Image

Book of the Month: Frog Alphabet Book

*Featured Image: Frog Alphabet by Fruitful Designs

This month’s book of the month falls under the category of both art and book- it is one of Jerry Pallota’s Alphabet book series , illustrated by Ralph Masiello: “The Frog Alphabet Book.” This book is impressive, not only in artistic design, but in educational value. It uses specific species to represent letters of he alphabet and gives fun facts about each one. While it should be called the amphibian alphabet book (it uses newts, salamanders, and even caecilians), I like that it uses more than just frogs. As an aspiring herpetologist when I was a child, I would have LOVED this book. As an adult, and a herpetologist, I LOVE this book. Truly something all ages can enjoy.

 

Bottom line… “The Frog Alphabet Book” is awesome, for adults and kids  (this is coming from an adult who has no children, so take that as you will). I recommend it.

 

 

 

Advertisements
Image

(Belated) June Species of the Month: Carpathian Newt

Sorry, still busy and behind, and this will be a brief species of the month…

For June of 2015: The Carpathian Newt (Lissotriton montandoni)!

carpathain

Vigo the Newtpathian

These little Carpathian newts are conquerors… That’s not really the right word, but I like the image. They are survivors. They appear to have adapted well to humans encroaching on their habitat (compared to most amphibians). Sometimes population densities can get up to 20 newts per meter square, which is pretty great.

Like most newts (for the difference between Newts vs. Salamanders see this post), the Carpathian newt has 3 life stages: larvae, eft, and adult. As the namesake suggests, these little guys range throughout the Carpathian mountains and are frequently found in the Ukraine and Romania.

Range of Carpathian newt.

Range of Carpathian newt.

The Carpathian newt seems to be more active during the daytime hours than any other species of newt (most newt species are moderately nocturnal).

Their breeding season varies based on how high they live in the mountains (groups living higher up the mountains will breed mid through late summer, vs. animals living in the foothills which will breed in late spring through mid summer). Efts usually start to climb out of the water in mid/late summer.

Adult newt in breeding colors.

Adult newt in breeding colors.

This is a brumating (brumation= mild form of hibernation) species that will brumate late fall through late spring.

Handsome newt.

Handsome newt.

All glory to the Carpathian newt!

Image

Species of the Month: Mississippi Slimy Salamander

I was out at the Noxubee Wildlife refuge with my dogs, and there were slimy salamanders (the species, not the characteristic) under almost every other log I looked under. I feel that they were nominating themselves for Species of the Month. Let’s talk slimy salamanders! (The gallery below is the salamanders I found today)

You can see then rubbing themselves all over my hand in the picture above. They got their name from this sticky goo/mucus they secrete whey they are handled (or something tried to eat them). It’s kinda tacky like drying glue and mildly irritating. They get real into rubbing the stuff on you.

Slimy salamanders are plethodontid salamanders, which is a HUGE group of salamanders that can vary quite a bit in looks, behavior, and breeding methods. What plethodontids all share is that they are lungless. They rely on their skin to breathe.

Getting some air? Or just bad at hiding?

Getting some air? Or just bad at hiding?

As far as “slimy salamander” species specifically, there are 13 species of slimy salamanders. They are more or less separated by region and, honestly, aside from minor genetic differences, I don’t know what classifies them as different species. Overall they look very similar (two or three of the species have notably fewer spots or a different shade of skin) and they can all interbreed. The little fellas and ladies I was finding were Plethodon mississipi, the Mississippi slimy salamander.

Map of slimy salamander species distribution. Any is your area?

Map of slimy salamander species distribution. Any in your area?

Everyone always wants to know how to tell a male from a female. With most plethodontids, it can be difficult outside the breeding season. The male cloaca will have papilla and be swollen when breeding, but outside that time they will look much like a female. The male will also get swelling under his chin during breeding season- this is his mental gland, which he uses to spread pheromones to the female.

Look at that sexy mental gland.

Look at that sexy mental gland.

 

My favorite way to tell males from females in most plethodontids, which many biologists will argue with me because it hasn’t been proven in all species (but statistically I find it works 100% of the time, I have yet to have it fail me, you just need good eyes): look for the ‘stache. Males have a “mustache” (or fangs), which is actually enlarged premaxillary teeth (plethodontid means “lots of teeth”) that they use to ensure delivery of pheromone to the female.

Mississippi slimy salamanders go a courtin’ in the late summer, July and August. They have teeny tiny clutches of 4-20 eggs that they lay under logs where the little female ferociously guards them… for about 2 to 3 months until they hatch. Good moms!

Momma guarding her eggs.

Momma guarding her eggs.

Eggs hatch into tiny terrestrial salamanders (no larval stage for slimy salamanders) that look like itty bitty adults. Super cute. They take about 3 years to reach maturity… and the cycle continues!

Newborn slimy. He'll get his color in a couple weeks.

