Other Amphibian of the Week

Frosted Flatwoods Salamander (Ambystoma cingulatum)

frostwoods
photo by Todd Pierson

vulnerable
Common Name: Frosted Flatwoods Salamander
Scientific Name: Ambystoma cingulatum
Family: Ambystomatidae – Mole Salamander family
Locations: United States – Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina
Size: 3.5 – 5.3 inches (9-13.5 cm)

The Frosted Flatwoods Salamander is a medium sized salamander found in the coastal plains of the southeast United States. They are listed as a federally threatened species by the federal government. The longleaf pine-wiregrass flatwoods that the salamanders love our being cut down. To keep these salamanders from becoming extinct, we need to protect their habitats better.

All the Flatwoods Salamanders used to be one species before they were split apart, leaving the Frosted Flatwoods Salamander and the Reticulated Flatwoods Salamander (Ambystoma bishopi) as distinct species. The Reticulated Flatwoods Salamander is a federally endangered species.

The Frosted Flatwoods Salamander is a fossorial species of salamander, spending most of their life underground or in burrows. They come to the surface to travel to wetlands to breed, some even traveling a mile away. Breeding takes place during the fall to winter (October to February) for the salamander. After mating, the females lay their eggs in a depression near a body of water. Once a rain starts, the eggs will hatch.

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Frog of the Week

River Frog (Lithobates heckscheri)

rana_heckscheri02
photo from the USGS

least concern
Common Name: River Frog
Scientific Name: Lithobates heckscheri or Rana (Aquarana) heckscheri
Family: Ranidae – True Frog family
Locations: United States – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina
Introduced Location: China
Size: 3.5 – 6 inches (90 – 155 mm)

The River Frog is found in the southeast United States but has slowly disappearing along the edges of the range, including totally from North Carolina and Alabama. The main reason for the decline is believed to be from habitat loss.

The River Frog produces toxins that are harmful to some predators including Indigo Snakes (Drymarchon) and water snakes. After eating the frog, these predators will throw up the frog and then wipe its mouth on the ground afterwords. They seem to be harmless to humans and are relatively easy to catch compared to other frogs. I wouldn’t try eating them though.

Breeding for the frog takes place from April to August, if conditions are right. They mate in permanent bodies of water due to tadpoles taking over a year to undergo metamorphosis. The tadpoles will remain active during winter.

Other Amphibian of the Week

Red Hills Salamander (Phaeognathus hubrichti)

Red Hills Salamander - Phaeognathus hubrichti
photo by  John P. Clare

Conservation status is Endangered

Common Name: Red Hills Salamander
Scientific Name: Phaeognathus hubrichti
Family: Plethodontidae – Lungless Salamander family
Locations: United States – Alabama
Size:  10.5 inches (27 cm)

The Red Hills Salamander is the state amphibian of Alabama, the only state it can be found in. More specifically, it can be found in the Red Hills region of southern Alabama, hence the name. They are a fossorial species of salamander, staying underground most of their life. Most of their life history is unknown due to them being fossorial.

What is known is that the Red Hills Salamander does not breed in water, but in their burrows. No mating displays or actually breeding as been observed. Females can lay around 6-16 eggs at a time. Its believed that the eggs hatch in around two months into tiny salamanders.

While the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list lists the salamander as endangered, the United States only lists them as threatened. Because of this, most of their land is privately owned by paper companies, that clear cut their habitat for the wood. Luckily, the Nature Conservatory bought almost 2,000 acres of land to protect the salamanders.

Frog of the Week

Yellow Dyer Rainfrog (Diasporus citrinobapheus)

yellowdyer.jpeg
photo by Hertz A, Hauenschild

Common Name: Yellow Dyer Rainfrog
Scientific Name: Diasporus citrinobapheus
Family: Eleutherodactylidae
Locations: Panama
Size: 17.3–19.7 mm

The Yellow-Dyer Rainfrog is a recently discovered species, only being described in 2012. Very few individuals of the species have been found so it hasn’t been accessed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red list (IUCN). It gets its name from the fact that when you handle the frog, it dyes your fingers yellow. As with all Eleutherodactylid species, the Yellow Dyer Rainfrog skips the tadpole stage and just immediately hatches from its egg as a small frog.

 

 

Toad Tuesday

Black Toad (Anaxyrus exsul)

blacktoad.jpg
photo by Scott Trageser

vulnerable
Common Name: Black Toad, Inyo Toad, and Deep Springs Toad
Scientific Name: Anaxyrus exsul
Family: Bufonidae – True Toad family
Locations: United States – California
Size: 1.75 – 3 inches

The Black Toad lives in the Deep Springs Valley in Inyo County in California, which explains some of its names. They are found near springs, marshes, ponds, and bogs as they are more aquatic than most toad species. Breeding takes place in these water bodies from March into May. The male toads do not make a mating call to attract females.  The mating pairs go through the usual toad mating with amplexus, ending with laying eggs in the shallow water. The eggs hatch in under 5 days. The larval phase of the toad doesn’t last long, between 3 and 5 weeks long.

