Posts Tagged ‘amphibians’

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Pitcher Plants Turn Food Chain Upside Down

pitcher plant As a kid, I was fascinated and terrified by the idea of carnivorous plants. Growing up in suburban New Jersey, my only exposure to this particular subset of the plant kingdom was the ravenous, larger-than-life Venus fly trap in Little Shop of Horrors.

If I stumbled upon a carnivorous plant in real life, I wondered, would it have teeth? If I ventured too close, would it grab on to my finger and never let go? » Continue Reading.


Saturday, August 17, 2019

The Science of Amphibian Regeneration

Red Backed Salamander A few times a year, I bring groups of people into the woods to search for red-backed salamanders in the damp netherworld that is the forest floor. Last spring, it was 8th graders.

They did their best to follow the cardinal rule of middle school social interaction – thou shalt not appear “uncool” by expressing interest in anything whatsoever that an adult is asking of you – but the salamanders exposed the chinks in their armor. Crouched low over small wooden boards we’d set out to mimic the rotting logs that red-backeds prefer, the students murmured with excitement. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Study: Widely Used Repellent Lethal For Salamanders

Salamander Insect repellents containing picaridin can be lethal to salamanders. So reports a new study published in Biology Letters that investigated how exposure to two common insect repellents influenced the survival of aquatic salamander and mosquito larvae.

Insect repellents are a defense against mosquito bites and mosquito-borne diseases like dengue, chikungunya, Zika, and West Nile virus. Salamanders provide natural mosquito control. During their aquatic juvenile phase, they forage on mosquito larvae, keeping populations of these nuisance insects in check. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Wildlife: The Adirondack Frog and Toad Choir

Bull Frogs If you walk by a pond on a summer evening, you may hear the deep “jug-o-rum” of a bullfrog or the “tung” of a green frog, sounding like a plucked banjo string. Sometimes you’ll hear a whole chorus of frogs, the songs competing with each other for attention.

The frogs are not singing for our enjoyment, of course. Most frog sounds we hear are advertisement calls to attract mates, and the callers are usually males. In some species, these vocalizations also help male frogs maintain territories against other males. If you look closely around the shore of a pond, you often see male green frogs spaced at regular intervals. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Critter Crossings: Amphibians In April

salamander crossing There’s a myth environmental educators like to tell, and it goes something like this: after every long northern winter, spring returns. Days lengthen, temperatures rise, the snowpack slowly disappears, and one afternoon, it begins to rain – a soaking, 45-degree rain that continues well into the night.

On that one big night, all of the wood frogs and salamanders and spring peepers clamber out of their winter burrows and migrate – up to a quarter-mile, on tiny feet – to their breeding pools. An explosion of life, all on that one big night. We call this myth: Big Night.

In reality, most years, our region experiences several Big Nights, one or two Medium Nights, and sometimes a smattering of Small Nights. It all depends on the weather. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 15, 2017

Wetlands: A Great Duckweed Migration

The word ‘migration’ conjures images of vast wildebeest or pronghorn herds crossing plains in unison, or hummingbirds traversing the Gulf of Mexico. When charismatic birds leave our Northeastern forests, migration is typically the explanation. But how can a group of plants disappear, without discarding leaves, stems, or other evidence of their presence?

Duckweeds are in the subfamily Lemnoideae and are the world’s smallest flowering plant. Their small oval leaves float on ponds and quiet backwaters. Root-like fibers dangle in the water. Although I’d noticed them on St. Michael’s College experimental ponds, as an entomologist, I’d never paid them close attention. Until they disappeared. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Red-Backed Salamanders Go Underground

There are several types of migration that occur in nature. While this term generally brings to mind the long distance flight of birds and a few species of bats, it can also refer to the seasonal movements of numerous creatures that abandon their summer domains on the surface for an environment below the frost line.

As cold air becomes more intense, and nightly temperatures more regularly drop into the teens causing water in the uppermost layer of soil to freeze, most cold-blooded organisms that reside there, particularly the red-backed salamander (Plethodon cinereus) must start to migrate down in order to prevent freezing to death. » Continue Reading.


Monday, November 14, 2016

It’s A Shell Game For Turtles

turtleYears ago, I stopped when I saw a turtle attempting to cross a high-traffic road. When I picked it up, I noticed its intricately sculpted shell. The top, or carapace, was covered with layers of bony scales, called scutes, which formed small pyramids circled by concentric growth rings. Finely spaced ridges radiated from each apex. The unusual shell and orange skin helped me identify it as a wood turtle, a species being considered for federal listing as endangered because populations have declined in most northeastern states. » Continue Reading.


Friday, October 7, 2016

Wild Center Debuts New Baby Animals This Weekend

otterThe Wild Center family is expanding this fall and visitors have the chance to meet the newest members over Columbus Day Weekend.  An otter, porcupine, black rat snake and rare, albino wood turtle are all calling The Wild Center their new home.

