The association of Zoos and Aquariums, or AZA, has declared 2008 The Year of the Frog. Why, you might ask? Because it's leap year!...and frogs leap. Get it? Ok, it's lame, but it's important. The real reason, besides the silly pun, is that frogs are in really big danger. Frogs are what scientists term "Bio-indicators" which means that they are an animal that is looked to for an idea of how the rest of the world is doing. And right now, it's bad news. Frog species extinction is at its highest rate ever, and the rate is also higher than that of any other type of animal. Scientists are estimating that up to 1/3 of the worlds amphibian species are on the verge of extinction. So basically, this is bad news. Frogs are suffering from the same problems as many other animals--pollution, habitat loss and so on. They have also been suffering from a type of fungal infection called Chitrid which inhibits the ability of their skin to pass water in and out. So the point of The Year of the Frog is to educate people about this incredibly important animal and see what we can do to help.
Now, what brought this up? It's spring time! And spring weather brings out the salamanders. Many species of salamanders are suffering the same fate as frogs so we want to pay attention to them too. At this time of year, many salamanders begin travelling to vernal pools to lay their eggs. Unfortunately, that very often involves crossing streets which can mean squishy little salamander pancakes. Many towns in the New England area will actually close down streets that they know are close to the pools to protect the animals during their journey. These journeys require a certain set of conditions--it must not be too cool or dry or windy or the salamanders skin will dry out and the animal may die. Some years, the conditions will all come together on one perfect night and thousands upon thousands of salamanders will surface to head to the pools.
Once the eggs have been laid and hatched, it's a race against time for the young salamanders. If the pools dry up before they have become air breathing animals, they will die. This can mean that if there is not enough rain in a given year, and entire generation of salamanders will be lost.
Besides their environmental importance...frogs and salamanders are just plain neat and it would be incredibly sad to lose them.