Tag Archives: amphibians

Ten Things That May Amaze You About Frogs & Toads

So in preparation for an amphibian program I had recently I did a lot of reading, much of which was fascinating but didn’t actually apply to my program because it was about amphibians in other parts of the world instead of here in western North Carolina.

Spring peeper

Spring peeper

Some of this stuff is right out of a science fiction movie so I decided to write a post about it. I suspect you will be as blown away as I was! We live in an amazing world and there are so many wickedly-awesome adaptations that animals have!

So here then, are 10 Things You May Not Know about frogs and Toads:

Frogs are slimy and hard to hold!

Frogs are slimy and hard to hold!

1. Have you ever touched a frog and noticed how slimy it was? That’s because they have mucus glands that secrete slime to keep them moist since they can obtain oxygen through their skin. They also breathe through their nostrils and lungs but about 50% of their oxygen is through their skin and when they are underwater, all of the oxygen exchange takes place through their skin.

2.Did you know frogs and toads shed their skin? Some do this daily, some weekly or less frequently. I have never seen this but have read that it’s like the frog suddenly has the hiccups and starts moving strangely, then peels off its outer skin, like removing a sweater. Then, guess what? It eats it! Yum.

3.Some frogs and toads, like our Cope’s gray tree frog, can change their color. Light, moisture, temperature and even mood can affect this!

Gray tree frogs can change colors!

Gray tree frogs can change colors!

4.The largest frog on Earth lives in West Africa and gets to be a foot long. It is aptly named the Goliath Frog. As for the smallest frog, it is a tie between the Gold Frog in Brazil and the Eleutherodactylus iberia (Yikes, I’m not going to try to pronounce that! Too bad they don’t have a common name yet for this frog!) that was discovered in 1996 in Cuba. Both are only about 9.8mm long! And we thought our spring peeper was tiny! (Our spring peeper is 1 inch long!)peep-5854

5. Many frogs and toads make noises to attract mates. They do their by inflating their vocal sac or sacs. (Some frogs have one but others have two, one on either side of their mouth) When they do this, it looks like they are chewing gum and blowing a giant bubble. Sometimes the noise of a lot of frogs doing this at once is DEAFENING! The songs can sometimes be heard a mile away! Ever wondered why they don’t go deaf with all of this noise? It’s because their ears or tympanums are connected to their lungs which also vibrate when they call. This pressure keeps frogs from hurting their own ears as they call. peep-

6.Have you heard of a pipi pipi toad? My gosh, this toad is incredible! The male actually embeds the female’s eggs onto her back, and then the skin grows over them so the developing eggs are INSIDE of her back! Then, incredibly, fully formed froglets hatch out several months later! Check out this video:

7. Maybe you’ve heard of Darwin’s Frog? This is a frog that looks like an overweight leaf and lives in the Amazon. The male actually swallows the tadpoles and then allows them to grow up INSIDE his vocal sac. Wait’ll you see what happens when they become fully formed frogs!

8. Wood frogs are a frog that we have here in the US, especially on the east coast, but even up as far north as the Arctic Circle. Amazingly, this frog can freeze solid–with more than 60% of its body frozen–and then just wake up and thaw out in the spring. As the first ice begins to form on their body, it sets off an alarm reaction which then triggers the production of glucose in their body. This acts like anti-freeze and protects the INSIDES of their cells from freezing. In less than 15 hours their heart stops beating, they don’t breath, no blood circulates. They look DEAD. But as long as the temperature doesn’t go below -8 degrees, they will wake up in the spring and head off to continue their lives!

Wood frogs freeze!

Wood frogs freeze!

9. Did you know frogs have teeth? They don’t look much like ours, but they do have teeth on their upper jaw. They use them to hold prey in place before swallowing it whole.

10. Frogs’ tongues are not connected in the back of their mouths like humans, but rather in the front so they can “throw it out of their mouths” and use its stickiness to catch prey. Here’s a video of this:

I hope you are as amazed by frogs as I am! It was hard to narrow it down to only 10.

If you want to read more, here are a few other links

10 things you may not know about wood frogs

Here are some recordings of the songs of an American Toad, Spring Peeper,and Pickerel Frog.

What cool facts do you know about frogs and toads that I have not included? As always, I would love to hear from you!

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Salamanders

Eastern Newt

Eastern Newt

Happy Spring!!! Did you know today is the first full day of spring? (If the temperature is any indication, you might be fooled! Did you get snow where you live last night?)

In the past two months I spent an amazing amount of time reading about amphibians in preparation for a program I had last week. This group of animals is incredibly fascinating and I seemed to find something daily that had me shaking my head in wonder. I thought it would be fun to share some of the really interesting stuff with you. (And if you were at my program, this won’t all be a repeat–much of this was stuff I didn’t have time for.)

