Amphibians are an overlooked part of many ecosystems in America. They play an important role in managing insect populations and water sources’ health while also acting as food for other animals.
Frogs and toads are the most common amphibians found in swamps, but the US is also home to various newts and salamanders. There are also many invasive species such as the cane toad and the Cuban treefrog.
In some cases, these amphibians will make their homes in swamps. The vernal pools and sloughs can provide the right food sources, while the undergrowth gives them somewhere to stay safe. The pools in these secluded areas are also perfect for night time choruses.
How Amphibians Adapt to Swamps
Amphibians are reliant on wetlands and swamps to live out their semi-aquatic lifestyle. They are well-adapted to live in and out of the water, to survive in the mud during dry spells and hibernation. They will spend their time in and around suitable water bodies where they can feed on invertebrate life and lay their spawn in the water.
Vernal pools in wetland areas are ideal for amphibian populations as they can raise their young without fear of predation from fish species. Aligator holes in the everglades are perfect for this sort of pool. These reptiles create little dug-out areas where they can create a vegetation-free area of water. Other creatures can use this as needed during droughts, but some also run the risk of being eaten. Frogs and toads may spend some time here with ease, especially when other areas become overpopulated or dry out.
When you think of the sound of the swamp, you may think of cicadas singing away or the calls of frogs. There are many frog species in the swamps of North America. Frogs are loud for their body size, and their calls can resonate through the air to communicate with others.
There is even a species in the Everglades called the Florida chorus frog. This nocturnal species is well camouflaged and has a distinctive call. They will head to sloughs, ditches, and vernal pools when breeding and spending the rest of their time in sandy areas. Another species with a distinctive call is the pig frog, which eats crawfish in marshier areas and sounds a little more like a pig.
The most famous of the American frogs are probably the bellowing American bullfrog. This frog has become widespread across the US as an introduced species but is native to the Eastern states and the swamps in these areas. They are captured for food and used in science classes because of their size, abundance, and familiarity.
Frogs also form choruses, creating the melodic sound we know and love. This brings in the females and creates a social hierarchy among the males. Another incredible thing about this frog is its diet and ability to capture prey that sounds remarkable. They will eat other frogs, snakes, rodents, and much more.
Not all of those voices in the Everglades belong to frogs. There are also toads that sing. Toads are typically distinguishable from frogs via their bumpy or warty skin.
The American toad is more widespread, settling into a range of damp areas where they can find enough food and shelter. In Louisiana and east Texas, you can also find the Eastern narrow-mouth toad. This small toad likes to stay in ditches and anywhere with decaying matter where they can eat insects and ants.
There are also more salamanders in US swamps than you might realize. The salamander is another amphibian that makes its home in a range of habitats across the US.
Some of them will prefer the conditions of a swamp, where they can spend their time between the still waters and the vegetation. Some are aquatic, spending all their time in the water, while most are terrestrial, conserving moisture and staying safe in mud, leaves, and burrows.
In 2018, it was announced that a new salamander species had been discovered in Florida and Alabama. The reticulated siren is 2 feet long, as was found by accident by a researcher near Elgin Air Force Base. There isn’t anything new about this species as it has been known for decades, with some calling it the “leopard eel,” but now it is officially its own species, separate to similar siren species. It is a strange amphibian as it has no back legs, just small forelegs and prominent gills. It gives it the look of a giant prehistoric tadpole. It is also entirely aquatic, which is why few ever encountered it before 2018.
Sadly, while there are occasional new native discoveries, there are also many more invasive species.
There are also some problematic invasive species of amphibians currently residing in Florida. The Cuban treefrog may appear to be harmless enough, but they are a threat to local wildlife. Some have expanded into local towns and become a problem. Then there are the cane toads making their way into people’s gardens. These toads produce a toxin that has the potential to kill dogs in up to 15 minutes. As a result, residents are advised to kill this invasive species to stop it from doing more harm. The sad part of this is that the toads were introduced by humans, to begin with as sugar cane pest control and through the pet trade.
There is also the issue that while some of these non-native species thrive and expand their range, native amphibians in the US face a loss of habitat. Areas necessary for survival, like coastal areas, marshy bogs, and swampland, are drained and reclaimed for use by an expanding human population.
Amphibians are an important part of the swamps of North America. Whether it is a giant American bullfrog, a tiny little tree frog, or a strange aquatic salamander species, there are lots of diverse species of amphibians in the US. You might not come across many of these animals when exploring the area because of their habits and size. But, you may get to hear some of them at night.