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Why Red Spotted Newts Are Super Cool

By Valorie Titus
July 22, 2011
File under: Amphibians, Species Profiles, Wildlife


Most everyone in the eastern United States at one point of their life or another spent time as a child flipping rocks in the woods only to find bright orange little salamanders.  These pretty little dudes are what we herpetologists call Notophthalmus viridescens, or the Red Spotted Newt.  They are still reasonably common throughout their range and are a joy to find due to their brilliant coloration.

Why would a tiny little salamander want to have bright colors so easy to see?  The bright coloration is basically saying “don’t eat me, I’ll make you sick!”, as they have toxic skin secretions that can harm even the largest of predators.  Once a predator tries to eat one, they are likely not going to try to eat another.  If something makes me sick, I certainly won’t want to eat it again.  What’s really cool is that you only see this coloration during what we call the newt’s “eft”, or juvenile stage.

Amphibians generally have several life stages as they develop.  What’s so neat about the red spotted newt is their juvenile stage is on land; they are born in the water and they return to the water when they reach adulthood! …read more of Why Red Spotted Newts Are Super Cool here

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Citizen Science

By Valorie Titus
July 12, 2011
File under: Amphibians, Research


I was happy to see that with my last couple blog posts there were so many people excited about herpetology!

There were several folks that said they always wanted to work with reptiles and amphibians, but life took them in other directions.  There were also people that wanted to know how they could get involved.  Well, have I the blog for all of you today!

I am going to talk about what we call Citizen Science.  Citizen Science is basically research collaborations between scientists and citizen volunteers.  Whether you’re an elementary school student or a retired engineer, there are multitudes of opportunities to get involved in your local community; all you have to do is ask around! …read more of Citizen Science here

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What the Hellbender!

By Valorie Titus
June 3, 2011
File under: Amphibians, Animal Protection, Ecosystems, Endangered Species


Devil dog, grampus, mud-devil, Allegheny alligator, leverian water newt, vulgo, and my personal favorite, snot otter. These are the many names of one of my most favorite critters, the hellbender. The name “hellbender” was likely coined due to this amphibian’s appearance.

While herpetologists adore its wrinkly skin and beady little eyes, some people just don’t understand how anyone could love such a creature. It is said that hellbenders were named by early European settlers that thought “it was a creature from Hell, where it’s bent on returning,” but in fact, the animal is a fairly large, harmless, and in my opinion, very cute aquatic salamander.

Measuring nearly two feet in length as adults, the hellbender is one of the world’s largest species of salamanders. There are two subspecies: the eastern hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis) and the Ozark hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis bishopi). …read more of What the Hellbender! here

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You’re a Herpe-what? Do you Study Herpes?

By Valorie Titus
April 27, 2011
File under: Amphibians, Conservation, Education, Wildlife


I get this question a lot.  No, a herpetologist does not study herpes, we study reptiles and amphibians.  The prefix “herpe” means “creeping thing”, so that’s how both things got their names.  I love my job.  I get to work with animals that I love and I get to work to conserve the world in which we all live.  There are great things and horrible things that I have to deal with, and I hope through this blog, I can share my conservation passion with everyone.  This first entry is basically going to talk about how I got to where I am and why I do what I do.  Enjoy.

How it all began…

Ever since I was a child, I have been fascinated with the world around me.  I wanted to know how everything worked and how animals became the way they are in modern times.  My room was plastered in toy dinosaurs and I never went more than a few months without some type of pet fish. …read more of You’re a Herpe-what? Do you Study Herpes? here

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Whether you’re a scientist working in the field or a young person in your backyard, this is where you get to share your stories through pictures, videos and articles with the rest of the world. Without your voice, these stories go unshared, and our planet’s ecology, wildlife and natural resources go unexplored. Connect with each other and us and let’s enjoy this process of learning from one another.

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