Cape Ann Vernal Pond Team

Biologist Nathan Mineo

Did You Know...?

High-Diving Salamanders

Written by Nathan Mineo 
Reprinted from the 2007 Cape Ann Vernal Pond Team Newsletter
Photograph by Cheryl Briscoe
Did you know that a typical vernal pond often resembles nothing more than a big puddle on the ground. The land slopes gently down to meet the water’s edge, allowing easy access for all the eager amphibians wishing to breed. We do, however, encounter that rare Vernal pond with steep, rocky slopes that plunge abruptly into the deep water. "How", you may ask, "does a salamander negotiate such a precipitous shoreline?"

At one such vernal pond, Stillington Pond in Ravenswood Park with a steep ten-foot granite cliff, we found an answer. For years, team members would occasionally hear mysterious “plops” resounding from the darkness at the edge of this abandoned quarry where the cliff meets the water. Just two years ago, Rick Roth and I discovered that the source of these “plops” were Spotted salamanders hurling themselves off this cliff into the pond below.

To put this feat into perspective, consider that a full-grown adult Spotted salamander may reach no more than eight inches in length. An eight-inch spotted salamander diving from a height of ten feet is equivalent to a six-foot human diving from a height of 90 feet. Humans do dive from this height during cliff diving events in places such as Hawaii and Mexico, but they don’t belly-flop like the salamanders at Stillington Pond.

Rock wall at Stillington Vernal Pool photograph taken by Victoria Rolf

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