Although most vernal pool animals are small, their complex food
webs sustain many larger species of birds, mammals, amphibians
and reptiles. Most of the critters in vernal pools are native to
California and many survive only in vernal pools. We know little
about them and less than half have been named.
Microlife is not a taxon or a scientific category. It is a term
used to refer to a large, very diverse group of microscopic
organisms, from plants to animals and species in between. For
convenience Splash groups bacteria, algae (plants), protozoa and
rotifers into the category of microlife. Each of these subgroups
includes thousands of species, only a few of which live in vernal
Any animal without a backbone is called an invertebrate. Hundreds
of species of invertebrates live in vernal pools but only about
half of them have been named. From insects to flatworms to seed
shrimp, invertebrates create a diverse and interwoven world of
creatures, living with (and off) one another.
Some zoologists spend a lifetime studying a single group of
invertebrates or even a single species. There is so much we still
do not know about them. After reading about them and watching
videos of them in action visit The Faces of Science.
There you will discover a man who was so crazy about
Fairy Shrimp that he searched the world over to meet them all!
Amphibians are cold-blooded (ectothermic) vertebrates. Their
body temperature stays at or near the temperature of the ground
or air. All the amphibian species you will learn about here, will
grow from an egg to a juvenile while underwater. While they
are in that aquatic form, they have no lungs; they must get
oxygen from the water. When they change form
(metamorphose) into an adult, they acquire lungs that can
get oxygen from the air.
Many amphibians must keep their skin moist even after they
migrate away from the vernal pools as adults. Mammal burrows
offer a damp place to hide and hunt for spiders, insects and
other prey. What reptiles might also be hiding and hunting for
Reptiles are air-breathing vertebrates that are cold-blooded
(ectothermic). Most reptiles lay eggs but some species give birth
to live young. As they grow their skins become too tight, so they
grow a new skin underneath the old one. When they are
ready, they slide out of the old one, leaving it behind in the
grass or someone’s underground burrow. See if you can find one in
Mammals are warm-blooded (endothermic) vertebrates with hair.
They breath air and give birth to live young, which feed on milk
produced by their mothers. Some mammals in the vernal pool
prairie spend most of their time underground. The burrows they
dig create homes for many other animals.
Vernal pool prairies support many species of birds. Waterfowl and
wading birds mostly hunt in and around the pools when they
contain water. Many species of songbirds live in the surrounding
uplands. Raptors sail over the prairie hunting for mammals and
birds by day. They roost in nearby trees at night. Other raptors
roost in the day and hunt in the night. Whooo are they?
Read up and figure out whoooo is whoooo.
Sir Hiss-a-Lot was hatched sometime around 1993. When Sir Hiss
was a baby snake, he was captured by a boy who didn’t know that
you should never keep a wild animal as a pet. Nonetheless, the
boy took excellent care of him for about 10 years…