1.Did you know that salamanders have been on Earth for more than 300 million years? They were here 40 million years BEFORE the dinosaurs! Worldwide there are close to 600 different species.

A dusky salamander

A dusky salamander

2. When you think of salamanders, do you imagine a GIGANTIC creature that is as big as a baby alligator? Well amazingly, such an animal exists! It lives in Japan and gets to be 5 feet long. And guess what? It’s not even the LARGEST salamander in the world! (That prize goes to the endangered Chinese giant salamander, Andrias davidianus that can be 6 feet long!) Check out the video here of the Japanese giant:

3. The Giant Japanese Salamander from above is related to another pretty big salamander we have right here in western North Carolina–one called a Hellbender. The Hellbender salamander can get to be 29 inches long and lives in fast moving, pollution-free streams and rivers in southern Appalachia. It can live for 30 years and may live it’s entire life under the same rock! Males actually are the ones that will guard and protect the developing eggs, for 68-75 days! Here are two great videos about this unique creature called a Hellbender:

4. You probably know that frogs have long tongues that they can shoot out of their mouths to grab their unsuspecting prey, but did you know some salamanders can do this too? Check out this salamander with the world’s longest amphibian tongue!

5. In many places in eastern North America the biomass of salamanders outweighs the biomass of all of the mammal and birds combined!! Do you wonder how this can be since you hardly ever see salamanders? It’s because at any given time 90% of the salamander population is underground! The other 10% is hiding under leaves or rocks so you don’t see much of them either. The Southeast has the highest salamander density in the world!

Male spermatophores on the bottom of the wetland

Male spermatophores on the bottom of the wetland

6. Most salamanders have a pretty dull sex life. The male deposits sperm in a little packet called a spermatophore on the bottom of the pond bottom and then the female comes along and sits on it, bringing it into her cloaca, where her eggs are fertilized and then laid in the water and left behind to develop on their own.

7. Some salamanders actually watch over the eggs before they hatch, especially if the female lays them on land rather than in water. Many of our lungless salamanders lay their eggs under rocks and then will curl their bodies around them to keep them moist and protect them from predators. They will remain with them for several months, until they hatch.newt-7241

8. Yes, if you read that last one correctly, you probably noticed I said lungless salamanders. It’s true. There is a giant group of salamanders (family Plethodontidae) that do not have gills or lungs. They live on land and get the oxygen they need through their moist skin! This is one of the reasons why salamanders (and other amphibians) worldwide are declining in great numbers–they are very susceptible to pollution.

9. Salamanders don’t need to eat all that often. Some will have only a few meals each year. And amazingly, there is a salamander that lives in caves in southern Europe that can go 10 years without a meal!! This salamander, called “Olm” or “Human fish” (Proteus anguinus) is light colored and can live for 100 years! Check out the video of it here.

10. There is a salamander that lives on the high Russian plain at 64 degrees latitude–almost to the Arctic Circle. This amazing salamander, called the Siberian newt (Salamandrella keyserlingii) has the largest range of any salamander in the world and is capable of surviving after being frozen in the tundra ice for several years! 

So many amazing creatures on our great Earth! Stay tuned as next week I will do a post called 10 things you might not know about frogs and toads.

Have a wonderful day!

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Quote of the Week #57: Spring Fever

Do you get “spring fever?” How do you define this?

Spring peepers are tiny!

Spring peepers are tiny!

For me it is the same feeling every year.  I am afflicted with what I can only call “pond addiction syndrome.” I’ll be riding my bike or out in the car with the windows down when I’ll hear the unmistakable chorus of spring peepers, american toads or wood frogs, letting me know, as least according to them, that spring has arrived. I will feel this magnetic urge to pull over and go check out the wetland, searching to see who’s been there. Will I find wood frog eggs? Spotted salamander eggs? Will I spot a tiny peeper, calling from his perch under a tuft of grass?

I was on my bike last weekend and was traveling fast down a curvy hill when around a sharp bend I heard the spring peepers. My husband was ahead of me, out of sight and booking down the hill– the only reason I didn’t stop, as surely when he got to the bottom and I didn’t arrive shortly he would think I’d wrecked and then have to bike back UP the hill he’d just flown down. I doubted this would go over well so I left my curiosity unsatisfied.

By the way, have you ever seen a spring peeper? As you can see from the above photo, one can sit on the end of my finger with room to spare! For such a tiny frog, they have a VERY, loud voice. Their songs up close can truly be deafening.

Spring to many people means the birds start singing and the flowers bloom, but for me, it means the amphibians are awake and the air will be filled with their predictable songs. What could be better?

So this week’s quote:

A spring peeper announces spring

A spring peeper announces spring

“If there is magic on this planet it is contained in water.”

