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MB Press: Why did the salamander cross the road?

This is a Press Information page entitled MB Press: Why did the salamander cross the road? within the Press / News Items section of Caudata.org --- DAILY GRAPHIC (Portage la Prairie, Manitoba) 14 August 08 Why did the salamander cross the road? Amphibians likely foraging for food, says retired scientist (Rob ...

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Old 15th August 2008   #1 (permalink)
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Default MB Press: Why did the salamander cross the road?

DAILY GRAPHIC (Portage la Prairie, Manitoba) 14 August 08 Why did the salamander cross the road? Amphibians likely foraging for food, says retired scientist (Rob Swystun)
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Portage la Prairie's annual amphibian invasion is well underway this year and it looks like salamander numbers are on the rise.
"We're getting them in the pool every night now," City of Portage parks manager Dave Green said of the barred tiger salamanders common to this area.
Green recalls 25-30 years ago, the number of salamanders crossing Crescent Road from Crescent Lake each night around this time of year used to be far greater than in recent years, but the numbers this year do seem to be greater than in the past couple.
"Years and years ago, they used to be so thick that if you were driving down Crescent Road, you'd hit one for sure," he commented.
The animals are likely crossing the road to forage for food, said Ken Stewart, a retired professor with the University of Mantitoba's faculty of Biological Sciences.
"They do it on rainy nights," Stewart said of the nightly exodus across the road, pointing out the amphibians can only travel short distances from water in dry weather and would likely only venture across the road on damp nights.
"None of the salamanders have a really good way of conserving water," he said.
The mass numbers seen crossing the road in the early evening, he pointed out, are because, like bats leaving a cave, they all tend to leave the lake at the same time and trickle back around dawn.
While Stewart said the salamanders probably go foraging for food away from home all summer long, he couldn't say why they tend to cross over in such large numbers during early to mid-August each year. He did mention he's heard reports from people in Portage stating the overnight exodus starts some years as early as the first week in June.
The barred tiger salamander, which grows to about 15-20 centimetres in length, mates in the early spring, often while there is still ice cover on the water, and can have a life span of more than 20 years, Stewart said.
Amphibian numbers have declined around the world in recent years, the retired professor said, because of disease from a bacterial agent in a certain type of African frog, which is shipped around the world as part of biological research and pet trade.
http://www.cpheraldleader.com/Articl...aspx?e=1156868



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