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A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California







Salamander Behavior and Life History -
Reproduction, Eggs, and Young

 









observation link

 
 
Reproduction and Young
 
Aquatic Amplexus and Egg Laying
 
California Newts California Newts California Newts
A big ball of California Newts forms in the breeding pond when a male and female in amplexus are approached by several male newts who want to take the female. Male and female California Newts in amplexus in the breeding pond. The males hold on tight and swim around the pond using their huge tails. One uses the toes on his hind feet to stroke a female, probably to make her receptive to take his spermatophore. Views of a large mass of female California Newts in the breeding pond, as they go about laying and securing their eggs.
Red-bellied Newts Red-bellied Newts Red-bellied Newts
A video of Red-bellied Newts at their breeding creek in the redwood forest in Mendocino County. In this video, Male Red-bellied Newts walking around a creek at the beginning of the breeding season, waiting for females to arrive. This video shows two male Red-bellied Newts trying to steal a female away from a male in amplexus with her, but they do not succeed.
California Newts
Red-bellied Newts
Red-bellied Newts
A congregation of breeding adult California Newts under water with many egg sacs. A mass of breeding Red-bellied Newts.
© Jessica Miller - Livingunderworld.org  
Red-bellied Newts
in amplexus underwater
Northwestern Salamander Rough-skinned Newts
Rough-skinned Newts
Adult male Northwestern Salamander found in a pond with many eggs during the breeding season. Here you can see the swollen vent typical of breeding males. A mating ball of Rough-skinned Newts
© Steven Krause
During the breeding season, adult male Rough-skinned Newts develop nuptial pads on the toes to improve their ability to hold onto females during amplexus. Compare with the toes of a breeding female without these pads.
     
California Newts eggs California Newts California Newts
California Newts and egg sacs in
shallow water at the edge of a pond.
Part of a group of hundreds of adult male California Newts that were observed during their journey to a breeding pond as they slowly crawled up the shallow outflow from the overflowing pond. Their bodies had already undergone the change to live an aquatic existence, with smooth skin and flattened tails for swimming. California Newts in amplexus.
California Newts California Newts California Newts
Female California Newt grasping onto underwater vegetation preparing to lay eggs Female California Newt with egg sacs. Female California Newt laying her eggs underwater and attaching them to vegetation.
California Newts sierra newt northwestern salamander
In this video, female California Newts repeatedly attack and bite at newt egg sacs. Maybe they want to destroy the eggsfor some reason, maybe they are trying to eat them, or maybe there is another explanation. In this video a female Sierra Newt clings to several recently-laid egg masses in a shallow pool in Fresno County. This short video shows a Northwestern Salamander breeding pond during the February breeding season, including several egg masses, and a paedomorph in the water at night.
Sierra Newt Sierra Newt Sierra Newt
Adult Sierra Newts breeding underwater at a shallow edge of the Yuba River in Nevada County in March.
Notice the egg sacks attached to sticks in the background. © Bill Mayer
     
Development of a California Newt Larva
California Newt California Newt California Newt
A recently-hatched aquatic Coast Range Newt larva on the left and the
same Coast Range Newt larva a month later on the right.
The same California Newt larva seen to the left a few weeks later in the process of metamorphosing into its terrestrial phase. (Note the reduced gills, orange coloring, and thinner tail.
  California Newt  
  This is the same juvenile California Newt see above right two weeks later, fully transformed into its terrestrial phase.  
     
Western Long-toed Salamander Western Long-toed Salamander Western Long-toed Salamander
A female Western Long-toed Salamander laying eggs underwater at night in early February, King County, Washington. Eggs on an underwater stick laid by the female Western Long-toed Salamander to the left, soon after she finished. This short video shows two female Western Long-toed Salamanders underwater laying their eggs on submerged sticks at night.. After the first one is finished we see the eggs she left behind. (Same as in the pictures to the right.)
  Western Long-toed Salamander  
  Unlike the much more visible Pacific newts, who breed in full daylight, Western Long-toed Salamanders do their breeding and egg laying at night, and they seem to do it under the cover of leaves on the bottom of the pond. In this video we can see a couple interacting under some leaves in a breeding pond..
 
     
Below is a series of pictures showing the development of the Northwestern Salamander from eggs to aquatic larva to air-breating juveniles. All pictures were taken underwater except for the last one of a metamorphosed juvenile.
     
