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Monthly Archives: June 2011

Warty Newt (Triturus cristatus)

Warty Newt (Triturus cristatus)

The warty is also called the great crested newt for the dramatic, jagged crest that males develop along their backs during the spring breeding season.

Fast Facts

Type                                                       : Amphibian

Diet                                                        : Carnivore

Average life span in the wild           : Up to 25 years

Size                                                        : 7 in (18 cm)

Weight                                                   : 0.22 to 0.37 oz (6.3 to 10.6 g)

Did you know?

In Europe, a special license is required to handle warty newts.

 

The warty or great crested newt lives only in Europe. Females, which are larger than males, can reach 7 inches (18 centimeters) in length, making these stout-bodied amphibians the continent’s largest newts.

True to its name, the warty newt has skin that is covered in small bumps. The skin contains glands that secrete a milky, acrid-smelling substance to dissuade predators. Its other common name derives from the dramatic, jagged crest that males develop along their backs during the spring breeding season.

These newts are generally dark colored on top and orange or yellow with black spots underneath. They also have white speckles on their flanks and a large, vertically flattened tail that bears a white streak down the side.

Warty newts are nocturnal and are voracious eaters, feeding on worms, slugs, and insects on land, and tadpoles and mollusks in water. They are more terrestrial than most newts, but must remain near bodies of fresh water to keep their skin moist.

These newts spend a significant portion of their lives in hibernation, usually from around October to March of each year. On a rainy night in March, they awaken and trek back to the pond where they hatched to mate.

Females lay from 200 to 300 eggs, but only about half develop into tadpoles. Tadpoles emerge from their eggs in about 21 days and feed on small insects like water fleas and tiny worms. Warty newts are extremely long-lived, with some exceeding 16 years of age. Like all newts, they can regrow body parts if necessary, but that ability diminishes as they age.

Warty newt populations are in decline throughout their range, and they are considered an endangered species. They and their habitats are protected under European law.

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2011 in Amphibians

 

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Wallace’s Flying Frog (Rhacophorus nigropalmatus)

Wallace’s Flying Frog (Rhacophorus nigropalmatus)

Flying through the air with a semblance of ease, the Wallace’s flying frog is one of few aerial amphibians.

Fast Facts

Type                       : Amphibian

Diet                        : Carnivore

Size                        : 4 in (10 cm)

Group name         : Army

Did you know?

The Wallace’s flying frog is named for the 19th-century British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, who first described the species in 1869.

 

The overachieving Wallace’s flying frog wasn’t content to just hop and swim. Thousands of years of watching birds navigate the rain forest and avoid predators by taking to the sky appears to have convinced this unique amphibian that air travel is the way to go.

Also known as parachute frogs, Wallace’s flying frogs inhabit the dense tropical jungles of Malaysia and Borneo. They live almost exclusively in the trees, descending only to mate and lay eggs.

When threatened or in search of prey, they will leap from a branch and splay their four webbed feet. The membranes between their toes and loose skin flaps on their sides catch the air as they fall, helping them to glide, sometimes 50 feet (15 meters) or more, to a neighboring tree branch or even all the way to the ground. They also have oversized toe pads to help them land softly and stick to tree trunks.

Wallace’s flying frogs are not the only frogs who have developed this ability, but they are among the largest. The black color of their foot webbing helps distinguish them from their similarly aerial cousins.

They are generally bright green with yellow sides and grow to about 4 inches (10 centimeters). They survive mainly on insects.

The Wallace’s flying frog population is considered stable, and they have special status only in certain localities. However, they are partial to breeding and laying eggs in the fetid wallowing holes of the nearly extinct Asian rhinoceros, and further decreases in rhino populations may negatively affect the species.

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2011 in Amphibians

 

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Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum)

Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum)

Resembling its feline namesake, the tiger salamander has stripes over its gray or black body.

Fast Facts

Type                                                       : Amphibian

Diet                                                        : Carnivore

Average life span in the wild           : 12 to 15 years

Size                                                        : 7 to 14 in (18 to 35 cm)

Weight                                                   : 4.4 oz (126 g)

Did you know?

