What do you consider the signs announcing the arrival of spring?
For some, it may be the arrival of flocks of American robins swooping into neighborhood yards, while others look to budding trees or sprouting crocuses and daffodils. Perhaps you simply notice the sun staying out longer and that you can leave your heavy winter coat at home. And, if those cues have not caught your attention, few eyes can avoid the influx of pastel-colored and Easter-themed items stocked on the shelves of local stores.
Many amphibian species in the United States have timed their emergence, migration, and breeding activity to coincide with the onset of spring. The first warm, rainy night at the end of winter sends salamanders and frogs in droves under the cover of darkness to congregate for breeding. These amphibians travel from upland forests, frequently having to cross busy roads, to reach critical wetland habitats.
Suddenly, the evening stillness of winter is replaced by loud choruses of calling frogs advertising for mates. At the same time, in complete silence, large, conspicuous mole salamanders (species in the family Ambystomatidae) arrive and depart en masse, leaving behind masses of eggs tucked in an outer jelly envelope and attached to vegetation or sticks in the wetland as the only evidence of their journey. Amphibian activities are synched with the presence of these wetlands, and amphibian populations decline if suitable habitat disappears.
AZA, along with our friend and amphibian ambassador, Kermit the Frog, invite you to celebrate the onset of spring and take advantage of Daylight Savings Time to “Spring Forward” for amphibians. Kermit has traveled to space and back for Walt Disney Corporation on the United States Space Shuttle Endeavor on March 11, 2008, highlighting the incredible journeys and great lengths amphibians must take to ensure the survival of their species. We invite you to take the opportunity to engage in amphibian conservation efforts.
You can help conserve amphibians and their wetland habitats by monitoring local frog and toad populations as a FrogWatch USA volunteer. To learn more and get involved, visit www.aza.org/frogwatch/.
Zoos and aquariums across the country are holding events and activities to raise awareness about amphibian conservation. Visitors to Utah’s Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City can join AZA, Kermit, and FrogWatch USA Chapter Coordinators at the Frog Conservation Ball on March 17 from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm followed by FrogWatch USA Volunteer Training from 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm.
To follow Kermit’s cross-country
FrogWatch USA tour, visit the FrogWatch USA Facebook page and Flickr Photostream.
Zoo educators should check out “Hop Into Action, The Amphibian Curriculum”.
Keep it green!