Flatwoods salamanders come in two varieties: frosted and reticulated. Both can be found in longleaf pine ecosystems in Georgia, and both are facing a grim future.
Flatwoods salamanders rely on isolated, temporary wetlands to breed, and cyclical fire is vital to keeping these wetlands thriving. These habitats cover a fraction of the land area they used to, and due to this habitat loss—along with fire suppression and frequent droughts—in Georgia, there is only one known population for each species, and those populations are very small.
If we are extremely unlucky, we could see frosted and reticulated flatwoods salamanders go extinct within our lifetimes.
Appearance and Biology
Both species have beautiful, intricate color patterns along their bodies. Reticulation is when a pattern resembles a web or net, so one species of salamander is likened to being covered in frost, and the other appears to be covered in netting or fibers. Adults eat invertebrates, such as earthworms, and larvae are known to eat crustaceans and sometimes tadpoles. Adults live in burrows underground, and when prompted by fall and winter rains, they migrate to wetlands to breed. After breeding, females lay eggs near the edges of the wetland ponds. Sufficient rain is necessary to expand the ponds, submerge
the eggs and prompt hatching.
Can We Give Them a Head Start?
The Amphibian Foundation in Atlanta is home to the only captive colony of frosted flatwoods salamanders. The foundation’s logo is, in fact, a stylized image of a larval-stage “frosty.” Frostys have never been bred in captivity before, but there is hope that propagation efforts will soon yield success. If frosted flatwoods salamanders can be bred in captivity, it would pave the way for a headstart initiative, like what is done with gopher tortoises and gopher frogs. Captive-bred specimens could be released into suitable habitat in an effort to bring their numbers back.
How You Can Help
Though that is the direction of work, the situation right now is dire. The Amphibian Foundation’s Frog Blog reports on the status of frosted flatwoods salamanders and can be accessed by supporting their Patreon. The foundation also accepts direct donations.
Staff members of the Wildlife Conservation Section of the Wildlife Resources Division, along with other partner organizations, are working to conserve flatwoods salamanders. The eagle and monarch butterfly license plates, along with direct donations to the Georgia Wildlife Conservation Fund, support the Wildlife Conservation Section.
Both the agency and the foundation welcome volunteers, and there are everyday actions you can take to help amphibians.
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