Northwestern Salamander Northwestern Salamander Northwestern Salamander
Recently-laid eggs inside an egg mass Mature eggs Eggs about to hatch
Northwestern Salamander Northwestern Salamander Northwestern Salamander
Larva right after hatching Maturing larva Larva with newly developed legs
Northwestern Salamander Northwestern Salamander Northwestern Salamander
Mature larva Larva with gills almost completely reduced This larva is already spending some of its time on land.
Fully-metamorphosed juvenile on land.
Terrestrial Salamander Courtship
 
Monterey Ensatinas Monterey Ensatinas Monterey Ensatinas
Adult pair of courting adult Monterey Ensatinas, Santa Barbara County © Spencer Riffle
Monterey Ensatina Monterey Ensatinas
This pair of courting adult Monterey Ensatinas was found on a wet January night in San Diego County.© Jeff Nordland This pair of courting adult Monterey Ensatinas was found on a wet January night in San Diego County.
© Jeff Nordland
Large-blotched Ensatina Large-blotched Ensatina
This pair of courting adult Large-blotched Ensatinas was found on a wet January night in San Diego County. © Jeff Nordland This smaller male adult Large-blotched Ensatina was found only a few feet away from the pair shown to the left and was probably in competition for the female. © Jeff Nordland
     
Salamander Eggs
Eggs of Salamanders that Breed and Lay Eggs in Water

c Salamander eggs that are laid in water have a layer of jelly around the ova. This jelly is to protect them from predators and from the elements since the eggs float exposed in water until they hatch. The young hatch into an aquatic larval form where they develop and grow in the water, breathing through gills, until they are ready to transform into their terrestrial form and breathe through lungs. Occasionally, they do not transform but remain in the water as gilled adults.
 
Western Newt Eggs
 
Rough-skinned Newt
  Rough-skinned Newts  
From March to April at low elevations through summer at higher elevations, the female Rough-skinned Newt lays tiny eggs individually and attaches them to underwater vegetation or debris, then abandons them. © 2004 William Leonard
 
California Newt

In winter and spring the female lays a spherical egg mass about one inch or less in diameter containing from 7 - 47 eggs and attaches them to submerged vegetation, branches, or rocks, then abandons them. Egg masses from many females often occur in clusters.
California Newt Eggs California Newt Eggs California Newt Eggs
Single egg cluster attached
to underwater vegetation
Cluster of eggs attached to
underwater vegetation
Eggs at the shallow edge of a pond
California Newt Eggs California Newt Eggs California Newt Eggs
Eggs at edge of breeding pond Mature Eggs Egg with mature larvae
     
California Newt California Newts California Newt Eggs
Female laying her egg mass underwater Eggs at the shallow edge of a pond
California Newt Eggs California Newt Eggs California Newt Eggs
Eggs, close-up Eggs, close-up Eggs, close-up
     
Red-bellied Newt

From February to May, with a peak in March, the female Red-bellied Newt lays and attaches a flattened egg mass containing about 10 eggs under stones in the middle of a creek or under rocks overhanging the creek, or onto submerged roots, then abandons them. Many egg masses are sometimes found under one stone.
Red-bellied Newts Red-bellied Newt eggs Red-bellied Newt eggs
Adult Red-bellied Newt with a single egg. © Jessica Miller - Livingunderworld.org   Red-bellied Newt Eggs, Sonoma County. © 2008 Arnaud Jamin
From the CalPhotos collection.
 
Sierra Newt

In early Spring the female Sierra Newt lays a spherical egg mass about one inch or less in diameter containing from 7 - 47 eggs to the sides and bottoms of stones and sticks in relatively fast-flowing water, then abandons them. Egg masses are attached just below the surface of the water.
Sierra Newt Sierra Newt eggs Sierra Newt eggs
Adult female underwater with several egg masses, Fresno County.
Sierra Newt eggs Sierra Newt eggs  
Newts with eggs attached to submerged branches in a creek, Fresno County.
© Steven Britton
Egg sacks attached to a rock in a creek, Butte County © Jackson Shedd  
 
Eggs of Ambystomatid Salamanders
 
Northwestern Salamander

The female lays 30 - 270 eggs in masses that are roughly the size of a small grapefruit , and attaches them to underwater shrub branches, grass, or aquatic plants, then abandons them. Eggs are laid between January and April in low-elevation areas, June to August at higher elevations.
Northwestern Salamander Eggs Northwestern Salamander Eggs Northwestern Salamander Eggs
Northwestern Salamander Eggs Northwestern Salamander Eggs Northwestern Salamander Eggs
Close-up of freshly laid eggs Close-up of developing embryos Developing embryo, ready to hatch. The eggs often support the growth of algae inside the inner jelly layer.
Northwestern Salamander Northwestern Salamander Eggs Northwestern Salamander Eggs
Several Northwestern Salamander
egg masses in a pond.
Egg mass, Humboldt County © Spencer Riffle
 
