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Backyard Science Class

It wasn't scheduled. It wasn't even part of our curriculum. But I think that some of the longest-lasting science lessons come from just being in nature and being curious enough to look for the answers to your curiosity. This one wasn't easy to identify properly, and this is only to the best of my ability, I may still be wrong.

My eldest daughter was down by our creek exploring and saw these mysterious egg sacks on a rock on the river's edge. We were both pretty sure it was a type of salamander or newt, not a frog or toad. You can see from the picture, some gills and a long tail.

So I went online and searched for similar pictures of salamander eggs. We don't have a field guide that would help identify amphibian eggs, so to the World Wide Web I went. I found an image in the search that led me to believe it was a Two-lined Salamander. Todd Pierson had this image I found in Google Images and it was very similar.

The image led me to this website, which helped me find another image that matched where my daughter found the eggs.

This is the website that helped me to identify the eggs and the adult.

The website was for Atlanta, Georgia metro area, and I wondered if the Southern Two-lined Salamander was this far North. Now I turned to the Virginia Herpetological Society website to see if this species is in our range and to learn more about it. There I learned that the salamander definitely was within this area and several of it's characteristics were similar.

After doing all this footwork online, I showed my daughter and she gave me a clue that she hadn't disclosed earlier. She looked at the picture of the adult salamander and said that she had seen two of them on the bank of the creek, not in the water. This fit very well with the description on the website that they are semi-aquatic and have a home range of only 6 inches in captivity, so they probably won't wander from their home far in adulthood.

Their food consists of every creepy crawly thing that I have not learned yet to appreciate in my ecosystem; ticks, roaches, millipedes, grubs and so on. I think I like these little two-striped Sallies and their ferocious appetite for creepies!

I did not have my kids do the searching online, mostly because with image searches I wanted our NetNanny to be up and running properly before they tried it. I reviewed with them the process and they said that sounded...boring. Well, bless your hearts! Maybe y'all need less screen time and more outside time. I'm looking forward to the beautiful warm summer here in Virginia and all the species we will discover in our new ecosystem!

Here is the website for Virginia snakes, frogs, salamanders, newts, toads and lizards. It is packed with pictures and information!

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