My hockey buddy Cindy took me on the slow boat home from hockey last night to help save the salamanders. We drove 10 miles an hour, getting out every few yards to help a peeper, wood frog, or spotted salamander cross the road from the woods to the vernal pool in which they're programmed to leave sperm and eggs to meet up. It takes a perfect storm for the migration to occur- the right temperature and a slick road. And it's unfortunate that a speeding truck or car may just squash their attempts at procreation. So that's where the volunteers come to help. People in reflective clothes and boots up to their thighs and head lamps rotating around like lighthouse beams are walking along dirt roads- some with clipboards taking count of how many alive salamanders, peepers and frogs they help with the crossing and how many, unfortunately, died in their attempts.
Cindy told me about how they mate. I couldn't stop thinking about it so today I had her clarify because I wanted to make sure I got all the language correct.
"So the males gently nudge and bump both females and other males (usually males out number females in ponds, so there is competition for the females.) then they deposit their spermatophore on the bottom of the pond. The stimulated female positions her vent over a spermatophore and removes the sperm containing cap. You can find these whitish spermatophores attached to leaves and sticks under water in the breeding ponds following a night of heavy rain in the spring. These are the ones that are left over from the night before that the females did not choose.
Say wha? They dump their sperm at the bottom and then the females just go sit on it? Really?
And then the salamanders make their way back to the woods to burrow under leaves and detritus to hide. Yea, I think I could do that.