Monday, February 27, 2017

Another day, different vernal pools

Upstate New York was blessed by the spring gods this past week with a balmy high nearly reaching the 70s breaking record high temperatures for February. Putting aside my fears and worries of the long lasting effects of climate change, I decided to climb a mountain and visit some different vernal pools for once.

Unfortunately, the pool at the top of the mountain was still iced over and no signs of life were visible. No reward besides the hour of cardio it took to get here. Onto the next.

Luckily this vernal pool is only halfway up the mountain and was free of ice and full of amphibians. Just the usual suspects though, marbled salamanders and eastern newts. The newts were out and about and looking to mate. Males develop large hindlimbs to strongly grasp females behind the neck while using their developed tail fins to assist in wafting pheromones into the females face to get her in the mood. Romantic, no?

You can catch a glimpse of this behavior below.

And a new vernal pool classic: the fairy shrimp. Freshwater cousins to sea monkeys AKA brine shrimp, these crustaceans are true to their name as their wispy, translucent bodies could be described as fairy like. I can't say for sure because I've never seen an actual fairy. I'd say "alien" is probably another fitting descriptor for these animals, between the 11 pairs of undulating legs and the egg sac on the females. Surprisingly they were much flightier than the salamanders, but I guess that's probably because the shrimp could easily end up as a quick meal for them.

Also seen were leeches and water beetles. Soon the frogs, more insects, and even more salamanders will show up with the warming temperatures. Fun fun fun!

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