Newborn slimy. He’ll get his color in a couple weeks.

So go out, flip some logs and find some cute little slimy salamanders today!

 

Image

Amphibian art for conservation

I found Leah Jay’s artwork when I was looking for artwork that captures the conservation of salamanders. Her artwork is… poetry. The use of watercolors and words to look like a combination of naturalist paintings and street art is just wonderful. I selected some works to share, but if you want to spend some time browsing, I recommend going to her website and going through her galleries. She has put together a book of her art in order to spread awareness about the amphibian extinction crisis.

Image

Mythology Monday: HELLbenders

The hellbender is the largest salamander in America and one of the largest in the world. It certainly has inspired a good deal of myths over the years. Because of its appearance and unusual, “writhing-like” motions, this critter tends to get labeled as a sinister being. Its name, in fact, was given to it due to the way it moves… as though it is being tortured by infernal flames… as though it were a creature of hell.

Look at them moves.

Look at them moves.

Fishermen have found a rival in the hellbender, as folklore has long been shared that these animals spread their slime over their territory and over fishing lines to keep fish away. It is also said hellbenders eat game fish and a stream where a hellbender is found will be devoid of fish. There is a myth that hellbenders are extremely poisonous, and even touching their thick mucous can cause extreme illness. Some people believe their slime puts toxins in the water which kills the fish. Due to all this bad press, fishermen that snare a hellbender have historically killed them mercilessly.

It lurks...

It lurks…

First of all- hellbenders are federally endangered, if you hook one and you kill it, you are committing a crime.

Second of all- MYTHS!!! Hellbenders are harmless (unless you stick your hand in their mouths, and although they can give you quite a bite, they are more likely to squirm and hit you with their big rudder tail than chew on you). Finding a hellbender in your fishing stream means you are in healthy waters and are VERY likely to have a good fishing day. They do NOT eat game fish, or really much fish at all. Their diet mostly consists of crustaceans.

Nom nom. Tasty crayfish.

Nom nom. Tasty crayfish.

They do produce a thick slime (hence one of their nicknames, snot otter) but it is not toxic… at least, not to the environment. I don’t recommend eating it. The handsome hellbender is a good omen and fishermen should be so lucky to come across one!

HellbenderColoringPgHelpHellbenderW260

Image

Amphibian Academy Awards!

It’s the AMPHIBIAN ACADEMY AWARDS!!! And the Kermit goes to….

 

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Mr. Toad (For Mr. Toad in The Wind in the Willows)

The classic, Mr. Toad.

The classic, Mr. Toad.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Toad from Pan’s Labyrinth

This was a tough category, but he pulled ahead...

This was a tough category, but he pulled ahead…

Best Animated Feature: Freddie the Frog

I know there are a lot of animated frog films, but this one is great.

I know there are a lot of animated frog films, but this one is great.

Best Makeup: Hell Comes to Frogtown

Enough said.

Enough said.

Best Original Song: The Rainbow Connection (The Muppet Movie)

I mean. Come on.

I mean. Come on.

Best Foreign Language Film: Keroro Gunso the Super Movie (Sgt. Frog Movie)

This guy just makes me giggle.

This guy just makes me giggle.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Kermit the Frog

Who else?

Who else?

Best Adapted Screenplay: Rupert and the Frog Song

LOVE this film. If you haven't seen it, SEE IT NOW!!

LOVE this film. If you haven’t seen it, SEE IT NOW!!

Best Picture: Frogs

Eco Horror, FROGS! In which frogs FIGHT BACK!

Eco Horror, FROGS! In which frogs FIGHT BACK!

 

Apologies if your favorite frog or frog related film was not on the list. A few were tough calls.

 

 

Image

Knock, knock. Who’s there? Awesome door knockers!

Not much to say on this one… just some really neat door knockers. I want to get a whole bunch to change out depending on who is coming over, or on my mood. Enjoy!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This cute toad says come on in!

This cute toad says come on in!

This handsome lizard would appreciate a break from weight of the heavy ring in his mouth....

This handsome lizard would appreciate a break from weight of the heavy ring in his mouth….

This turtle got stuck with the crummy job of door knocker.

This turtle got stuck with the crummy job of door knocker. He could have been a racing turtle, but noooooooo…

Ssssomeone's coming.

Ssssomeone’s coming.

Eeeeheehee, the lily pad.

Eeeeheehee, the lily pad.

I just like the color against the door. Also that he is facing up, much less depressing than the last turtle.

I just like the color against the door. Also that he is facing up, much less depressing than the last turtle.

This one is a classic. It's called a salamander, it looks more lizardy to me, but... for the sake of salamanders... we'll go with salamander!

This one is a classic. while there is debate over it is a lizard or a salamander, and it does have features of both… it has the amount of toes to be a salamander, and I would call the fringe around the head gills. really pretty.

This one is just... I can't even.

This one is just… I can’t even.