Sponsored By The Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation

Amphibians: Top 10 Questions

March 2008

Thanks to Adare Evans, Education Specialist, Idaho Department of Fish and Game; and Eric Leitzinger, Biologist, Idaho Department of Fish and Game for the answers.

1: What is the difference between a reptile and an amphibian?

Both are cold blooded. Reptiles are more closely related to birds, and they have thicker skin. Amphibians have thin skin that can breathe through the water. Amphibians go through a metamorphosis and they will lay eggs in the water. (From Nicole in Mrs. Woodall's class at Hayden Meadows Elementary School)

2: What is the most natural habitat to see amphibians in?

The best place to view them is around water, a pond or edge of a stream or lake. It doesn't mean you won't find them in deserts. As long as there's a water source you might find an amphibian. (From Katie in Mrs. Schweitzer's class at Riverside Elementary School)

3: What is the largest amphibian in the world?

While we are not sure what the largest amphibian in the world is, in Idaho, the Pacific Giant salamander is the largest, reaching six inches long. The largest frog is a bullfrog although it's not a native species to Idaho. (From Colin in Mrs. Schweitzer's class at Riverside Elementary School)

4: How many different types of amphibians are there?

In Idaho there are 10 species of frogs, four types of salamander, and one newt. (From Evan in Mrs. Hunt's class at Cynthia Mann Elementary)

5: Do amphibians have ears?

They don't have an outer ear but on the side of the head they have a tympanic membrane like the eardrum. When sound hits it, it vibrates. (From Cindy in Mrs. Anderson's class)

6: Do amphibians have lungs?

Some don't have lungs. Some salamanders that live in water all of their lives never get lungs and keep their gills. It depends on where they live. Amphibians do not have to be wet to breathe as adults. They can move a fair distance from the water and breathe through their lungs. They are tied to the water seasonally. So as adults amphibians breathe through their skin. As larvae they have gills and as they grow they lose the gills and have lungs. (From Mrs. Boehne's class at McDonald Elementary School in Moscow)

7: Why are amphibians called amphibians?

"Amphibian" means double life. The reason they are called this is because they live part of their life in the water and part on land. (From Nicole in Mrs. Woodall's class at Hayden Meadows Elementary School)

8: How do amphibians stay alive with so many predators after them?

They blend in and hide from predators. They are fast as adults, avoid their predators, and swim and burrow in the ground. (From David at home school in Weiser)

9: How do amphibians hibernate?

Usually they go down to the bottom of a pond and burrow into the soft dirt, and deeply, so they can stay below the frozen part of the ground. They have the ability to turn the glucose, the sugar in their blood, into something like an anti-freeze. What will happen when their body starts to slow down is they will change the sugar into anti-freeze and it gathers in the most important places it needs to stay alive. It gathers in the organs like the brain and liver, and both organs will stay living and the rest can freeze solid. That's why they don't have to use a lot of energy. They can kind of sit down there and hang out until things start to warm up. Then they warm up and thaw out and come back to life. (From Shawn, a homeschooler in Caldwell)

10: Are frogs going extinct? Why is it a problem?

This is the year of the frog as designated by the National Zoo and Aquarium Society, and it is said that frogs are endangered worldwide. It's a problem especially in tropical areas. Columbia has over 200 species of frogs that are considered to be endangered, which is incredible to think about. The reason we think it's becoming a problem is because they are so sensitive to changes in habitat. They are one of the very first animals to be affected if there's a chemical introduced in the environment or if there's the slightest change in the habitat, that's the main problem. They are an important part of the ecosystem and vital part of the food chain. They are food for other animals and also eat a lot of pests - human pests and bugs and stuff that we don't want to see around. They are just an important part of the overall planet that we live in. (From Ashlee in Mr. Myer's class at Eagle Hills Elementary)

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