California Tiger Salamander
Eggs are laid individually, attached to stems or other objects underwater, then abandoned.
Egg deposition occurs after the first heavy rains fill the breeding ponds, typically November - January.
CA Tiger Salamander Eggs CA Tiger Salamander Eggs CA Tiger Salamander Eggs
Egg in Contra Costa County breeding pond, © Mark Gary
Left: egg on January18th              
Right: the same egg, January 23rd
Maturing eggs in breeding pond, Contra Costa County © Mark Gary
CA Tiger Salamander Eggs CA Tiger Salamander Eggs CA Tiger Salamander Eggs
Eggs in water, Monterey County
© Shirley Tudor
Maturing eggs in breeding pond, February 6th, Contra Costa County.
Embryos have developed gills, some have hatched. © Mark Gary
Eggs in breeding pond Contra Costa County © Mark Gary
 
Western Long-toed Salamander

In Winter (later at higher elevations) Females lay from 90 - 400 eggs in small masses containing from 1 - 81 eggs in shallow water, attaching them singly or in loose clusters to the undersides of logs and branches, or leaving them unattached on the bottom, then abandons them.
Western Long-toed Salamander eggs Western Long-toed Salamander eggs Western Long-toed Salamander eggs
Western Long-toed Salamander Western Long-toed Salamander eggs Western Long-toed Salamander eggs
This short video shows some Western Long-toed Salamander eggs on submerged sticks. Some of the eggs are temporarily pulled out of the water for a better look. Western Long-toed Salamander eggs with well-developed
embryos close to hatching.
   
Eggs of Salamanders that Breed and Lay Eggs on Land
 
I have very few pictures of the eggs of terrestrial salamanders. Often little is known about the breeding behavior of terrestrial salamander species. It is presumed that the females lay their eggs on land underneath rocks or logs or inside logs where they are not easily discovered. Eggs are usually laid individually and are not surrounded with as much jelly as eggs that are laid in water. Most female salamanders remain with their eggs to protect them from predators. Young hatch from the eggs as miniature versions of adults.
 
Sierra Nevada Ensatina Gregarious Slender Salamanders Arboreal Salamanders
On August 2nd, this adult Sierra Nevada Ensatina was discovered brooding approximately 10 eggs inside a rotting log of a fallen Giant Sequoia.  © Ricky Grubb These Gregarious Slender Salamanders were found underneath ground debris along with some eggs. As their name indicates. this species often forms communial nests, but the females typically leave the site after laying. Male and subadult salamanders will often still be found under the same cover as the eggs. © Duncan Parks Female Arboreal Salamanders lay their eggs in a moist place in late Spring or early Summer, and typically remain with the eggs until they hatch in August and September, shortly before the onset of the Fall rains which allow them to come out of hiding. These eggs were found with several aestivating Arboreal Salamanders in late July under some old redwood planks in a shaded area next to a house in Sonoma County.
     
Ensatinas Brooding Eggs
Ensatinas attending their eggs Ensatinas attending their eggs Ensatinas attending their eggs
On August 3rd, Joe Garcia found these intergrade Ensatinas attending their eggs under a board underneath a house in Monterey County.  You can see here that female Ensatinas stay with their eggs to protect them until they hatch. © Joe Garcia
Ensatinas attending their eggs Ensatinas attending their eggs Ensatinas attending their eggs
On September 19th, Joe returned to the crawl space, looked under the board, and found that most of the eggs of one female had just hatched, with at least 10 hatchlings still next to the eggs. © Joe Garcia
Ensatinas attending their eggs Ensatinas attending their eggs Ensatinas attending their eggs
Two days later, all of the eggs of both females had hatched and the juveniles were still with the females. © Joe Garcia
     
Below is a series of pictures all © Spencer Riffle showing a female Wandering Salamander in Humboldt County brooding her eggs over a period of just over three months, when the eggs hatch and we can see the tiny hatchlings.
Click Here to see a larger view.
Wandering Salamander Wandering Salamander Wandering Salamander
Female with eggs - 7/9 Female with eggs - 7/10 Female with eggs - 7/16
Wandering Salamander Wandering Salamander Wandering Salamander
Female with eggs - 9/2 Female with eggs - 9/2 Female with eggs - 9/25
  Wandering Salamander  
  Female with hatchlings - 10/14  
     

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