing I Won’t Grow Up at Girl Scout Camp, then later in the show Peter Pan caused a self-fulfilling prophecy…  Anyway, I just can’t resist going to the ponds in spring…

A bunch of us went out with Dr. Tom Erlandson to visit several ponds at the Erlandson Overlook Park (named in his honor).  Seems none of us can grow up, eh?

Tom Erlandson and Group

At the first pond, we came across huge egg masses that were hatching.  From the edge of the pond, the masses looked like Wood Frog eggs.  We scooped some into a pan to observe.

Salamander (?) Larvae and Caddisfly Larvae

The amphibian larvae were only about the size of a hemlock needle.  (Do you also see the Caddisfly Larvae in the middle of the egg mass?)  So, we went on blithely telling people that these are Wood Frog Eggs and the little guys are Wood Frog tadpoles…

But then, we looked more closely…

Mystery Larva

The gills are on the outside of the little guy’s head… But are they feathery enough to make it a salamander larva, rather than a tadpole?  Still not sure…  Here’s a little 30-second video in which my friend Mike encourages the little critters to swim for us:

So, what do you think?  Wood Frogs?  Or Salamanders?

6 thoughts on “Vernal Pool

  1. Wood frog tadpoles do have visible gills on the outside at the time of hatching–I observed this last year, and it really threw me for a loop!
    In a day or so, they are absorbed or enclosed in some way, yielding that smooth-headed tadpole we expect.
    The fact that these are so green (algal growth within masses) and freely floating near surface leads me to say wood frog, too. The salamander masses I’ve seen have a denser feel–as if they’re encased more like a sausage, tend to be sinkers, rather than floaters, and are attached to vegetation.
    Disclaimer–of course, I could be wrong.

  2. Great post! I love mucking around and have a great pair of chest waders to prove it!

    So great seeing the little creatures forming. The spring peepers are glorious and we have our first daffodil.

  3. You know, the proportions and shape of that little guy seem more like a salamander larva the more I look at it, wider head, more tapered than oval body–and I obviously seem to keep coming back around and around!
    But the behavior of the egg masses remind me still of wood frog’s.
    So, my final thought is this:
    Wood frogs egg masses, maybe Jefferson’s larvae swimming within the separating masses–our spotteds haven’t hatched yet, and I’d guess yours to be a bit behind ours, further north.
    Typically, Jefferson’s egg masses are smaller relative to wood frogs’ and Spotted salamanders’. I’d not expect to find that large a clump of Jefferson’s, but he may have hatched a week or so ago, and is out feeding on little invertebrates wherever he can find them–in the disintegrating masses of frogs’ eggs?

  4. I think I’m leaning that way, too… Earlier in the year, Sarah and I saw Jefferson/Blue-spotted eggs before anything else… So maybe we were seeing a few of those larvae in amongst the Wood Frog eggs…

  5. I still am not sure… the wood frogs at my house laid eggs in March, in fact they were done calling by the time the spotteds moved over Easter weekend. There were already spotted eggs in the pools that night. The algae grows in the sally eggs too, and in this photo ( can see the collapsed eggs within a greater gel mass…leading me to think sallies as opposed to frogs…but I’m sure there are some of both. Speculation on so many levels…! Totally cool in any case.

  6. OK, after looking at my pics from last year, they’re wood frogs. Great though! I’m too young to be forgetting things from one year to the next…sheesh.

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