Amphibian Amigos (FLWCRNC)

Summary:

Participants will discuss what characteristics are unique to amphibians and how they differ from reptiles, mammals, birds and fish. Live specimens and photos may be used. Participants will listen to recordings of many unique frog and toad calls and songs heard in Arkansas.

Grade Level:

K - 12 (may be modified to suit the audience)

Recommended Setting:

Indoor or outdoor classroom

Outdoor Activity:

No

Location:

Forrest L. Wood Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center, Jonesboro

Contact:

Education Program Coordinator, 870-933-6787

Duration:

25 minutes

Suggested Number of Participants:

25 - 120

Special Conditions:

Must have a minimum of 25 students

Objectives:

  • Identify physical characteristics of amphibians.
  • Identify different species of Arkansas amphibians.
  • Discuss how amphibians live, their biology and their place in the food chain.

Key Terms*:

Aquatic

Biodiversity

Cold-blooded

Gills

Larva

Metamorphosis

Poikilothermic

Terrestrial

*See glossary for definations

Materials:

Demonstration Amphibian (when available)

PowerPoint presentation

Background:

Amphibians are egg-laying, cold-blooded vertebrates that require water for all or part of their lives and for reproduction. The class Amphibia is a great example of biodiversity. Almost 5,000 species of frogs, toads and salamanders live on all continents except Antarctica with 59 in Arkansas. Thirty salamander species and 29 frog and toad species call Arkansas home. Salamanders are considered a rare animal, but in many forested areas, salamanders make up the greatest portion of the habitat’s species, both in numbers and in biomass (more than mammals and even birds). Frogs and toads are the more visible members of their ecosystem because they live around ponds, lakes, streams and puddles, and they are vocal.

Procedure:

  1. Prior to participants’ arrival, select one or several amphibians to demonstrate.
  2. Ask what they know about amphibians. Identify the characteristics of amphibians and compare them to reptiles, fish, birds and mammals. Highlight all characteristics they miss, emphasizing amphibian metamorphosis.
  3. Next, talk about how varied amphibians can be, both in Arkansas and globally. Talk about the smallest and largest amphibians in the world and in Arkansas. The largest frog in the world is the goliath frog (5 pounds), and the smallest is the Cuban frog (1.5 centimeters). The largest frog in Arkansas is the American bullfrog (1.7 pounds), and the smallest is the northern spring peeper (1 inch). The largest salamander in the world is the critically endangered Chinese giant salamander (5.4 feet). The longest salamander in Arkansas is the three-toed amphiuma, which can be more than 3 feet, but the heaviest is the Ozark hellbender. The smallest salamander in Arkansas is the dwarf salamander (less than 3 centimeters).
  4. Show some examples of common Arkansas amphibians (using PowerPoint and education animals) and discuss the basic biology, highlighting that many are well camouflaged while others are brightly colored. Discuss population trends and how the AGFC has helped restore populations to healthy levels after habitat destruction had depleted them.
  5. Next, discuss frog and toad vocalizations. Discuss why and how they vocalize. Then play the sounds of several Arkansas frogs and toads and discuss which sounds they have heard before and where and what time of year it was.
  6. Close the program by answering any questions.

Modifications:

Show some scat replicas to talk about animal sign and the diets of various amphibians.  (This program is suitable for all grade levels. Use age-appropriate vocabulary.)

 

Review:

  • What is the largest frog in Arkansas?
  • Describe amphibian metamorphosis.
  • What does “cold-blooded” mean?
  • Give an example of a salamander found in Arkansas.

Resources:

  • Trauth, Stanley E., Henry W. Robison, and Michael V. Plummer (2004). The Amphibians and Reptiles of Arkansas. Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press.
  • Wilson, Steven N. (1998). Arkansas Wildlife: A History. Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press.

Glossary:

Aquatic – consisting of or relating to water; living or growing in, on or near the water

 

Biodiversity – the variety of life and its processes which maintain a healthy ecosystem

 

Cold-blooded – (ectothermic) – relating to an organism that regulates its body temperature by exchanging heat with its surroundings

 

Gills – membranes fish use to absorb dissolved oxygen from the water during respiration

 

Larva – the immature form of an animal that looks very different from the adult

 

Metamorphosis – a change in the form and often habits of an animal during normal development after the embryonic stage. Examples include a maggot changing into an adult fly and a caterpillar into a butterfly, and in amphibians, the changing of a tadpole into a frog.

 

Poikilothermic – refers to an organism whose temperature varies with the ambient temperature of the immediate environment; also known as cold-blooded

 

Terrestrial – living on or in the ground