Monday, November 08, 2010

Amphibians of Autumn

A cool autumn day and a nighttime shower, this is my favorite time of year and a time for California’s precious amphibians.

We think of cold-blooded or ectothermic creatures as sun lovers, but amphibians must balance temperature with moisture. Summers in California are hot and dry, but our autumn and winter climate is moderate with occasional showers.

On these mild nights rain invites amphibians out of their hiding places to frolic. This California toad has been visiting a friends’ yard.

We’ve spotted our young garden slender salamanders born last spring. And students of mine have seen Pacific tree frogs and a different species of slender salamander in their yards. 

This species of slender salamander has distinct rings along its body giving it a striking resemblance to an earthworm. It is much larger and stockier than the garden slender salamanders in our yard.

Amphibians are part of our local wildlife, but too frequently they disappear first when development or human impacts alter nature’s delicate balance. Frogs, toads and salamanders eat insects and other arthropods. They also are an important food source for mammals and birds. An ecosystem without amphibians is missing a main pillar of balance.

There is something remarkably resilient about amphibians. They have evolved from an ancient line of creatures that first left the primordial seas to live on land. They’ve survived major cataclysms including the end of the dinosaurs. Shouldn’t your yard be safe for them?

The next time you reach for insecticide or herbicide, pause for just a moment. If your yard isn’t safe for amphibians, is it safe for you and those you love? 

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