What do you think of this quote? Do you think it’s true? How do YOU interpret this quote? I would love to hear your thoughts! Use the comment box below to share.

(By the way, If you want to hear the song of a spring peeper, click HERE or a wood frog song, click HERE or american toads, click HERE. Also, I am doing a program about Amphibians tomorrow–March 18th! Hope to see you there!)

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Weekly Puzzler Answer #97

So did you know last week’s puzzler? These are eggs from a yellow spotted salamander! Have you ever seen or heard of this salamander? It is rather large, at 7 inches long though they can be 9 inches long! beech-076

I first learned about this salamander when I lived in eastern New York state and worked as a Naturalist at a local county park that consisted of nearly 5000 acres including many ponds and vernal wetlands. Myself and the other naturalists and curators often visited the ponds in the spring, checking for the amphibians and their egg masses as well as other critters like fairy shrimp. Some creatures, including spotted salamanders and wood frogs, use vernal wetlands for their eggs.  These sometimes resemble puddles more than ponds and will tend to dry up before the official start of spring or summer. Salamanders and frogs choose them because they have no fish–which of course is a good thing if you are a tiny creature that would easily become fish food!

While this looks like a puddle, it is an important habitat for wood frogs and salamanders

While this looks like a puddle, it is an important habitat for wood frogs and salamanders

Here's another one! Filled with wood frog eggs

Here’s another one! Filled with wood frog eggs

Another creature that lays eggs in the ponds in the late winter and early spring are wood frogs. Their eggs look different. Spotted salamander eggs have a gelatinous mass around each egg (black dot) and then AROUND THE WHOLE MASS is another gelatinous mass. Wood frog eggs lack the extra layer on the outside. Also, spotted salamander eggs are usually found throughout the pond or wetland whereas wood frog eggs are usually all in the same place, and usually all attached to some kind of submerged vegetation.

Here is a wood frog egg mass in a pond on my property.

wood frog eggs

wood frog eggs

Wood frog eggs

Wood frog eggs above, yellow spotted salamander eggs below


Yellow spotted salamanders are a kind of mole salamander. They spend nearly all of their life underground –which is why most people never see one–unless they happen to be at a vernal wetland in the early spring when the salamanders are there to mate and lay eggs before returning to their hidden lives.

Know how they know when to leave their underground burrows? Or how they survive the freezing winter temperatures? Ever wondered what sex is like for these slimy, 4 legged creatures? Spotted salamanders will be the subject of this week’s Creature Feature so check back next week to learn more about them. They are fascinating!

Wood frog eggs have algae growing on them

Wood frog eggs have algae growing on them

Also, if you share my backyard here in western North Carolina and want to learn more about amphibians including our own frogs, toads and salamanders, I invite you to join me for a program at The Compleat Naturalist on March 18th at 6:30. Click HERE to sign up or HERE for more details.

Click HERE for the next puzzler! Happy weekend!

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Weekly Puzzler Answer #80

Did you have any guesses as to the identify of the animal making this strange sound? Would you be surprised if I told you it was from a kind of amphibian–specifically a Pickerel frog?

frog-2065Pickerel frogs are found in the eastern United States, with the exception of the extreme southeast. They live near slow-moving water and in other damp areas, preferably with low, dense vegetation. They are 1 3/4 to 3 1/4 inches long. Their underside is light-colored with yellow where the legs meet the body. They have two ridges along the sides and back of their bodies–called dorsal lateral ridges.

Pickerel frogs producing an irritating skin secretion that makes them unappetizing to some predators. This secretion may kill other frogs if kept in the same container for any length of time.

Want to check out the next puzzler? Click HERE.

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Weekly Puzzler Answer #56

peep-5850This HUGE sound is made from a very TINY frog, a spring peeper, one of our earliest to start calling in the spring. Their latin name is pseudacris crucifer. The first part means “false locust” because many people confuse their calls with those of insects. The second part, crucifer, is from the cross or X on their backs. This frog is only 3/4 – 1 3/8th inch long! To read more about this amazing frog, Click HERE. 

Or check out the next Puzzler!



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Weekly Puzzler Answer #54

Most people who heard the singing and looked to find its cause, identified this amphibian as a frog. The sound however is made from an American Toad–Bufo americanus– a creature few people seem to associate with water. But like other amphibians, toads DO travel to find appropriate bodies of water in the spring so they can find a mate and lay eggs. These are often vernal pools or in some cases, puddles, that will soon dry up. After wood frogs and peepers, American Toads are one of the earliest amphibians to call in the season. Hearing them is such a sure-sign that SPRING IS HERE!! Woo hoo, it’s cause for celebration! Are you hearing toads yet where you live?

Check out this past Puzzler  about another aspect of the American Toad. Or, check out Weekly Puzzler #55. Or, click below to listen and watch some toads singing… and mating!

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