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Smooth Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris)

photo by John Beniston

Common Name: Smooth Newt
Scientific Name: Lissotriton vulgaris
Family: Salamandridae
Locations: Albania, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, and United Kingdom
Introduced Locations Australia
Size: 3.9 inches (10 cm)

The Smooth Newt is one of the most common amphibians found throughout temperate, forest areas in Europe. They are mostly terrestrial, only staying in water for extended periods of time during breeding season. They are also nocturnal, spending their days under logs and rocks. The newts do come out during rains during the day.

The Smooth Newt reproduces after the newt wake up from hibernation. The males and females move to ponds to breed. The males will grow out a wavy crest on their back to impress the females. The male will do a courtship dance to attract females. The males will deposit a sperm packet in the water and will lead a female over it during the courtship. The female will pick it up with her cloaca and bring it inside her to fertilize her eggs. A few days layer, the female will lay her eggs, as many as 300. Eggs hatch a few weeks later and larvae will appear. The larvae take a few months to complete their metamorphism, but some individuals may take over a year. These individuals will then have to survive in the water over winter.

In Australia, the Smooth Newt has established populations in the wild. It is believed the newts were released into the wild from a pet owner who didn’t want them anymore. Never do that please. Currently, it is not known if the newt is causing any serious environmental problems so the Australian Government isn’t actively trying to prevent their spread or eliminate them.

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Dixie Valley Toad (Anaxyrus williamsi)

photo by Kris Urquhart/USFWS

Common Name: Dixie Valley Toad
Scientific Name: Anaxyrus williamsi
Family: Bufonidae – True Toad family
Locations: United States – Nevada
Size: 2 inches (50.8 mm)

The Dixie Valley Toad is a relatively new species, only being described in 2017. Before, it was considered an isolated population of the Western Toad (Anaxyrus boreas). Physical and genetic tests revealed that it was in fact, its own species. Dixie Valley Toad is physically different than the Western Toad. They have gold specks on its body and is smaller than the Western Toad.

Most life history of the Dixie Valley Toad is presumed to be similar to the Western Toad. They are a nocturnal species, living under rocks or burrowed in the dirt during the day. Reproduction is external. The males will call to attract females. Once the female selects a male, the male will grasp the female from behind. The female will then lay her eggs and the male will fertilize them. No parental care has been shown.

While only just described, the toad is already a candidate for the Endangered Species List. The exact number of toads are unknown but their range is small. Their habitat is already threatened by a geothermal energy plant that has plans to go up right next to it.

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Brazilian Torrent Frog (Hylodes asper)

Common Name: Brazilian Torrent Frog
Scientific Name: Hylodes asper
Family: Hylodidae
Locations: Brazil
Size: 1.57 inches (40 mm)

The Brazilian Torrent Frog has one of the most sophisticated form of communication for a frog. The male of the species will pick a mating spot, high on rocks next to a busy stream. They will try to make mating or territorial calls but the stream is very loud behind them, drowning out their calls. The frogs have adapted a way to talk to the frogs over the sounds on the stream. The male frogs will raise their feet in a circular movement and show off their white toe pads. This is called foot flagging.

The males will do it to attract females and to warn other males to leave. If the other males don’t leave, they will fight it out for the spot with the loser hopping away. If a predator was to see the foot flagging and come after the male frog, the male will jump into the stream. This is a really quick getaway.

If a female picks a male to mate with, they will approach the male. The male will continue to call. The female will then stretch one or both of her legs backwards and move one hand up and down. The male will then touch her snout with his throat. Next to male will jump around the rocks and perform more foot flagging. He then jumps into the water followed by the female.

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Chile Mountains False Toad (Telmatobufo venustus)

photo by wikiuser Cipsdesign 
Conservation status is Endangered

Common Name: Chile Mountains False Toad
Scientific Name: Telmatobufo venustus
Family: Calyptocephalellidae
Locations: Chile
Size: 2.8 inches (71 mm)

The Chile Mountains False Toad gets its name from its large, oval paratoid glands that make it look like a toad. They are found along the western slopes of the Chilean Andes, living up to a mile ( 1,700 metres) above sea level. There are only three known locations of the frogs. The frogs are found along rocks surrounding streams.

The Chile Mountains False Toad is listed as Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Much of its habitat has been converted into pine and eucalyptus plantations. Electric dams have been built in parts that haven’t been converted. Also trouts have been introduced into water bodies that the frogs live in. These trouts eat the frogs and their tadpoles. The only stable populations of the frog are found in the Altos de Lircay National Reserve. Better protection of the frog and their habitat is needed to save them.

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International Polar Bear Day

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Today is International Polar Bear Day! The Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) is one of the largest species of bears, capable of weighing over 1500 pounds and standing over 9 feet tall. Sadly, they are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. While Polar Bear numbers have increased due to proper hunting regulations on the species, other problems are arising.

Polar Bears spend their winter and spring on the ice sheets hunting for seals to eat. They try to eat enough food to build up fat reserves to survive the winter months when they have to move to shore. Due to the rising temperatures of the arctic because of climate change, the sea ice that they hunt on is melting earlier. This causes the Polar Bear to become malnourished or die from starvation. Also, the Polar Bears are forced to swim further distances between each sheet of ice, which burns up fat reserves and causes some Polar Bears to drown. Other threats to them include pollution especially from increased drilling in the arctic.

