Egg masses can be found attached to submerged sticks. It takes from 1-2 months for the eggs to hatch. The frilly-gilled larvae only have front legs and a pair of "balancers" which they eventually lose. They are fully aquatic and eat tiny creatures like fairy shrimp and small insects.
As they grow larger and stronger, the larvae take on more substantial prey such as tadpoles and earthworms. Here "Sam," is approaching and attacking a worm.
Spotted salamander maturation is influenced by the climate of their habitat. In warmer regions, salamanders will be sexually mature in 2 or 3 years, while it may be 5 or 6 years before they are ready to breed in colder locations.
We observed our salamander larva from April to July, watching it metamorphose from a larva into an air-breathing amphibian. As the days passed, the larva's light grey body became speckled with dark spots. By July, it was coming to the surface of the water to gulp air.
It took the larva about three and a half months to begin losing its gills. It seemed as though they shrunk overnight. Some mornings we were shocked at how much smaller the salamander's gills were than the previous day.
Finally, it was time to release our friend back to the pond. He'll spend the remainder of the summer and the upcoming fall and winter under the cover of leaf litter within a quarter to a half mile of the pond where he hatched. Hopefully he'll return in a few years to start his own family.