Amphibians are an ancient group of animals older than the dinosaurs. The class includes frogs, toads, salamanders, and caecilians. They were the first vertebrates (animals with backbones) to inhabit the land, but remained tied to water in order to lay their eggs. Amphibian literally means “two lives” which refers to the tendency for most amphibians to have an aquatic larval stage before metamorphosing into an adult form, usually terrestrial. Amphibians usually have lungs, but also have the ability to breathe through their skin, which needs to stay moist, further tying them to water. Some species have returned to a fully aquatic life, such as newts and sirens, but the vast majority of amphibians spend their adult lives mostly on land. So far there have been over 6,000 species of amphibians described, with more being described every year. However there is speculation that some species will never be described as amphibians are facing extinction at alarming rates and scientists may not discover some new species in time.
Amphibians in Georgia
The State of Georgia is home to 31-33 species of frogs and toads and 80 species of amphibians. Georgia is home to a great variety of fascinating amphibian species, and species are still being discovered even near urban areas. Georgia’s varied habitats and many wild places serve as an ideal habitat for most species of southeastern amphibians. Statesboro’s warm, wet springs and summers attract a great deal of frogs and toads which delight residents with a cacophony of calls, from the high whistles of the ornate chorus frog to the low, booming “jug-o-rum” call of the bullfrog. With recent species discoveries, Georgia is home to more species of salamanders than any other place in the world, including unusual lungless salamanders and the largest salamander in America, the bizarre and reclusive hellbender, which inhabits dark rivers and streams. The greatest risks to Georgia amphibians are habitat destruction and water contamination.
Amphibians at Risk
Amphibians around the world are currently at great risk. They are beset by many factors that have put their numbers in steep decline. Habitat loss, pollution, global warming and the onset of a deadly fungus has set many species towards extinction. It is estimated that of the 6,000 species currently identified, one third of them are at risk of extinction in the next few decades. Currently, scientists have identified 1,811 species of amphibians endangered or threatened with extinction, including some species in Georgia. Habitat loss and fragmentation has caused many species to dwindle, and without enough territory, amphibians cannot maintain large enough populations to protect against changes in their environment, such as rising temperatures and drought. Pollution has also been a huge issue, because as amphibians take in air and water through their skin, any toxins in their environment are quickly taken into their bodies. The greatest risk recently has been the explosion of a fungus worldwide called chytrid that is fatal to amphibians. This fungus is decimating many species of frogs, and is extremely difficult to treat and prevent. Scientists worldwide are working feverishly to control its spread, but new areas are being affected at an alarming rate. The chytrid fungus has even been found in Georgia.
Amphibians at the Center
The Georgia Southern Center for Wildlife Education houses a wide variety of both native and exotic amphibians. In our main building you’ll discover twenty-four species of amphibians, from the Southern Toad, a common visitor to local gardens and lawns, to the endangered Goliath Frog, the largest frog in the world. Be delighted by the colors of our Red-Eyed Tree Frogs and fire-bellied toads. Also learn about our fascinating Splash-back and Green and Black Dart Frogs, which in the wild accumulate toxins from the insects they eat to secret a powerful poison from their skin, making sure these tiny frogs stay off the menu in their jungle home.
In our Wildlife and Herpetology programs, get up close and personal with several species of amphibians and learn all about their biology, ecological role and the challenges facing them. Several of our amphibians are frequent stars in our programs, including the huge and wrinkly White’s Tree Frog, the brightly colored and toxic Tomato Frog, huge and colorful Eastern Tiger Salamanders and a local cutie, the Grey’s Tree Frog. Our line-up is always changing, so come back often to see what we have in store for you!
Center for Wildlife Education
Georgia Southern University
1461 Forest Drive, Building 240
Statesboro, GA 30460