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The Hidden Jewels of Appalachia

By Brian Gratwicke
December 16, 2011
File under: Amphibians, Conservation, Wildlife

See The Hidden Jewels of Appalachia Video Here

If you want to hit paydirt the Appalachian region is the world’s salamander El Dorado—home to over 70 salamander species.  Australia and Sub-Saharan Africa have no salamanders, Asia has 27 species the whole of Europe has 36 species. Central and South America have a bunch of salamander species, but they are mostly from just a few genera of lungless salamanders.

I lived in England for a while and saw what a big deal people make out of the few newt species there. People love ‘em. As a result, I was expecting to find a hardcore citizen-naturalist contingent of salamander fans in the USA.  What I found instead, was a hardcore biologist fanbase of salamanders who were acutely aware of these hidden jewels.  However, the more I spoke to non-biologists living in the Eastern USA, I learned that many people take these critters for granted, or have never noticed them.

Salamanders can be found in rivers, ponds, streams and vernal pools, under rotting logs and in caves. They inhabit many different habitats and can perform important ecological functions as predators of insects and food for other animals. Some estimates from Hubbard brook actually have shown that if you were to get all mammals, birds, reptiles in a forest and put each group on a scale against all the salamanders—the scale would likely tip in the salamanders favor every time!

If you are a already a fan, find Appalachian salamanders on Facebook, if you are a citizen scientist who loves amphibians, start taking photos of them and share your observations as part of the Global Amphibian Blitz – an online citizen-science initiative to find and map every species of amphibian in the world. But mostly get out in to nature and discover these incredible creatures for yourself.

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