Past Meeting, May 2020: David Hand – Meet the Magnificent Marbled Salamander


May 17, 2020 by lancasterherp

The Lancaster Herpetological Society (LHS) wants to thank everyone who attended our first digital meeting on Friday using Zoom! It was wonderful to see a lot of familiar faces after having to cancel the last two meetings due to the pandemic.

We were very excited to have David Hand present his photography and videos of Marbled Salamanders (Ambystoma opacum). This was a talk that he was scheduled to give in person at the meeting in March, but the world had other ideas. Fortunately, David was receptive and enthusiastic about giving his talk digitally via Zoom, despite the uncertainties that go along with trying out new presentation platforms. Luckily, the meeting went off without much in the way of technical difficulties. Zoom worked very well for David’s talk, as it allowed everyone to see his amazing pictures and videos up close from our computer screens and cellphones.

On top of fantastic images, David’s talk was filled with information about the seldom seen Marbled Salamander! They are mole salamanders, named because they spend most of their lives underground in damp soil, hence them being seldom seen, unless you know where to look. I often associate salamanders with water, but the Marbled Salamander does not spend much time in the water, only heading to water sources for breeding. The Marbled Salamander breeds in the fall, which is at odds with many other salamanders that will head to the vernal pools for breeding at the start of spring. Female Marbled Salamanders will lay their eggs in a depression under a log, near where temporary pools of water will form. The eggs develop without water, but will not hatch unless they are covered with water. David was able to capture the process of the developing embryos inside their jelly coatings with a tremendous amount of detail, the likes of which is rarely seen. The presentation was a reminder that the world is filled with remarkable things, something that is easy to forget in these dark and uncertain times.

Once again, we are very grateful that David was willing to present his work with us, and experiment with doing it digitally. If you are interested in seeing more of David’s work, you can visit his website at, or join his group on Facebook: Friends of the Marbled Salamander!

Stay tuned for more information about next month’s meeting of the Lancaster Herpetological Society, which will be on June 19th at 7pm EST. It will be held digitally via Zoom, and will be a Critter Encounter where participants are encouraged to share their own reptiles and amphibians. So, make sure you have a functioning web camera if you want to share your own slippery or slithery friends!

-Gregory Wier


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