Tadpoles and other spring babies of Bolin Creek Trail

This post is a response to John May’s comments in which he said:

I highly doubt the mud pits in the trail are breeding grounds for amphibians when folks are running and biking through said puddles.

We beg to differ and offer photos. Here is a picture of American Toad tadpoles that I took on the main Bolin Creek trail.

Tadpoles gather in a puddle

Note the exceedingly shallow depth of the water. Amphibians avoid laying eggs in deep creeks because they are predated upon by fish and turtles. Amphibians lay eggs in temporary Spring pools, puddles, and even trash can lids, to avoid predation. Remember also that the swimming ability of a young tadpole is limited. They often rest in very shallow water to avoid drowning. There are no fish in temporary pools, because fish require water for their environment 365 days a year, hence the temporary pool is the ideal location for larval amphibians, who will eventually leave the water.

This second photo shows a mass of Spotted Salamander eggs.

Spotted Salamander Eggs

This photo was also taken on the main Bolin creek trail. These larva will resemble tadpoles, but will have feathery external gills when they hatch. As they develop, the external gills will disappear. The average egg mass holds about 100 eggs, and some Salamanders lay more than one egg mass. Amphibians do indeed use the Main Bolin Creek trail as a breeding site. They also use a nearby vernal pool. It is believed that each generation will return to their birthplace to lay their eggs. It is not in the interest of the wildlife to pave over the breeding sites of our Amphibians.

If the puddles are gone so too will these critters.

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7 Responses to Tadpoles and other spring babies of Bolin Creek Trail

  1. mary sonis says:

    The Salamanders are coming soon! The Spotteds will be gathering to mate in February. On the first rainy night when the temperature goes above 50 degrees, The salamanders converge in what is called a “Congress”. It is quite a sight to see these these beautiful creatures. They are a fossorial species, so we only get to see them for about two weeks every year. Listen for the sound of the Chorus frogs..they will lead you to the vernal ponds where the Salamanders breed..and they only come out in the night!

  2. Carol de Poix says:

    I see the tadpoles every year in the big puddles on the trail. It’s quite a sight, awe-inspiring, really. Nature rules!

    Mary, any chance of a small, guided tour to see the Salamanders on the first rainy night in February when it goes above 50 degrees?

  3. Mary,
    What amazing documentation of this unique area in our community!
    We must be good stewards of this resource.
    Thank you for contributing to our understanding. I hope that we will learn the right lessons which seems to be “less is more” in this fragile area.

  4. Susan Lyon Stone says:

    There was a PhD student at UNC who observed the spotted salamander embryos and larvae in the vernal pools along Bolin Creek as part of her research. Her name is Sarah Stenhouse and her dissertation should be in the Wilson Library. She got her PhD around 1985. She conducted her research before the sewer easement was put in. I’m glad to know that some salamanders are still breeding there. They breed in the pathways in Duke Forest every year that there’s rain.

    • mary sonis says:

      I read some of her dissertation. Interesting study about the way Spotted and Marbled Salamanders coexist. A lot about who eats who. I have always thought that the Marbleds have a real head start by breeding early…but I always find far more Spotted Larvae…and of course the Marbled don’t gather in such large numbers at one exact time. Thank you for the information on the study!

      • Debbie Nichols says:

        I have had tadpoles in puddles in my back yard. It doesn’t take an unpaved forest for tadpoles to exist.

  5. mary sonis says:

    Thank you very much…we love all our tadpoles and wildlife here at the creek..this morning , I woke up and the Great Horned Owl was getting what for from the local crows…always something going on here!

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