Some of the more than one thousand salamander larvae that we captured in some of the permanent lakes of Peñalara, as part of our strategy to mitigate chytridiomycosis, have already completed their metamorphosis. Completing their development inside the breeding center, these animals have not been exposed to the end of summer low temperatures which might lead to dead to many of them.
At the final stage of metamorphosis, keratin covers all of the body, which permits the expansion of pathogenic fungi. In turn, the immune system depresses so that it does not interfere with the complex transformation of the organism, and low temperatures neither help the animal’s defenses in combating fungal infection.
These animals that have already metamorphosed are free of pathogenic fungi, so there is no need to wait until next spring to return them to their environment. However, the vast majority will complete their metamorphosis in the winter, therefore we cannot release them until next spring, when the snow in Peñalara has melted and the conditions are favorable for these small salamanders.
So far we have released 250 specimens back to their lakes of origin, and we hope that they will find suitable shelter where they can pass the winter at more than 2000 meters of altitude without freezing to death.
We love to see these small salamanders conquer the terrestrial environment after some months or even years in the water and overcome pathogenic fungi in the critical stage of metamorphosis. In this video you can see the face of happiness in these amphibians after being freed in their natural habitat.