During courtship, a male tiger salamander sometimes impersonates a female in order to sneak in and deposit his spermatophore on top of a rival male’s.

 

Tiger salamanders’ markings are variable throughout their extensive range, but the most common marking resembles the vertically striped pattern of their mammalian namesake.

They are usually brown in color with brilliant yellow stripes or blotches over the length of their bodies. Their base color, however, can also be greenish or gray and their markings can be yellow dots or brown splotches. Some have no markings at all.

Thick-bodied amphibians with short snouts, sturdy legs, and long tails, tigers are the largest land-dwelling salamander on Earth. They can grow to 14 inches (35 centimeters) in length, but the average size is more like 6 to 8 inches (15.2 to 20.3 centimeters).

They are also the most wide-ranging salamander species in North America, living throughout most of the United States, southern Canada, and eastern Mexico. They live in deep burrows, up to two feet (60 centimeters) below the surface, near ponds, lakes, or slow-moving streams and are one of few salamanders able to survive in the arid climate of the North America interior.

Highly voracious predators, they emerge from their burrows at night to feed on worms, insects, frogs, and even other salamanders.

Their population is healthy throughout their range, but deforestation, pollution, and rising acidity levels in their breeding pools is affecting their distribution. Many are even killed by cars as they cross roads in the spring en route to or from their breeding sites.

Tiger salamanders are long-lived, averaging 10 to 16 years in the wild.

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2011 in Amphibians

 

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Spring Peeper Pseudacris crucifer (Hyla crucifer)

Spring Peeper Pseudacris crucifer (Hyla crucifer)

Harbinger of spring, calls of male spring peepers fill the evening air to entice females.

Fast Facts

Type                                                       : Amphibian

Diet                                                        : Carnivore

Average life span in the wild           : 3 years (estimated)

Size                                                        : 1 in (2.5 cm)

Weight                                                   : 0.11 to 0.18 oz (3 to 5 g)

Group name                                         : Army

Did you know?

Spring peepers can allow most of their bodies to freeze during winter hibernation and still survive.

 

Spring peepers are to the amphibian world what American robins are to the bird world. As their name implies, they begin emitting their familiar sleigh-bell-like chorus right around the beginning of spring.

Found in wooded areas and grassy lowlands near ponds and swamps in the central and eastern parts of Canada and the United States, these tiny, well-camouflaged amphibians are rarely seen. But the mid-March crescendo of nighttime whistles from amorous males is for many a sign that winter is over.

Spring peepers are tan or brown in color with dark lines that form a telltale X on their backs. They grow to about 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters) in length, and have large toe pads for climbing, although they are more at home amid the loose debris of the forest floor.

They are nocturnal creatures, hiding from their many predators during the day and emerging at night to feed on such delicacies as beetles, ants, flies, and spiders.

They mate and lay their eggs in water and spend the rest of the year in the forest. In the winter, they hibernate under logs or behind loose bark on trees, waiting for the spring thaw and their chance to sing.

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2011 in Amphibians

 

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Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum)

Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum)

Bright yellow spots distinguish this secretive amphibian. Spotted salamanders spend most of their lives hidden in dark, damp places.

Fast Facts

Type                                                   : Amphibian

Diet                                                     : Carnivore

Average life span in the wild            : Up to 20 years

Size                                                     : 7 in (18 cm)

Did you know?

Spotted salamanders return to the same mating pool via the same route every year.

Despite being fairly large and having an extremely broad range, the spotted salamander is actually pretty hard to, well, spot.

They can reach 9 inches (23 centimeters) in length and are prevalent in mature deciduous forests from eastern Canada throughout the eastern and midwestern United States. But these secretive salamanders spend almost their entire lives hidden under rocks or logs or in the burrows of other forest animals.

They will populate upland forests and mountainous regions, but are most common in moist, low-lying forests near floodplains.

They emerge from their subterranean hiding spots only at night to feed and during spring mating. They will actually travel long distances over land after a heavy rain to mate and lay their eggs in vernal pools and ponds.

Visually striking, these stout salamanders are bluish-black with two irregular rows of yellow or orange spots extending from head to tail. Like many other salamanders, they secrete a noxious, milky toxin from glands on their backs and tails to dissuade predators. Their diet includes insects, worms, slugs, spiders, and millipedes.

