Sign of spring

Researchers who study vernal pools say the signs of spring are clear: the spotted salamander and wood frogs are on the march back to their ancestral homes.

Vernal pools are seasonal bodies of water that appear during the spring. These pools serve as critical breeding habitat for amphibians and insect species. The MetroWest Daily News features a story about naturalists’ anticipation that the vernal pool season is about to begin with annual mass migration of animals from hibernation to the vernal pools in which they were born.

Wheaton faculty members and students have been engaged for a number of years in studying vernal pools, many in the woods that ring the college campus. As a result, professors in the biology department have established some expertise in recognizing when the annual migration will begin.

“I suspect we may get animals coming if it rains (Wednesday night), definitely wood frogs if not salamanders,” said Kathy Morgan, a professor of comparative psychology at Wheaton College in Norton who specializes in animal behavior. Morgan is part of a group that studies a vernal pool on campus and catalogs individual salamanders that return each year.

Morgan said her group has documented 329 individual salamanders since 1996, each identified by the unique pattern of spots on their backs.

“I always get a big kick out of it when I can identify someone as a previous year’s capture,” Morgan said. All salamanders caught near the vernal pool are released immediately after identification.

Source: Metrowest Daily News