Spring salamander (Gyrinophilus porphyriticus) © David Huth/Flickr

My youth in upstate New York was spent knee-high wading through slow moving creeks, turning over half-submerged rocks with breath-held difficulty. Failing at times, succeeding at others, more or less trailed by the same outcome: a biologically listless discovery, only having disturbed an adult crawfish scurrying through the cloaked silt to seek refuge under yet another nearby heavy stone. For hours, the same reel would spin and revolve and never skip. But then, in those rare blips where my twelve-year-old self’s upper-body strength would coincide with a pristine and prized ecological niche, a Grammy; a semi-permeable gem stone; a Spring salamander (Gyrinophilus porphyriticus) could be seen surprised and still atop of a damp bit of decomposed foliage.

Much like the ubiquitous water body of which they’re named after, Spring salamanders snake their way through much of the Adirondacks and Appalachian mountain of North America; the Adirondacks nodding at their Canadian passport, their affinity for deciduous forests stamping their residence in the United States. While we’re on the topic of preferred habitats, let’s bare deserving glance at the etymology of their latin name. (For the latin savvy among us, the following string of sentences may seem a bit unneeded, but, please, have patience for the ones who took four-years of Spanish in high school and thought latin was a class akin to a enchantment course in Harry Potter.)

Gyrinophilus, in plain-Jane English, means “tadpole lover.” Beautiful—and developmentally perfect—isn’t it? Spring salamanders are known to remain in that “tadpole” (more specifically, their gilled-larvae stage) for ages before finally maturing into the blushed-red adults we see under the mosses bits of dew-silk hillsides.

Like most good things in life: two’s better than one. Unwrap a package of Reese’s cup, and it’s hard to belittle that statement. (Just imagine if there was a misplacing on Nestle’s end and only one cup managed to slide into the folded white-cardboard piece. Depressing; demoralizing. Cringe worthy.) The same sentiment branches into the speciation of Spring salamanders. However fleeting concrete information may be on the two subspecies, they do exist under enigmatic envelopments; G. p. daniels and G. p. dunni are both similar in size and found, in countless cases, within the same habitat range. But the keen distinctive characteristics operating the two from one another are their idiosyncratic dorsal quirks: the presence and dotted nature of their dorsal colorings and patterns.

Gyrinophilus porphyriticus2

Spring salamander (Gyrinophilus porphyriticus) © David Huth/Flickr

Thankfully—and the my surprise, honestly—Spring salamanders are considered “LC,” or “[of] Least Concern” by the IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM. That denotion is completely paradoxical to my earlier “herping” days. But population counts do not lie—or, at the very least, confabulate well-told fibs.

Now in my twenties, I relish those younger years marked with financial freedom and skipping stones. Those days in New York are years behind me, fast-forwarded by my relentless work ethic and passion for storytelling (in all it’s literary mediums and topical foregrounds). One day, one day soon, I yearn to walk up-’n’-down those same creeks, turning-up those same stones—but with the pseudo-strength I’ve adopted with puberty.

By Matt Charnock

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