June 6th was all about Amphibians!
Amphibians are a critical and threatened part of our ecosystem. Most people have encountered a wild frog or toad but fewer have gotten up close with their cousins, the salamanders, so we brought some out for a day at the Midtown Farmers Market.
On Friday, we packed up a cooler with 8 lungless salamanders from the Ouachita and Appalachian mountains. These guys are great because not only are they interesting and adorable, but all they need is somewhere cool and moist to hang out.
In addition to the main attraction (live animals) we put together displays on amphibian life cycles, flip cards on amphibian adaptations to extreme environments, and a matching game with common Minnesota frogs and salamanders.
Saturday was a perfect day for salamanders, a little cool and windy for June. CBS grad students Anika and Amy were great behind the table, quickly picking up information on amphibians and easily talking to everyone who stopped by.
The strong breeze made it too difficult to do the matching game, but we still put out all the images and people tried to identify their neighborhood amphibians. Most adults seemed to have at least one story of the tiger salamanders that they had seen as kids in backyards and basements (a favorite habitat for salamanders). Are kids today not seeing these cool critters because their populations are diminished or because kids aren’t spending as much time playing in the dirt? Probably a bit of both.
But of course the biggest hit was the salamanders, especially the babyPlethodon ouachitae. Woodland salamanders of the genus Plethodon are direct developers; unlike most other amphibians they do not have an aquatic larval stage and instead hatch from eggs as miniature versions of their parents.
Check out our Storify to get a snapshot of the whole day!