The Black Toad is listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to their small range. Their whole range is on the property of the Deep Springs Valley College. The college grazes their livestock in the area during the winter, when the toads are hibernating, to not disturb the toads. They also take care of the vegetation in the area and protect the streams.

Other Amphibian of the Week

California Giant Salamander (Dicamptodon ensatus)

california_giant_salamander
photo by William Flaxington

nearthreatened
Common Name: California Giant Salamander
Scientific Name: Dicamptodon ensatus
Family: Dicamptodontidae – Pacific Giant Salamander Family
Locations: United States – California
Size: 12 inches for terrestrial forms, 13 inches for aquatic

The California Giant Salamander is found in northwestern coastal forests of California with cold streams and ponds. They use these streams to breed during the spring with most of the egg laying in May. Breeding could also occur in the fall. Between 70 to 100 eggs are laid in the streams. Larvae salamanders can take up to 2 years to develop into terrestrial adults if they ever do. There has been observed neotenic populations of the California Giant Salamanders. These neotenic salamanders retain their larval characteristics such as their gills but are capable of reproduction.

The California Giant Salamander is listed as as Near Threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The main threats to the survival of the salamander is the encroachment of humans on their small habitat. Their habitat is great for logging but logging is not good for the salamanders. Also towns are growing and need more land.

 

Frog of the Week

Southern Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog (Rana muscosa)

Rana_muscosa.jpg
photo by Chris Brown (USGS)

Conservation status is Endangered
Common Name: Southern Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog
Scientific Name: Rana muscosa
Family: Ranidae – True Frog family
Locations: United States – California
Size: 2 – 3 inches (5 – 7.6 cm)

The Southern Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog is a federally listed endangered species by the United States. They live in only  few small areas in southeastern California near the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It was not always like this. They used to be a common species before they started to disappear.

There are many reasons for the declines. Trout was introduced into the Sierra Nevada Mountains to increase recreational fishing there. These non-native trouts eat on the tadpoles of the frog as they are predators. Studies shown that removing trouts from lakes in the Southern Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog’s habitat allows the frog repopulate the area and increase numbers.

Another key reason for the population decline of the Southern Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog is the introduction of Chytrid Fungus into their environment. Chytrid Fungus is a deadly pathogen that thickens the skin of the frog. The thicker skin prevents the ability of the frog to breathe and drink through its skin and eventually causes death. The disease has lead to widespread deaths of amphibians all over the world. Sadly, it has also affected the Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog. Those are the two main reasons for the decline but other reasons include pesticides, climate change, habitat degradation and fragmentation, and drought.

Luckily, zoos are trying to help the species. The San Diego Zoo has been captive breeding the Southern Mountain Yellow-legged Frog and releasing the tadpoles into the wild. The Oakland Zoo and the San Francisco Zoo have been catching juvenile frogs and raising them in captivity. They give the frogs anti-fungal baths and when they are older, they release them.

Toad Tuesday

Eastern Spadefoot Toad (Pelobates syriacus)

spadefoot.jpeg
photo by  Omid Mozaffari

least concern
Common Name: Eastern Spadefoot Toad, Syrian Spadefoot Toad
Scientific Name: Pelobates syriacus
Family: Pelobatidae – European Spadefoot Toad
Locations: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Syria, and Turkey
Size: 3.5 inches

The Eastern Spadefoot Toad is found in Eastern Europe and in Western Asia. Like all spadefoot toads, they have an inner metatarsal tubercle aka the spade on their rear feet. The Eastern Spadefoot Toad’s spade is yellow in color. They use these spades to burrow deep into the ground but they can also use rodent burrows. They come out of these burrows to hunt at night, eating insects, spiders, mollusks, and arthropods.

 

Other Amphibian of the Week

Dwarf Waterdog (Necturus punctatus)

waterdog
photo by Todd Pierson

least concern
Common Name: Dwarf Waterdog
Scientific Name: Necturus punctatus
Family: Proteidae
Locations: United States – Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia
Size: 7.5 inches

The Dwarf Waterdog is the smallest species of genus Necturus. Like all members of the species, they are aquatic and keep their gills throughout their life. Not much is known about the reproductive behaviors of the waterdog but it is believed they mate in winter. The eggs are later laid in spring from March to May. The females lay around 15 to 50 eggs. Nothing is known about nesting sites, how long it takes the eggs to hatch, or any courtship behaviors.

Herper of the week

Herper of the Week: Dr. Montgomery Montgomery

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Each week a “Herper” of the Week is chosen. These individuals come from all sorts of backgrounds but they all have one common interest – “herps” (reptiles and amphibians). Hopefully, you will learn about them and their important work.

The Herper of this Week is the late Dr. Montgomery Montgomery, a brilliant herpetologist and the man who discovered the Incredible Deadly Viper. The Incredible Deadly Viper is actually a misnomer and it is one of the least dangerous and most friendly creatures in the animal kingdom. Dr. Montgomery was planning on playing a trick on the Hematological Society before he died where he would pretend to lose the snake during a conference. Dr. Montgomery Montgomery had numerous pet reptiles and was an excellent caretaker of them.

Note: Dr. Montgomery Montgomery is a fictional character from A Series of Unfortunate Events. This is a joke.