Michigan Frogs, Toads, and Salamanders (E2350)

October 27, 2015 - Author: James H. Harding

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Glossary of terms. Sections on anatomy, fossil history, behavior, reproduction, foods and conservation. Also includes fascinating habits of amphibians, captive care of adult amphibians and raising tadpoles and salamander larvae. 


Amphibians make up only about two and one-half percent of all living species of animals with backbones, but they are important members of wildlife communities in many parts of the world. Amphibians first appeared some 360 million years ago and were the first animals with backbone s to adapt to living on land. Despite this bold move, they remain tied to water in many ways. Living amphibians include the frogs and toads, salamanders, and the legless, tropical caecilians.  

The word "amphibian" comes from Greek roots that mean "double life," because most amphibians begin life as aquatic larvae with gills and eventually transform into animals capable of living on land. Amphibians typically have rather thin, moist, scaleless skins and do not have claws on their feet.

Twenty-three species of amphibians have been recorded in Michigan. Frogs and toads are most familiar as conspicuous vocal inhabitants of wetlands and woods. Salamanders are less well known, spending most of their lives beneath woodland soils or the waters of ponds and lakes.

This book is a nontechnical guide for anyone wanting to identify Michigan's frogs, toads, and salamanders and to discover some of their fascinating habits. General information on amphibian anatomy, fossil history, behavior, conservation, and captive care is also included. On page 11 is a glossary of selected words used in the text. On page 142 is a list of recommended references for those wanting additional information.


To identify an adult frog, toad, or salamander, compare it with the photographs in the species accounts (pages 14-101). The text describes the size, shape, and coloration of each species, as well as other species that might be confused with it. It also notes each species' distribution, population status, and preferred habitat and provides information on habits and behavior. Once you have tentatively identified a specimen, check the range map to see if it occurs in the area where you found it. If not, you may have made a mistake. Occasionally, amphibians are discovered in places where they were previously unknown. This is sometimes due to animals either accidentally or purposely being moved to new habitats by humans.

If you should find a frog, toad, or salamander outside of the range shown for that species (or a species not described in this book), take photographs of the specimen and note the location. Report your find to the authors or to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Your observations could be important!

Identifying frog tadpoles and salamander larvae is often difficult, even for experts, and a complete identification guide to amphibian larvae is beyond the scope of this book. However, the larval stages of some species are described in the text or illustrated in photographs. A process of elimination, based on habitat type and sightings of adult amphibians in the area, will allow a tentative identification of many tadpoles and salamander larvae found in Michigan. The references noted on page 142 may provide additional help.

Tags: fisheries & wildlife, lakes, lakes streams & watersheds, natural resources, streams & watersheds

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