Wednesday, April 2, 2008

What's this swimming in my drink?

The Vernal Pool Monitoring Program involves an inspection of the pool and its many inhabitants. There are checklists of the expected findings within specified categories--salamanders, frogs and toads, turtles, snakes, invertebrates, and plant species.

And although I’m doing backflips about the presence of breeding salamanders here, all these egg masses I’m maternally fussing over will soon release hundreds of ravenous hatchlings into this perfectly protected wetland. I must regain my composure, don the wading boots again, and get down to business. Their food, essential to their growth and maturity—is part of this evaluation.

What does a very small salamander eat?
Even smaller aquatic invertebrates—those spineless shadows that swim and crawl, barely seen.

I’ve scooped several cups of water into a plastic container with a white background. And from safety of wispy strands of algae, the smallest, faintly-colored creatures emerge.
Less than ¼ inch long--some dainty, some fierce.
My magnifying glass reveals the larvae of predaceous diving beetles, mayflies, mosquitoes…planaria...and microcrustaceans—copepods.






Mmmmm.
Delicious—if you’re a salamander.

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11 comments:

ncmountainwoman said...

Oh, this takes me back to my childhood. Hours spent with a mason jar full of pond water and a magnifying glass. When I was 7, my father gave me the best present I ever received...an old used microscope.

Your pictures and comments take me back many years. Thank you.

Old Wom Tigley said...

What great times you must have.. ha!.. I like the tiny things.. but not as a meal.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

The salamanders are safe. None of this whets my appetite. ;)

cestoady said...

Like nomountainwoman, as a youth,I too spent hours looking at aquatic life -- but mine was in a small aquarium of water and plants from a nearby pond.With a magnifying glass , I soon discovered the exciting world of aquatic life--including some of the creatures shown in this facinating post.

But the most wonderous sights came at night when I would shine a flashlight from the side so that water that normally looked clear was infact teeming with all sorts of tiny,tiny creatures ,only made visible by the light. And the leaves of the plants that looked so clean ,were infact covered with clusters of protozoa,some on stalks or funnel shaped ,that reacted to touch. If I was lucky, I would discover Hydra, waving about, snaring a hapless copepod. Great fun !!

I came to appreciate that ponds that may look so ordinary are in reality extraordinary places to find a great variety of creatures--a whole universe that is unknown to most people --except those having now seen this post.

Mel said...

I believe those salamanders will be fine. It is amazing how we can find life everywhere around us!
Great post :D

Clare said...

This too takes me back, one to "the gully" a pond that used to exist beside our house, before more development ate it, and the frog eggs, tadpoles, and fairy shrimp I'd collect there, and secondly to High School Biology and dicing up planaria to see how they'd regenerate themselves back. "Hey look, a planaria with two heads". Haven't thought about planaria for a long time now, thanks for bringing them back.

Texas Travelers said...

Great post. Keep us apprised.

I am really enjoying all of your blogs.

What's that guy's name on the Food Network that eats everything? Don't let him loose near your pool.

Give me a good fresh garden tomato.

albertapostcards said...

very, very interesting Nina. For the past two years I have had a real problem in our pond. A muskrat has moved in and eats every one of the eggs laid. Well, not entirely ... last year I noticed a handful of tadpoles when we normally have hundreds of them teeming in there. We've tried various methods of discouraging the muskrat but to no avail. Thanks for these really interesting shots.

Diane

Kathiesbirds said...

Makes you think twice about getting a "fresh" drink from the clear spring!

mon@rch said...

This is great and collecting this info is very important! Thanks for taking the time!

Marvin said...

Great post, Nina ... very informative.