L.A.'s Frogs, Toads, and Salamanders Can't Wait for El Niño

January 5, 2016

Imagine you are a local amphibian. Maybe you are a Pacific treefrog (Pseudacris regilla), the most widespread native frog in Southern California. Or maybe you are a garden slender salamander (Batrachoseps major), a species commonly found in front and backyard gardens across much of the L.A. Basin (hence, its name).

 

Male Pacific treefrog calling to attract a mate, afer a rainstorm. 

These last few years of drought have been really tough on you. For amphibians, a large amount of oxygen uptake and water exchange is done through the skin, but the skin must be kept moist for proper functioning. This presents a major problem in a prolonged drought. Because of the lack of rain, most amphibians have not been able to leave their hiding spots. As a result, you and your amphibian brethren have had to largely stay below ground where it is cooler and more humid. Only the occasional rainstorm has provided appropriate conditions for you to come to the surface and seek out food, a potential mate, or new habitats to explore (all very exciting things for amphibian you). But most of the time, you have just been resting and waiting for better conditions.

 

Fortunately, this situation might just be changing. El Niño forecasts suggest higher than normal rainfall. As hopeful and excited as humans are that the El Niño rains might alleviate our drought, amphibians must have a thousand-fold more excitement (assuming they’ve read the forecast). With rains, frogs will emerge and congregate at breeding sites, and salamanders will come to the surface searching for insect prey and potential mates.

 

The few recent rains that have fallen in Southern California have provided a small glimpse into what may come. Submissions of Pacific treefrogs and garden slender salamanders to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Southern California (RASCals) citizen science project have already started to increase. With more rains, here is what you should be looking for in your backyard, neighborhood natural area, or elsewhere across Southern California.

A Pacific treefrog recently photographed by Cedric Lee and submitted to the RASCals citizen science project.

The Pacific treefrog is a pretty famous frog. Of the 6,600 species of frogs in the world, this is the only frog that actually says “ribbit.” Because it is loud and common in the L.A. area, it has been dubbed into movies and TV shows, with the result being that people worldwide think that all frogs say “ribbit” when in fact, only this one does. This small green or brown frog has a dark mask that runs through its eyes. It can be found in a huge variety of wetland sites from backyard ponds to our bigger lakes and rivers. The easiest way to found one is to listen for their calls in the evenings after rainstorms.

A garden slender salamander photographed by Stevie Kennedy-Gold and submitted to the RASCals citizen science project.

The garden slender salamander is much more cryptic than the treefrog. Look for it in the same places you might look for an earthworm. Often it is found beneath pots, rocks, or stepping stones in backyard gardens. With a quick glance, you might think you are seeing an earthworm, but four small legs and a head with two biggish eyes will make the identification obvious.

If you do see a salamander or treefrog, take a photo or record the frog’s call and submit that to the RASCals project via iNaturalist, by e-mailing the photo and the location to nature@nhm.org, or by tagging on social media #NatureinLA. 

 


(Posted by: Greg Pauly)


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Lizards, Snakes, and Frogs Oh My!

April 27, 2012

This last Saturday we held the second annual Lizard Hunt at Malibu Creek State Park! Dr. Greg Pauly, Museum Herpetologist, and Dr. Bobby Espinoza, CSUN Herpetologist, took a group of 25 lucky people out to observe, catch, and identify local herps.

Are you looking at me?Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentatlisHere is a list of all the herps we encountered:Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalisCommon Side-blotched Lizard, Uta stansburianaTiger Whiptail, Aspidoscelis tigrisWestern Skink, Plestiodon skiltonianusSouthern Pacific Rattlesnake, Crotalus oreganus helleriGophersnake, Pituophis cateniferStriped Racer, Masticophis lateralisPacific Treefrog, Pseudacris regilla (heard calling)American Bullfrog, Rana catesbeiana (heard calling)

Dr. Greg Pauly lets an aspiring herpetologist touch a Western Fence Lizard

Dr. Bobby Espinoza shows off a striped racer, Masticophis lateralisOne of the primary goals of this field trip is to increase participation in our Lost Lizards of Los Angeles (LLOLA) project. Currently we have about 250 submissions, but for us to be able to do anything interesting with the data, we need at least 2,000 submissions. Hopefully we were able to inspire at least 25 more people to participate at this field trip. Are you inspired? One last thing for all you ultra herp-nerdsyou can now get your daily herp dose by visiting the Museum's new herpetology section facebook page. Go get 'em Tiger Whiptail!


(Posted by: Lila Higgins)

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