What are amphibians?
An amphibian is a cold blooded vertebrate animal. Cold blooded means that they are the same temperature as the water and air around them. Vertebrate means that they have a backbone. Amphibians in the UK consist of frogs, toads and newts. Amphibians live in the water as larvae and frogs and toads on the land when they are adults . Adult newts are semi aquatic alternating between living in the water and living on land although sometimes they will stay in the water all the time.
Life cycle of an amphibian
The breeding season starts as soon as the weather starts to warm up sometimes as early as January when frogs and toads head back to their ponds. Newts return to their pond in February and March but their main breeding season is April and May.
All amphibians start life as an egg surrounded by a ball of jelly and always laid in water. These are known as spawn. But there is a difference between the eggs laid by frogs, toads and newts. Frogs lay their eggs in bunches or clusters floating in water.
Toads lay their eggs in lines or strands attached to the leaves of a plant that live in water. Newts lay eggs usually wrapped singly in leaves of plants living in water. The eggs of the smooth and palmate newt are Toads lay their eggs in smaller than the great crested newt.
The egg develops until the young amphibian, or tadpole breaks out of the jelly. The tadpole has gills similar to fish so they can breathe underwater and a tail with a fin so they can swim. As the tadpole grows it starts to develop legs and as it grows to full size it loses the gills and tail and the legs grow much larger. At this stage the tadpole grows lungs so that it can breathe air. The tadpole leaves the water to live on the land. These look exactly like a much smaller version of an adult. Toads at this stage are called toadlets and frogs are called froglets and these leave the water in summer, between June and September. Newts leave the water in late summer or autumn and are known as efts.
It takes two or three years for the amphibians to grow to its full adult size and they may not return to the water until they are old enough to breed. In the spring they then will return to the lake, stream or pond to look for a mate and the cycle starts all over again.
Do amphibians hibernate?
What do amphibians eat?
When they are living in the water, they start off when they first hatch by eating algae and plants but as they grow and develop more they start eating smaller fish, water snails, water boatmen, water shrimps, water fleas, leeches, other water insects and even tadpoles.
Amphibians and the law
The Government department responsible for wildlife law is The Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Licences to disturb protected species have to be obtained in England from English Nature (EN), in Wales from Natural Resources Wales (NRW), in Scotland from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and in Northern Ireland from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).