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This Wood Frog in our herp photo of the day, brings back memories of summertime herping. Uploaded by user casichelydia . Be sure to tell them you liked it here!

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News Briefs

Toads Catch Unusual Lift - Friday, Jan 04, 2019

Several Cane Toads remind us that necessity is the mother of invention as they found a novel way to get out of an area being flooded by an overflowing dam. They hitched a Lyft, wait make that lift on the back of a local python named Monty. It is Australia after all, pythons just wander the streets there I hear!

"I went out and the lake had overflowed," he says, and realised the toads, who nested around its edge, were fleeing the rising waters.

"Thousands of toads were all trying to find somewhere to go," he says. "And then I saw Monty our local python with a bunch of hitchhikers on his back."

A variety of theories abound from it being staged to male toads with a little romantic confusion, but we just think it is a cool story! Check out the full story and video here!

Photo courtesy of Paul and Andrew Mock, originally shared at
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Featured Contributors

Grotto Salamander
Richard Bartlett - Monday, Jan 14, 2019

External gills, functional eyes, tailfin--the larval grotto salamander has all three.

Currently there are 191 named species of salamanders in the USA. This large amphibian grouping is contained in 8 families of which the largest by far is the Plethodontidae with 147 species plus well over a dozen subspecies. With the use of genetics it is probable that an additional 25+ species will soon be added to this family.

The plethodontids vary in size from 2” long dwarfs to what are considered in this family comparative giants of 9”. Among these are species that are entirely aquatic throughout their lives (paedomorphic taxa), others which are just as entirely terrestrial, and many that are in between these two extremes. Most seek seclusion beneath logs and rocks in damp woodlands, some prefer a similar microhabitat along stream edges, and others live beneath rocks and leaf litter submerged in streams, creeks, or rivulets. Terrestrial taxa have well developed, fully functional eyes, some aquatic forms have reduced vision, and some aquatics are blind. And then there’s the grotto salamander, Eurycea (formerly Typhlotriton) spelaea, a most remarkable little beast that may be encountered in the cave systems of Southeastern Kansas , Northeastern Oklahoma, Southern Missouri and Northern Arkansas.

Troglodytic when adult and in its later stages as a larva, after hatching the larvae often follow connecting underground streams from the darkness of caves to the daylight outside. At that point they are pigmented, being a weakly patterned olive brown to tan. They then have functional eyes, 3 pairs of external gills, and a well-developed tailfin. During the daylight hours they, like many aquatic salamanders, hide beneath rocks and stream bottom debris. On cloudy days and at night they are more inclined to depart their lairs, swimming and foraging in the open.

After a larval duration of several years the 3 or 4 inch long larvae follow their home streams back into the darkness and undergo a metamorphosis that is typical in some respects but atypical in others. Simplified, typically the gills and tailfin lessen in size and function until they are fully resorbed and the larvae become capable of existing terrestrially. Atypically the pigment of the now subterranean salamander is gradually lost and rather than becoming lidded and terrestrially functional as do the eyes of other plethodontids, the eyes of the grotto salamander degenerate and the lids fuse, producing at adulthood a pinkish, sightless, terrestrial, troglodyte.

Welcome to the wonderfully complex world of Mother Nature.
Continue reading "Grotto Salamander"

Our First Red Pygmy
Richard Bartlett - Monday, Jan 07, 2019

Yep! I sure do recognize red pygmys now!

The spring of 1953 was a long time ago, but it was then that Gordy Johnston took me on my first long distance herping trip. In his VW Beetle we traveled from MA to our destination of northeastern NC in just a few hours. I was entranced. Heat, humidity (not that at that time of year the heat and humidity is any stranger to New England), immense live oaks, more pine trees than I had ever seen before, and the possibility (read that probability!) of new herps (back then the words herps and herpetoculture had not yet been coined –right Philippe?).

I’m sure that we found may herps on that trip, but of these one in particular sticks in my mind—a red phase Carolina pygmy rattlesnake, Sistrurus m. miliarius. And the reason I remember it is because when I found it I had no idea what the little snake was.

Even back in those long ago days the woodlands were far from pristine. Logging, especially of pines, was big business. This seemed especially so on the Albemarle Peninsula and the vicinity of Lake Mattamuskeet. Itinerant sawmills were scattered here and there through the woodlands and wherever one of these sprang up clearings were begun, and like Topsy, they grew and grew as the trees were cut and cleaned (debarked and trimmed). Soon sunshine shone where before had been comparative darkness and the trimmings of the trees grew into piles of seclusion for many herps. At some point the sawmill packed up and moved, leaving behind the trimmings and the tin-roofed open shelter that had protected the machinery from the elements.

Gordy and I had happened upon one of these vacated mill locales and we were busily turning the tree trimmings when I turned up this little red snake. As surprised as I was, the little snake coiled and struck at my nearby hand. Hmmmmm.

“Gordy, I’ve got a baby copperhead here.”

Gordy hurried over and carefully edged the little snake into a gallon jar. We both stared. Its dark saddles on the orange-red ground entranced us—and even after staring at it and realizing that copperheads were usually banded, not saddled, when we left with it and a big kingsnake that also confused us (it was a red phase mole king, Lampropeltis calligaster rhombomaculata) it was with the thought that we had found a strange appearing copperhead.

It was not until we had returned home that a more knowledgeable friend looked at the snake and commented about the tailtip button that we realized we had actually found a pygmy rattler, a red one, a phase that we had had no idea existed. Ahhhhhhh—those good old days (no internet, very few books, and youth---learning could be a real challenge!
Continue reading "Our First Red Pygmy"
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