Spotted salamanders’ numbers are generally stable throughout their range, but they are very sensitive to changes in their ecology, and rising water acidity in certain habitats is negatively affecting their population. The pet trade and habitat loss also take a toll.

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2011 in Amphibians

 

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Red-Eyed Tree Frog (Agalychnis callidryas)

Red-Eyed Tree Frog (Agalychnis callidryas)

The red-eyed tree frog flashes its brightly colored body parts when startled. It sleeps by day with its eyes closed and body markings covered, stuck to leaf-bottoms.

Fast Facts

Type                                                   : Amphibian

Diet                                                     : Carnivore

Average life span in the wild            : 5 years

Size                                                     : 1.5 to 2.75 in (4 to 7 cm)

Group name                                       : Army

Did you know?

The red-eyed tree frog is also called the red-eyed leaf frog.

 

Many scientists believe the red-eyed tree frog developed its vivid scarlet peepers to shock predators into at least briefly questioning their meal choice.

These iconic rain-forest amphibians sleep by day stuck to leaf-bottoms with their eyes closed and body markings covered. When disturbed, they flash their bulging red eyes and reveal their huge, webbed orange feet and bright blue-and-yellow flanks. This technique, called startle coloration, may give a bird or snake pause, offering a precious instant for the frog to spring to safety.

Their neon-green bodies may play a similar role in thwarting predators. Many of the animals that eat red-eyed tree frogs are nocturnal hunters that use keen eyesight to find prey. The shocking colors of this frog may over-stimulate a predator’s eyes, creating a confusing ghost image that remains behind as the frog jumps away.

Red-eyed tree frogs, despite their conspicuous coloration, are not venomous. They are found in tropical lowlands from southern Mexico, throughout Central America, and in northern South America. Nocturnal carnivores, they hide in the rain forest canopy and ambush crickets, flies, and moths with their long, sticky tongues.

Red-eyed tree frogs are not endangered. But their habitat is shrinking at an alarming rate, and their highly recognizable image is often used to promote the cause of saving the world’s rain forests.

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2011 in Amphibians

 

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Poison Dart Frog (Dendrobatidae)

Poison Dart Frog (Dendrobatidae)

Poison dart frogs, like this sapphire-blue species, are highly toxic. Their brilliant colors serve as warnings to potential predators to keep away.

Fast Facts

Type                                                   :  Amphibian

Diet                                                     :  Carnivore

Average life span in the wild            :  3 to 15 years

Size                                                     :  1 in (2.5 cm)

Group name                                       : Army

Protection status                                : Threatened

Did you know?

 

The only natural predator of most of the poison dart frog family is a snake called Leimadophis epinephelus, which has developed a resistance to the frogs’ poison.

Poison dart frogs, members of the Dendrobatidae family, wear some of the most brilliant and beautiful colors on Earth. Depending on individual habitats, which extend from the tropical forests of Costa Rica to Brazil, their coloring can be yellow, gold, copper, red, green, blue, or black. Their elaborate designs and hues are deliberately ostentatious to ward off potential predators, a tactic called aposematic coloration.

Some species display unusual parenting habits, including carrying both eggs and tadpoles on their backs. Although this “backpacking” is not unique among amphibians, male poison arrow frogs are exceptional in their care, attending to the clutch, sometimes exclusively, and performing vital transportation duties.

Dendrobatids include some of the most toxic animals on Earth. The two-inch-long (five-centimeter-long) golden poison dart frog has enough venom to kill 10 grown men. Indigenous Emberá people of Colombia have used its powerful venom for centuries to tip their blowgun darts when hunting, hence the genus’ common name.

Scientists are unsure of the source of poison dart frogs’ toxicity, but it is possible they assimilate plant poisons which are carried by their prey, including ants, termites and beetles. Poison dart frogs raised in captivity and isolated from insects in their native habitat never develop venom.

The medical research community has been exploring possible medicinal uses for some poison dart frog venom. They have already developed a synthetic version of one compound that shows promise as a painkiller.

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2011 in Amphibians

 

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