Underappreciated and in Trouble
Frogs, Toads, Newts and Salamanders Play a Key Role in Ecosystem

May 5-11, 2024 is Amphibian Week. The celebration calls attention to the important role that animals such as frogs, toads, newts and salamanders play in our ecosystem and food chain.

Amphibians consume huge numbers of mosquitoes and other disease-bearing insects. Without amphibians, populations of mosquitoes and other insect pests would likely soar, threatening humans, livestock and plants. Birds and fish that feed on amphibians would also feel the pinch.

Amphibians also serve us medically. Their skin secretions and tissues are used to treat infections, allergies, inflammation and pain. Amphibians are also indicator species, highly sensitive to impacts of climate change climate change
Climate change includes both global warming driven by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases and the resulting large-scale shifts in weather patterns. Though there have been previous periods of climatic change, since the mid-20th century humans have had an unprecedented impact on Earth's climate system and caused change on a global scale.

Learn more about climate change
and environmental contamination.

What exactly is an amphibian? 

A frosted flatwoods salamander at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Florida.

Its name comes from the Greek word amphibios, meaning "to live a double life." An amphibian is a cold-blood animal – it can’t regulate its internal temperature – that can live, as an adult, both on land and in water. It has six other distinctive traits: it has a backbone, favors moist areas, breathes through its skin, fertilizes its eggs outside its body, eats meat, and grows legs when it matures. Frogs, toads, newts and salamanders are all amphibians. So are caecilians – wormlike

creatures with poorly developed eyes. 

Because they are small and blend into their surroundings, frogs and toads are often easier to hear than see.

When you're visiting your local  national wildlife refuge national wildlife refuge
A national wildlife refuge is typically a contiguous area of land and water managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  for the conservation and, where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

Learn more about national wildlife refuge
, listen for them. They make a variety of croaks, chirps, clicking and popping sounds, usually depending on whether it's mating season or if they're defending their territory.

In the photo below, taken at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina, a well-camouflaged southern leopard frog hides in the center of the scene. 

Some amphibians are hard to see or hear. Salamanders, for example, are silent and frequently hide under logs, rocks or debris.

Since the 1970s and 1980s, amphibian species have been declining worldwide – a development that scientists find worrying.

More than 30 species have gone extinct, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature;  (IUCN); hundreds of others are likely facing extinction. 

Many amphibians have been killed by the chytrid fungus Batachochytrium dendrobatidis, or Bd, which hampers a frog’s ability to absorb water and oxygen, leading to heart failure.

Other reasons for amphibian decline include habitat loss, predators and pollution.  

Story Tags

Wildlife refuges
Wildlife viewing

Recreational Activities