There will be animal encounters with the new residents throughout the weekend, a baby-themed golden otter quest and visitors have the chance to make their own baby animal to take home. Born to be Wild! is on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, October 8–10, from 10 am until 5 pm. The Wild Center is located at 45 Museum Drive in Tupper Lake. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Ecological Impact Of The Current Drought

wood frogScenes from the West’s five-year drought are striking – the cracked mud at the bottom of a dry reservoir, forests in flames. Wonder what a drought would look like in the Northern Forest? Just look out the window.

This is the first time that any part of New Hampshire has been in an “extreme drought” since the federal government began publishing a drought index in 2000, said Mary Lemcke-Stampone, the state’s climatologist. “Using state records, you have to go back to the early ‘80s to get the extreme dryness we’ve been seeing in southeastern New Hampshire.” » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Adirondack Wildlife: Fall Peepers?

spring peeperWe like to think that everything in nature has its own particular time and place. But nature is fond of throwing us curves. As a naturalist, a common question I’m asked during foliage season is, “why are spring peepers calling in my woods at this time of year?”

Even ardent students of nature can be stumped by the plaintive, autumnal notes of peepers; sounds that we easily recognize in the spring can seem alien when they appear out of context. Jim Andrews, Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Rubenstein School at the University of Vermont, and Vermont’s go-to expert on all things herpetological, described how autumn peepers have fooled birders. “They were trying to locate the birds that made these noises in the fall, of course, with no success.” » Continue Reading.


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Frog Jumping and Ugly Ties: An Adirondack Father’s Day

2008615 Frogs #17My children have always embraced the nontraditional when it comes to gift giving. There have not been a lot of crazy ties or Old Spice that has crossed our door in anticipation of Father’s Day. Instead, my husband has endured his fair share of incompatible food tastings and inedible breakfast sandwiches. Like most fathers, he doesn’t really care what comes on the plate as long as he can spend time with his family.

According to the Town of Webb Publicity Director Mike Farmer, the Old Forge Frog Jumping and Ugly Tie Contest is about as nontraditional as one can get. For the past 44 years Old Forge has been the gathering spot for longest jumping frogs in the area. This event pits frog against frog in a series of categories like size, speed and longest jump.

“All frogs are safe and welcome here for Father’s Day,” says Farmer. “We make sure that the frogs have plenty of water and that they are released back into the wild. Annually over 30 frogs compete at the Old Forge Lakefront starting Sunday at noon. We run three heats of eight frogs each.” » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Spring Music: Peepers, Wood Frogs, And Chorus Frogs

Spring PeeperEvery spring, Mother Nature takes the choir out of the freezer. And sometimes – this year for example – she pops them back in for a while. The choir to which I refer is that all-male horde of early-spring frogs: spring peepers, wood frogs, and chorus frogs. Even while an ice rind still clings to the pond edges, untold numbers of these guys roust themselves from torpor to sing for female attention.

While in our species it is mostly an inflated ego which causes males to become unusually loud attention-mongers when seeking mates, it is an inflated vocal sac which allows male frogs to be so noisy. This air-filled structure balloons out tight, acting as a resonance chamber to amplify sound. I don’t know how it is with all frog species, but the inflated vocal sac of a peeper is almost as big as it is. This contrasts with the human male, whose ego can sometimes swell to many times his body size. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Wetlands Politics: Justice Scalia’s “Transitory Puddles”

DSC_1373I feel a connection with the late Justice Antonin Scalia, albeit indirect. He had strengths, but an environmental and land ethic, because they were not enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, seemed irrelevant to the Justice. Just before he died, he joined the majority in putting a stay on the the Environmental Protection Agency’s clean power regulation and thus called into question American climate commitments made in Paris. But my story is local, not global.

Some years ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) was involved in determining whether small, one-eighth acre, biologically active wetlands near our home that dry up in the summer, known as vernal pools, were worth protecting under the federal Clean Water Act’s Section 404 program. A developer wanted to build 18 homes – outside of the Adirondack Park – abutting ours that would directly impact the red maple swamp forest in which the pools lay. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, January 7, 2016

How A Warm Winter Impacts Local Wildlife

20160104_tdpt_decDuring a mild winter in our northern forests, there are those of us who cheer our lower heating bills and those who scan the forecast, hoping for cold and snow. In a classic El Niño year like this one, when we often get unseasonably mild weather well into February, there are winners and losers in the natural world, too.

El Niño refers to a natural warming of Pacific waters. This phenomenon occurs every three to seven years, when prevailing trade winds, which drive the direction and force of ocean currents, slow down. As a result, cold water from the depths doesn’t get mixed with surface water, the ocean’s surface temperature rises, and global weather patterns can be altered. This year’s strong El Niño is being complemented by a low pressure system in the far north – called the Arctic oscillation – that’s keeping polar air trapped around the North Pole. » Continue Reading.