What You Should Know About Amphibians
All photos courtesy of U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
It’s summertime and hopefully many of you have kids that are outdoors exploring. Some of you will be having conversations about frogs, toads, salamanders and newts after encountering them on your adventures.
Of course, it is best to leave these critters exactly where you find them and avoid handling them as much as possible, for their sake as much as for yours.
Endangered Wyoming toad
Here are some quick facts to help you understand these small but mighty creatures.
- The word amphibian comes from the Greek word amphibios, which means to live a double life. The noun amphibian has its roots in the words amphi, meaning of both kinds, and bios, meaning life. This refers to the ability of amphibians to live in both the water and on the land (aquatic and terrestrial).
- There are more than 6,000 different kinds of amphibians and includes toads, frogs, salamanders and caecilians.
- Ancestors of modern day amphibians existed 140 million years before dinosaurs.
- Amphibians absorb moisture and oxygen through their skin, along with toxins. This makes them reliable indicators of the health of the water in which they live. A decrease in the amount of amphibians around lakes and streams is a bad sign.
- Amphibians are ectotherms, meaning they cannot heat or cool their bodies automatically. They must rely on the temperature of their surroundings. For example, plunging into water to cool off or lying on a sunny rock to warm themselves.
- Amphibians eat a lot of bugs. One frog or toad can eat up to 10,000 insects each season, providing substantial and free pest control in your backyard garden.
- Some amphibian species can survive without food for over ten years.
- Nearly half of all known amphibian species are declining.
- More than 32% of amphibians are listed as globally endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
- More amphibians are at risk of extinction in the next century than any other animal class.
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