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Underwater World

Posted on Apr 15, 2015

While these little white puffs may look like little air pockets escaping from underwater volcanoes they are actually little spermatophores, or sperm packets produced by male spotted salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum), scattered across a vernal pool floor. As females arrive and enter ephemeral pools (sometimes up to a week after the males), males go into a frenzy. Typically the ratio of males to females in the pools is very skewed, with many males to every one female. This fuels some pretty intense male to male competition and very interesting sexual selection. Males surround females and nudge and bump her while releasing these white spermatophores in attempt to attract her to accept their sperm. However, some males will attempt to sabotage other males by placing their spermatophore on top of another’s. As the breeding activities continue, females will accept male’s sperm by removing the sperm button on top of the spermatophore with her cloaca and in turn fertilize her eggs internally. Males will often fertilize the eggs of several females; however, females will typically pick up several sperm caps and be fertilized by several different males. Got to have that genetic diversity!


Spotted Salamander Spermatophores
Elyse Henshaw
Conservation Technician