Happy Amphibian Week!

May 6, 2022 • 1:45 pm

by Greg Mayer

May 1-7, 2022, is Amphibian Week, which is being celebrated by anurophiles, salamander lovers, and caecilianists all over the country, including Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC), the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Zoo. We’re late to the party here at WEIT, but better late than never!

A bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) on the shore of Greenquist Pond, Somers, WI, 5 May 2021.

And speaking of late, it’s been a very late season for amphibians here in southeastern Wisconsin. The picture above is from May, 2021, because it’s been a very cold spring, and there’s been hardly any amphibian activity. Normally, chorus frogs (Pseudacris triseriata) begin calling in mid-March; this year I first heard them on April 7, and, since then, calling has been only sporadic. A year ago, American toads (Bufo americanus) began trilling the first week of May; I haven’t heard any yet. I have seen one adult bullfrog, in the last week of April. It was actually quite large– I spotted it with my naked eye across the Pond while scanning for turtles. (Turtles are out, but not in large numbers or consistently.)

Among the participating organizations is the Department of Defense PARC, which is charged with protecting and managing amphibians and reptiles on military lands, and they have been sending interesting items all week. One of the most fun ones for me was an amphibian identification quiz. It was done as a Powerpoint file, but I can’t figure how to set it up here in WordPress, so you’ll have to take my word for it 🙁 . They sent a nice guide to modern amphibian origins:

And this set of links:

  • When folks think of migration, usually, people think of birds and whales carrying out this process. However, did you know that some of our amphibians migrate, too? When the night is right, thousands of spotted salamanders will make their way to temporary wetlands known as vernal pools to breed in the spring. Checkout this great video by the Tennessee Aquarium: https://youtu.be/8xGZ8SLqVa8
  • If you find an amphibian in need, check out this video on how to safely assist: https://youtu.be/wBZ00p85IUE
  • Looking for some educational inspiration to teach about salamander migration and vernal pools? If so, check out this resource list put together by Of Pools and People: https://www.vernalpools.me/ecology-2/
  • Check out how the Boreal Toad was brought back to Colorado by biologists working to reintroduce the species and how they’ve been affected by a decimating fungus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9RQVA_d1DU
  • Gifford Pinchot National Forest biologists created breeding habitat for the threatened Oregon Spotted Frog through an innovative interagency conservation project in this video: https://vimeo.com/278211745
  • Scientists at Olympic National Forest are using environmental DNA (eDNA) to look for the presence of amphibians through samples taken from water bodies. This helps them find those amphibians on the move, even if they cannot see them!: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detailfull/olympic/learning/?cid=fseprd902658&width=full

We’ll finish up with DOD PARC herpetologists in the field and lab (yes, some of these feature reptiles, not amphibians).

7 thoughts on “Happy Amphibian Week!

  1. Hey great!

    Perfect timing – the gray tree frogs are singing from inside the gutters on the building just today!(so I noticed).

  2. As it happens I have spent the week looking for bullfrogs (where they do not belong). And I’ve seen plenty, of all sizes and ages.

    And, last night, red-spotted toads (Anaxyrus (Bufo) punctatus)!

  3. Great video. Thanks, Greg.
    We have vernal pools in the karst of the Niagara Escarpment. Every April the municipality closes a road that descends through the karst so the smaller threatened Jefferson salamanders can do their nocturnal migration without getting squished. I’ve never actually seen them just casually walking through but we do find them in the rocks and leaf litter that collects in our basement window wells.

    1. That’s a very interesting clip! Unmentioned is the fact that the bullfrog is a recent introduction to western North America, and thus, unlike the garter snake, has not coevolved with the newt. It’s poor food choice might have been anticipated on that ground. The bullfrog has been long sympatric in eatsern North America with a different species of newts, which are also toxic (especially the red eft stage of the life cycle), but advertise their toxicity in their bright red dorsums; I wonder if bull frogs eat them.


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