Amphibian Week– day 2

May 4, 2021 • 2:45 pm

by Greg Mayer

I’ve received another batch of amphibian goodies for Amphibian Week. Department of Defense Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation suggests having a look at this video about the Hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis), a giant permanently aquatic salamander, and the largest (heaviest) amphibian in the Western Hemisphere. When I took herpetology as a summer course at Cornell University in upstate New York, there was a thrill when visiting a drainage in which hellbenders could occur; the mere possibility was enticing. Alas, we didn’t find any.

The Eastern Newt (Notopthalmus viridescens) and the Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) are common through much of the eastern US (the latter is also widely introduced in the west), and DoD PARC has produced fact sheets on both of them. This website explains, for kids, some of the differences between frogs and toads, but the problem with trying to distinguish frogs from toads is that there are many more kinds of members of the amphibian order Anura than just frogs and toads. “True toads” (Bufonidae) and “true frogs” (Ranidae) are only two of the dozens of families of anurans. We have two words in English, which correspond to the two genera (Bufo, toads, and Rana, frogs)  which occur in England, but these aren’t enough; we tend to shoehorn that diversity them into either ‘frog’ or ‘toad’

We’ll finish off today with a species common in SE Wisconsin, the Green Frog (Rana clamitans). The relatively small eardrum would suggest this is a female, but it’s fairly small, and might just not have developed sexually dimorphic features yet.

Green Frog, Rana clamitans, UW-Parkside, Kenosha, WI, 20.ix.2015.

And here’s a bunch more. These were all rescued from a deep (ca. 20 foot) window well, and then released into nearby Greenquist Pond.

Green Frogs, Rana clamitans, UW-Parkside, Kenosha, WI, 20.ix.2015.

7 thoughts on “Amphibian Week– day 2

  1. Way back when I taught embryology, Rana pipiens was the go to species for experimentation. I ordered them from Carolina Biological Supply and maintained them in a cold room for the semester. As I recall, we bubbled air through tap water to remove chlorine or went to a public fountain supplied from a spring. When Rana became hard to obtain, a colleague who used Xenopus in his research helped me switch over.

  2. The hellbender was named as the official Pennsylvania state amphibian a couple years ago! I’ve never had the good fortune to see one either.

  3. Great video. I remember swimming in the New River trying to find hellbenders. All I got was a marked case of bloodshot eyes from swimming underwater with them open.

  4. I know I’ve floated a river in the Ozarks that supposedly contains the hellbender, but did not know it at the time. They are magnificent beasts that, like their much larger relatives in Asia, bring to mind an ancient world where their ancestors might lurk just beneath the surface of some steaming, stinking swamp waiting to drag whatever crawls by into their greedy, gaping maws.

    I do not know the taxonomic status of the purported subspecies but being so endangered, every animal is valuable, every population is valuable, and I’d hate to find out after the fact that there were distinct species that we let die out or interbred with another out of ignorance, as I believe may have been the case in Asia, but I could be wrong or misunderstood the paper summary I read.

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