Naturalist Journal: Amphibians Galore

If you ever wondered what kind of frog you saw in your backyard, our Intrepid Naturalist Dr. Chuck Welsh is here to answer your questions. He takes on the long list of listeners questions about local amphibians: frogs, toads, and salamanders.

Read the transcript »Close the Transcript


Matthew Craug: What seems to be the pressing concerns of our listeners?

CW: Several things have been catching their interest. One of which concerns the distinction between some of the local amphibians, frogs and toads.

MC: What if anything is the distinction?

CW: As the name amphibian implies they all spend at least some of their lives in water. For the local, common American Toad that time is only when they are a tadpole. When they metamorphosize into a full toad they leave the water and spend their lives on land in moist, damp environments. They return to the water to mate and lay eggs.

MC:What do they look like?

CW They can fit into the palm of your hand and are camoflauged colored green and brown and their skin is rough and bumpy. They are camoflauged so well that they often meet their fate at the end of a lawn mower blade.

MC:What bodies of water do they use?

CW: Mostly small vernal ponds. That is, pools of standing water that are usually only there during the spring rains and that dry up early in the summer. But I have found them in large mud puddles in my driveway. Unfortunately they dry up before the tadpoles can mature.

MC:What about frogs?

CW:Frogs tend to spend a good majority of their lives in and near the water. Therefore, they mate in larger bodies like ponds, lakes, and even creeks. Their skin is smooth and shiny as compared to toads.

MC:What are the more common frogs in the area?

CW: Of course the most popular from local frog lore is the bullfrog. It's the biggest frog around and has a very distinct, loud call. They are actually secondary and tertiary predators very important in their ecosystems. That is, they eat just about anything they think they can get into their mouths. Insects, other frogs and amphibians, crayfish, and fish. In the south they have even found baby alligators in their stomachs.

Any others that are easily identifiable?

Yes. Another common one often confused with the bullfrog is the green frog. As the name implies it's colored various shades of green and a bit smaller then bullfrogs. It's call is one syllable. So is it easy to identify if not by site then by sound.

MC: Is there a distinct size difference?

CW: They grow to about 4 or 5 inches long whereas bullfrogs can be up to 10 inches long. But there is an overlap in the sizes and while they are basking on the bank of a lake it can be hard to tell which it is.

MC: What other inquiries have you had.

CW:Well sticking with our amphibian theme, I get lots of questions about salamanders every summer. The two that you are most likely to see are the spotted salamander and the slimy salamander.

MC: What is the distinction.

The slimy salamander is black with white or sliver spots and the spotted salamander is black with orange and or yellow spots. The size range overlaps from 4 to 10 inches as an adult. There about a 10 other species in the state which include the huge fully aquatic hellbenders and muduppies. But, you are not likely to find any of those close to home.

MC: Any Recordings for us?
CW: Yes. A green frog croaking away.