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  • Sara Thompson

Check Out Awesome Amphibians

By Sara Thompson

Special to the Enterprise

Tadpoles and a frog
Tadpoles at various stages of development in a garden pool; Image credit is Timo Newton-Syms

Amphibians are the animal group that includes frogs, toads, salamanders, and more. Classified as animals that live both on land and water, there is more to them than that. The word Amphibious is Greek in origin and uses the words amphi meaning “of both kinds” and bios meaning “life”. Many animals can live both in water and land, such as otters and seals, but they still need air. Amphibians can gather oxygen both on land and in water and live exclusively in water at some point in their life cycle. Amphibians are classified into three different groups: Anura, Caudata, and Apoda.

Anura are the group that includes frogs and toads. Like amphibious, the word is Greek in origin, meaning “without tail”. Anura eggs require water as their thin membranes would dry out on land. After hatching, frogs and toads are fully aquatic and have gills and tails. While developing they grow legs and their gills slowly recede, and they develop lungs. During this metamorphosis they also reduce their tail until it disappears entirely. Adults can be on land for extended periods with their lungs but must return to water as their skin also performes gas exchange and it requires moisture.

Caudata are salamanders and newts. This group name is from Latin and means tail. Like all amphibians, they must lay their eggs in water. When the young hatch they have gills and tails and live fully aquatic. During their metamorphosis, they also grow forelimbs and hindlimbs, but they retain their tails. Caudata also requires moist skin to perform gas exchange. Many Caudata that are found on land are usually under logs or underbrush where it is cool and moist.

The Apoda are caecilians. The name is Latin for “without feet”, as these animals do not have any limbs and look like worms or snakes depending on size. Found exclusively in equatorial environments, caecilians are well adapted to burrowing, living mostly in moist soil and mud. Like all amphibians, they go through a metamorphosis, but some species of caecilians will metamorphose almost immediately after hatching, but some have an extended larval stage.

No matter what type of amphibian, they all have the same semi-aquatic life, with at least one part of their life cycle being fully aquatic. They go through a metamorphosis, have adapted bodies for gas exchange in both water and on land, have adapted eyes for living both in water and on land, and all live in or around water to maintain moist skin. Almost all amphibians live near freshwater, with only a few exceptions that live in swampy or brackish water, but none are found in the oceans or seas.

Campers in this week’s Fur, Feathers, and Scales camp learned about several varieties of animals, including amphibians. They did hands on activities and experiments learning about insects, arachnids, mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles. Campers were also able to meet live animals including cockroaches, tarantula, skinks, and turtles.


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