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Beaver Marsh Trail - #7 - Amphibians



 

Amphibians of Beaver Marsh

Amphibians are a large and diverse group of vertebrates. There are 3 groups of amphibians: frogs and toads (anura), salamanders (caudata), and caecilians (gymnophiona). Of the 3 groups, only frogs and salamanders are found in North Carolina.

Frogs and Toads

Green Tree Frog (Hyla cinerea)
Green Tree Frog (Hyla cinerea)

Frogs and toads are the largest group of amphibians. The first species evolved more than 190 million years ago and presently includes more than 5000 species living around the world. Frogs and toads have permeable skin that absorbs water and other substances. Frogs and toads, like all amphibians are ectothermic, which means their body temperature is regulated by the habitat. Each species of frog and toad has a unique breeding call that males use to attract a mate. Frogs are the most well-known and are commonly described as having smooth, moist skin, elongated hind legs and live in or near water. Many frogs are excellent jumpers and often leap to escape predators. Adult frogs are predators and consume a wide variety of prey including insects, spiders, worms, and small vertebrates.

American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus)
American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus)

In North Carolina, species that have dry bumpy skin, shorter hind legs, and frequently found far from standing water are called toads. Many toads have enlarged parotid glands just behind their eyes. The glands produce toxic or distasteful chemicals that help deter predators. Frogs and toads use camouflage to hide from predators, but if that fails toads often use another trick to avoid being eaten. When threatened toads will inhale air and raise their body off the ground to appear larger and intimidate the predator. Beaver Marsh provides habitat for 10 of the 30 species of frogs and toads found in North Carolina. When weather is very hot, dry, or cold these animals take refuge in dark and damp spaces like rotten logs, forest leaf litter, or underground. Frogs and toads are most active during the breeding season. On rainy nights during the spring and summer males from several species can be heard calling to attract females. Each species has a unique call.

Common species of frogs & toads found at Beaver Marsh:

  • Spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer)
  • Northern cricket frog (Acris crepitans)
  • Upland chorus frog (Pseudacris feriarum)
  • Pickerel frog (Lithobates palustris)
  • Cope’s gray tree frogs (Hyla chrysoscelis)
  • Green tree frogs (Hyla cinerea)
  • American bullfrogs (Lithobates catesbeiana
  • Green Frogs (Lithobates clamitans)
  • American toads(Anaxyrus americanus)
  • Eastern narrow-mouth toads (Gastrophryne carolinensis)
Pickerel frog (Lithobates palustris)
Pickerel frog (Lithobates palustris)

Salamanders

Southern Red Backed Salamander (Plethodon serratus)
Southern Red Backed Salamander (Plethodon serratus)

Salamanders are a diverse group of amphibians found in terrestrial and aquatic habitats. They are carnivores and will eat anything they can fit in their mouth and swallow, including other salamanders. Many produce chemicals in their skin and shed their tails to escape being eaten. Salamanders that have lost their tail can regenerate a new tail, some can even regrow lost legs. More species of salamander live in the Southeastern US than any other place on earth. Most of the salamanders in the NC Piedmont and all the species found at Beaver Marsh belong to one of two groups.

Mole salamanders are large, heavy bodied, terrestrial salamanders. They spend most of the year underground only emerging during a short breeding season. All mole salamanders are oviparous and deposit egg clutches in or near seasonal wetlands. Mole salamanders are dependent on the temporary pools that form after rains because larvae cannot survive in water inhabited by fish predators. The marbled salamander (Ambystoma opacum) is a mole salamander and the Official State Salamander in North Carolina.

The lungless salamanders are the most diverse group of salamanders. Most species are small and slender terrestrial salamanders. As the name suggests these salamanders have no lungs. They absorb oxygen and release carbon dioxide through their skin.

Marbled Salamander (Ambystoma opacum)
Marbled Salamander (Ambystoma opacum)

Salamander species common in the Beaver Marsh area:

  • Marbled salamander (Ambystoma opacum)
  • Eastern red-backed salamander (Plethodon cinereus)

Amphibian Conservation

Amphibians are found in almost every habitat on every continent except the polar regions of Greenland and Antarctica. In many ecosystems they are abundant and play important roles in many food webs. Many amphibians are considered indicator species because they are very sensitive to environmental conditions. Amphibian studies can provide important information about the health of an ecosystem and how changes might affect other species of plants and animals.

Habitat loss and degradation are the largest threats to amphibian species. Many species are also threatened by infectious disease and climate change. Organizations like ECWA protect and restore areas like the Beaver Marsh that provide valuable habitats for amphibians and other wildlife.

More Info

Additional information about amphibians can be found in the following links.

Headshot of Nicolette Cagle, Ph.D.
Nicolette Cagle, Ph.D.

Looking for even more information?

Check out Nicolette Cagle's March Wildlife Report

Check out Nicolette Cagle's March Wildlife Report

Nicolette Cagle, Ph.D. is a passionate ecologist and environmental educator on the faculty of the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. She provides periodic Wildlife Reports on the flora and fauna in the Ellerbe Creek Watershed.

 



 

Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
331 W. Main, Ste. 511
Durham, NC 27701
919-698-9729

These web pages are the Eagle Scout project of Mathew Jacob.
Thanks Mathew!