Twelve made the July 16 Walk and Talk with Miranda Gulsby. After a brief introduction to the salamander’s place in the animal family, Miranda showed us newt eggs and larvae from a pond on the Stober’s farm. Her presentation was interactive as she answered questions about individual salamanders familiar to the hikers. Some amazing facts will stay with us. While some salamanders are quite large – several feet in length, even here in Georgia, most are extremely tiny. Most are rarely seen by humans, as they live by and in streams and ponds and hide out in moist leaves, under rocks and under ground. Even so, salamanders are credited with having a larger “biomass” than many larger and more visible creatures found in their environment, such as frogs, toads, turtles and snakes. As a result of the building of the Appalachian Mountains, salamanders have evolved and adapted to a highly diverse ecological range. From the top of a mountain to its valley, and from mountain to mountain, salamanders have made their homes, creating a “diversity hot spot” in the Blue Ridge Southeast. Because of their moist, permeable skin, salamanders are sensitive to drought and to polluting substances, making then a sensitive indicator of ecosystem health. Another interesting fact Miranda provided was that a given salamander “likes his own rock” and uses it for his on protection and to attract females. If someone removes his rock, like to build a tower in the stream, he has difficulty finding another, as most others will already have their resident salamander.
In the pictures below, Miranda turns over many rocks and samples stream flow with her nets. Nary a salamander did we find – in an area which should be replete with them. A number of possible reasons for this lack of life were discussed, including constant flooding of the streams close to the river, toxic wastes from upstream and erosion into the stream. This would be a study worth pursuing, perhaps with the “Adopt a Stream” program.
Select Photos/Walk and Talk Albums from the top of the page to see photos from this Walk and Talk.