Observation Highlight of the Week: Notophthalmus viridescens viridescens

Observational Highlight #12: Notophthalmus viridescens viridescens (Red-spotted Newt)
Virginia Outdoors Foundation - Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve

© Jonathan Kolby, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC-ND) [left; juvenile red "eft"]; © Michael J. W. Carr, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC) [right; adult]

Happy Thursday everyone!

What a wonderful time to start our delve into the ectothermic, skin-breathing realm of Amphibia at The Preserve! If you haven't ventured out during the cool rains of mid-to-late winter, you might have missed the on-going migration of salamanders and frogs to vernal pools occurring in our area. The marbled salamanders, spotted salamanders, and wood frogs are just a few of the stars of this cold-weather dash to find the best spots for egg-laying. While many may be surprised to learn that such delicate creatures can tolerate the harsh winter weather (even moving over snow and ice!), we will have to discuss them further in coming highlights. This week we will delve into our most commonly observed amphibian species (but definitely not the least interesting) and highlight the observations of the Red-spotted Newt, which comes to us from @jonathan_kolby and @mjwcarr. You might have noticed that the highlight is, for two weeks in a row, is another twofer! However, the two individuals highlighted in this post belong to the same species at different points in their life history.

While being one most commonly observed amphibian on the preserve, the red-spotted newt is also one of the most interesting creatures living in our area. Newts, as they are commonly referred to, represent the Subfamily Pleurodelinae, a branch of the Family Salamandridae which includes true salamanders and newts. Newts exhibit a metamorphose throughout their life history similar to other amphibians like frogs. However, these life stages are a bit mixed up from what we may be familiar with. Per the norm, the red-spotted newt begins its existence hatching from an egg into an aquatic larva. Following this, the red-spotted newt develops into a terrestrial "red eft", or juvenile stage where the bright red, four-legged teen wanders the forest floor with a slightly rough, dry skin. Once maturing (which can take two to three years - Wow!), the red-spotted newt takes a wild turn from the typical route of metamorphosis exhibited in other groups of Amphibia, by returning to the water to again becoming fully aquatic. In this mature "adult" form the red-spotted newt changes from a bright red to a dull olive, while retaining the characteristic red spots.

The amazing life journey of the red-spotted salamander can last as long as 15 years in the wild, so be sure to remember the names of the newt friends you make along the public trails of the preserve - you might come across them again! This impressive life span is also a reason why preserving our natural community resources is so important for our native species. Amphibians, including our highlighted species, are incredibly sensitive to pollution, habitat degradation, and human activities. When utilizing The Preserves trails, please practice Leave No Trace principles and continue environmentally safe and aware practices in our own backyards.

Amphibian species around the world, including here in our own backyard, are facing tremendous pressure from human-induced actions, including climate change and the spread of chytrid fungus (which we will cover more in coming highlights). If you would like to learn more about how you can support the conservation of amphibian species, follow our highlighted observer Jonathan Kolby who is a National Geographic Explorer & Science Communicator currently working to stop the extinction of Amphibians.

ABOUT #BullRunMountainsNaturalPreserve
The Bull Run Mountains are the easternmost mountains in Virginia. Virginia Outdoors Foundation - Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve is approximately 2,350 acres that serve as a living laboratory that sits in the backyard of our nation’s capital. The preserve contains 10 different plant community types and a plethora of regionally uncommon and threatened plant and animal species. In 2002, this land was dedicated by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation as a natural area preserve to protect the unique ecosystems found here. As the owner and manager of the preserve, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation is committed to protecting the special ecosystem found here and sharing it with the public through managed access.

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Our website: VOF RESERVES: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve
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Publicado el marzo 11, 2021 04:33 TARDE por mjwcarr mjwcarr


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