Frogs. Toads. Newts. Salamanders. Even sirens and amphiuma (which are generally classed with salamanders). Species of all of these amphibians are found in North Louisiana. Members of two of three orders of amphibians are found in our neck of the woods: frogs and toads (members of the Anura order) and salamanders and newts (members of the Caudata order).
Aside from reptiles, amphibians are the most maligned class of animals in North Louisiana. Say it with me, "You can't get warts from a frog." Also, you probably shouldn't go around collecting eyes from newts, but if you find a cache of newts, let me know. I haven't been able to find one in the wild, yet.
Amphibians have been around since the Paleozoic Era (542 to 251 million years ago), beginning in the Devonian Period (416 to 358 million years ago!). They were near the top of the food chain in the Carboniferous (359 to 299 million years ago) and Permian Periods (299 to 251 million years ago) until the Earth began to dry out during the end of the Permian Period. In fact, the Carboniferous Period is known as the Age of Amphibians because they were the dominant land vertebrates of the era. If you don’t believe me, I’m pretty sure USA’s old Up All Night marathons included a few documentaries on this era. One species, the metoposaurus, remained important predators during the Triassic Period (251 to 199 million years ago) of the Mesozoic Era, but as the world became drier during the Early Jurassic Period (199 to 145.5 million years ago) the metoposaurus died out.
Amphibians today are much smaller and less dangerous than their prehistoric counterparts, but are just as fascinating. Most amphibians are semi-aquatic, meaning they are born in or near water and then spend most of their time in water. Toads are the exception to this rule. Toads are terrestrial, spending most of their time on land. All amphibians (yes, even those smarty toads) are born with gills and begin their lives in water, but most lose their gills once they reach adulthood and use lungs to breath. On top of that, they can also breath through their skin. How cool is that?
The Herpetology Center of the University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory has a nice website with loads of information about reptiles and amphibians. Although the geographical scope of the species discussed on the site is limited to Georgia and South Carolina, North Louisiana has many of the same animals due to similar climate and habitat. The U.S. Geological Survey agency's South Central Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative (ARMI) also has fabulous information to help wildlife enthusiasts identify amphibians. South Central ARMI is part of the National Wetlands and Aquatic Research Center, and you can find references, photos, and field information in addition to lists of amphibians located in the state.
Where to Find North Louisiana Amphibians
Everywhere. North Louisiana amphibians can be found throughout the area. Frogs and toads are especially prevalent in our wetlands, near ponds, and even in our yards. Salamanders and newts are a bit more difficult to find, as they generally hide under rocks in slow moving or stagnant water. Please be careful if you start overturning rocks and logs to find newts and salamanders; remember venomous snakes and spiders also hide near water.