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How to Help Stop Invasive Species

With the spread of invasive species, you have to wonder what can I do to help stop them? I will help answer this today.

Clean Your Boots / Shoes / Hiking Gear

Invasive species can hitchhike around the world on your gear and shoes. It is thought that Chytrid Fungus, a deadly disease that is killing off many frog species, is thought to have been moved around from researchers not cleaning their shoes / gear off between field trips. Cleaning off your gear and shoes can help stop invasive species. Also washing your dog off after hiking helps stop the spread of invasive species.

Clean Your Boat

Once again, invasive species, such as Zebra Mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) and Eurasian Watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum), can hitchhike from lake to lake on your boat. Cleaning the outside of your boat when you take it out of the water and draining all the water out is needed to help stop the spread.

Don’t Release Your Pets into the Wild

This is probably the easiest way to stop the spread of invasive species is to not release them into the wild. Some pet species, such as the Red Lion Fish (Pterois volitans) or the Burmese Python (Python bivittatus), have overtaken native populations of animals and are causing population declines. This is why it is very important to not release your pets.

Don’t Move Firewood

Invasive species, such as the Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis), can hide in firewood and be transported into a new environment. Please buy firewood close to your campsites to help stop the spread.

Join an Invasive Species Removal Event

Sometimes you gotta roll up your sleeves and take the trash out yourself. Nature Centers often host invasive species removal events that you can volunteer at. They will help you learn how to identify invasive species and how to remove them properly. You can then take this knowledge with you back to your home.

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Invasive Species Week

It is National Invasive Species Week! The week was created to raise awareness for the problems that invasive species create. What is an invasive species? It is a non-native living organism that has been introduced to a new environment by humans that is likely to cause economic harm, environmental harm or harm to human health. Invasive species can be fish, plants, insects, fungus, bacteria, and everything in between.

This week I will highlight invasive species that are causing problems, mostly for amphibians, here and on my social media accounts. Please stay tuned for more!

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Cajun Chorus Frog (Pseudacris fouquettei)

photo by Jeromi Hefner
least concern

Common Name: Cajun Chorus Frog
Scientific Name: Pseudacris fouquettei
Family: Hylidae – Tree Frog family
Locations: United States – Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas
Size: 1.2 inch (30 mm)

The Cajun Chorus Frog is a relatively new described species, only being described in 2008. Before 2008, it was considered part of the Upland Chorus Frog (Pseudacris feriarum) species complex but was elevated to its own species due to differences in the call and their mitochondria DNA. The frog is part of the Tree Frog family, Hylidae, but they are usually found around ground level.

Breeding for the frog is generally from January to May, following rains. In more southern parts of the range, they can start breeding as early as November. Males will move to temporary ponds and start calling for females. Once the female selects a mate, the male will grasp the female from behind. Then, the female will lay her eggs and the male will then fertilize them. The females will lay between 500 to 1500 eggs at a time. Once the eggs hatch, the tadpoles take 40 to 80 days to complete their metamorphosis. Neither parent provides any parental care for their offspring.

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Darien Stubfoot Toad (Atelopus certus)

Male Toad – photo by Brian Gratwicke

Common Name: Darien Stubfoot Toad or Toad Mountain Harlequin Frog
Scientific Name: Atelopus certus
Family: Bufonidae – True Toad family
Locations: Panama
Male Size: 1.25 inches (32 mm)
Female Size: 1.65 inches (42 mm)

The Darien Stubfoot Toad is found in the Darien Pprovince of Panama, hence the name. The genus Atelopus is in deep trouble. The majority of the species are facing extinction due to habitat loss and Chytrid Fungus.

Female Toad – photo by Brian Gratwicke

The Darien Stubfoot Toad is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation (IUCN) Redlist. The two main reasons for the listing are chytrid fungus and habitat loss. Chytrid Fungus is a deadly pathogen that causes hardening of the frog’s skin, causing them to not be able to breathe. This results in the frog’s death. While the disease hasn’t been observed yet in the Darien Stubfoot Toad, it has been observed in frogs and toads close to them. Habitat loss is another issue for the toad. They only live in a small area that is threatened by development. Luckily, part of the toad’s range is found in the Darién National Park, where they are protected.

Researchers at the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project have collected live toads to keep in captivity to preserve the species.

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Pacific Tree Frog (Pseudacris regilla)

photo by The High Fin Sperm Whale 

Common Name: Pacific Tree Frog, Pacific Chorus Frog
Scientific Name: Pseudacris regilla or Hyliola regilla
Family: Hylidae – Tree Frog family
Locations: Canada, Mexico, and the United States
US Locations: Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington
Size: .75 – 2 inches (19 – 50 mm)

Breeding for the frogs happen from November to July with frogs in higher elevations breeding later in the year. The male frogs will come to permanent or non-permanent waters bodies to start calling. The male frog’s breeding call is the typical ribbit that you hear on tv.

The males will highly territorial and will fight other males over breeding areas. Once the female comes and selects a mate, the male will grab her back in amplexus. The female will then lay her eggs and the male will fertilize them. The female will lay between 400 – 750 eggs at a time. Neither parent will provide any care for their offspring. The eggs hatch in 2 to 3 weeks. The tadpoles take 3 months to complete their transformation.

The Pacific Tree Frog was recently split into 3 different species based on DNA, but the analysis wasn’t great and it was merged back together.

The Pacific Tree Frog is the State Frog of Washington