Last month, I started noticing lots of big, awesome salamanders swimming around in alpine ponds here in SW Colorado. I thought they were amazing but didn’t get any good photos… They like murky water and thick cover, and they swim really fast.
Then on July 4 we found a tiny pond that was absolutely packed with salamanders. And some of them had branchlike gills, like axlotls! I still didn’t manage any clear photos, but a few days later we went back with a fishing net. Because I was sure I’d discovered a crazy mutation or something.
Turns out I’m not good at catching salamanders but inlandwestis.
Did you know juvenile salamanders have big fancy gills? I definitely did not know that. Axlotls, which only live wild in Mexico, keep branched gills throughout their lives. Other salamanders absorb their gills when they grow up, sort of like frogs absorb their tadpole tails.