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GA Press: New book on Salamanders

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Posted by: W von Papineäu at Thu Nov 4 07:46:44 2010  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by W von Papineäu ]  
   

ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION (Georgia) 20 October 10 New book may drum up more respect for salamanders (Charles Seabrook)
Georgia is crawling with salamanders -- 51 species of them -- more than any other state in the Southeast, which has more salamander species than any other region in the world.
For all of their species abundance, however, salamanders -- which also include newts, mudpuppies, waterdogs, sirens and weird creatures called amphiumas -- don’t get much respect. Most people have never seen one in the wild, mostly because salamanders stay remarkably out of sight.
Now, a new book, “Salamanders of the Southeast,” published by the University of Georgia Press, may inspire a greater appreciation for the fascinating creatures. The book is perhaps the most comprehensive and authoritative guide yet on the region’s salamanders. It describes each of the 102 salamander species that inhabit the Southeast, including Georgia's 51. The book is replete with some 400 color photos and dozens of maps showing the animals’ ranges.
“Many people do not know that southeastern salamanders rival the region’s other animals in body coloration and patterns, including the dramatic displays of birds, snakes and butterflies,” write the authors, herpetologists Joe Mitchell and Whit Gibbons.
Like their kin frogs and toads, salamanders are amphibians, or animals adapted to life on both land and water. Salamanders differ from frogs by having an elongated body, a long tail and a distinct head. Most salamander species -- though not all -- also have four legs roughly similar in size. Various salamander species may be found in mountain streams, swamps, ponds, lakes, bogs, pine woods, hardwood forests, caves, backyards -- just about any place where you’d also find birds, snakes, frogs and other creatures.
A few of the book’s many interesting facts about Georgia’s salamanders include:
- Most salamanders live in water permanently or return to it to lay eggs. Late October is when many of them begin to breed.
- If a salamander’s fat-laden tail is broken, the animal grows another. Salamanders distract potential predators away from its head and body by wiggling the tail. Tail-wagging also distributes chemicals called pheromones to attract mates.
- Sirens and amphiumas are types of salamanders without a rear pair of legs. Amphiumas’ front legs are tiny, almost unnoticeable, giving the animals an eel-like appearance. Sirens and amphiumas are the primary prey of mud snakes.
- The blind, pinkish-white Georgia cave salamander lives in limestone caves, sinkholes and artesian springs.
- Georgia’s most fearsome-looking salamander is the hellbender, which lives in cold, rocky mountain streams of North Georgia. It grows nearly three feet long, and its sharp, serrated teeth can inflict a nasty bite.
- Salamanders are extremely sensitive to environmental changes and therefore serve as sentinels for environmental health hazards.
New book may drum up more respect for salamanders


   

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