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 馃檨 . 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鈥檝e 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).

Amphibian Week Day 3

May 5, 2021 • 3:00 pm

by Greg Mayer

For the midpoint of Amphibian Week, Chris Petersen of Department of Defense Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation sent me these amphibian facts.

Characteristics of Amphibians:

路 Include frogs and toads, salamanders and caecilians (approximately 8,300 species worldwide)
路 All are vertebrates (have a backbone)
路 Are ectothermic (meaning they rely on external sources from the surrounding environment to maintain their body temperature)
路 Most live part of their life in water and part on land (although there are many exceptions)
路 Most have moist glandular skin through which they can respire (breathe) to various extents (some exclusively so, but most also through lungs or gills)
路 Lay unshelled (jelly-like) eggs in moist to wet environments
路 Most go through a process called metamorphosis to develop from a water-living life stage to a land-living stage

I then headed out to Greenquist Pond here at UW-Parkside to see what amphibians were about. You’ll recall that Chorus Frogs and American Toads have been calling on campus, but I hadn’t seen them at this pond. Here’s what I found.

Bullfrog, Rana catesbeiana, Greenquist Pond, Somers, Wisconsin, 5 May 2021.

I walked around three sides of the pond, and heard or briefly saw several Rana jump into the water, many emitting a little “yelp” as they dove in. I think both Green Frogs (Rana clamitans) and Bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana) make that noise, so I wasn’t sure of the species. All were smallish, except for one that was bigger, but could have been either a large Green or a medium Bullfrog in size. I was heading back, reconciled to failure, when I spotted this medium-sized Bullfrog on the bank, which didn’t spook. I was able to get pretty close to get this shot, and even was using sticks to bend shadowing leaves out of the way, but it stayed put.

The Green Frogs and American Toads I showed in earlier Amphibian Week 2021 posts were also from this pond, but I’ve not seen them at the pond yet this year. (Some of the frogs today may have been Green Frogs.)

There were also turtles, so I’ll cheat a bit (they are reptiles, of course) and throw them in here. There were four five Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta),

Painted Turtle, Chrysemys picta, Greenquist Pond, Somers, WI, 5 May 2021.

plus this Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans), with another two Painted Turtles behind.

Red-eared Slider, Trachemys scripta elegans, and , in back, two Painted Turtles, Chrysemys picta, Greenquist Pond, Somers, WI, 5 May

There were a total of four five Painted Turtles, all with the slider in this corner of the pond. The slider is the most popular turtle in the pet trade, and is not native to Wisconsin. Although we find them not infrequently, they all seem to be released or escaped– they don’t seem to breed up here, even though they can survive the winters. (I had my own “Spot the …” moment– I didn’t see the further back Painted Turtle in the above photo until I’d posted it here!)