Salamander breeding confirmed

The Elkhorn Slough crew has been working on creating fresh water wetlands in an interesting way. We haven’t had standing water on the surface for four years due to the drought. We embarked on a project to construct ponds and install pond liners to hold water more efficiently. We also devised ways to capture rain water and store it for future use. This particular pond captures water from the roof of a residence and along approximately 200 feet of road. The water is captured through gutters and pipelines and ends up in large storage tanks. The water stored in the tanks is used to sustain the water level in the pond.

The pond liner being installed:

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The completed pond a couple of months later:

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The pond turned out beautifully and we were able to capture water in the December rains that stimulated the surface movement of Tiger Salamanders as documented in an earlier blog post. Those sightings were about a half mile away.

The other night our crew went to sample this and other ponds and made some interesting discoveries. They found both California Tiger Salamander and Santa Cruz Long-toed Salamander larvae. This was exciting news for us, since we have never documented Tiger Salamander breeding on the Reserve and the Santa Cruz Long-toed Salamander hasn’t bred here since 2011. They were both breeding in the same pond, which was pretty interesting.

As many of you know, Barred Salamanders were released in the Salinas Valley many years ago, they bred with our native California Tiger Salamander and their hybrid progeny have expanded their range in the area. We were interested in learning if these animals possessed introduced alleles from Barred Salamanders. Since we are currently conducting California Tiger Salamander workshops this week, it was a good opportunity for the experts to take some samples and get them down to Brad Schaefer’s lab down at UCLA.

This morning we went to the pond and quickly captured several amphibian larvae:

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Here is an example of a Santa Cruz Long-toed Salamander larva. Note the long toes.

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I tried to photograph it in a ziplock bag, which gave me this interesting image:

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Here is an especially healthy California Tiger Salamander larva:

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The crew got to work collecting the tissue samples:

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Each animal was measured:

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A tissue sample was taken from the tip of the tail.

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And then each animal was released.

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The genetics of each sample will be determined we’ll find out if the introduced alleles from the Barred Salamander have reached our area and whether or not we have hybrid Tiger Salamders at the Elkhorn Slough.