Sunday, July 7, 2013 —
“I was really tickled to see not one, but two amphibians become official state symbols yesterday. The Wildlife Resources Commission is charged with managing amphibians and reptiles, along with their habitats, and this signing will go a long way to helping us teach people about the important roles amphibians play in our daily lives.”
Hall, who is also coordinator of the N.C. Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, has spent his entire career working with reptiles and amphibians, collectively known as “herps,” and raising awareness about these ecologically important but often misunderstood animals.
He hopes that the designation of the Pine Barrens treefrog and the marbled salamander as official state symbols will educate people better about the plight of amphibians, which, in many locations, is quite dire.
With their permeable skin that can easily absorb toxic chemicals, amphibians are especially susceptible to environmental pollutants. That trait, along with habitat loss, invasive species, infectious diseases and other factors, has resulted in steep population declines in many places.
“While North Carolina has good populations of many species of salamanders and frogs, we also have some that are struggling,” Hall said.
“Additionally, many parts of the world are seeing vast amphibian die-offs, which is tragic.”
Hall cited frogs and salamanders for their integral ecological roles in the food chain and their important and expanding roles in medical research that benefits humans.
Tadpoles and larvae keep waterways clean by feeding on algae and small aquatic insects. Adults of both groups eat large quantities of insects, including some insects that can transmit diseases to humans. In turn, these amphibians are important food sources for other wildlife, such as fish, snakes and birds.
This ecological role played by amphibians is important, according to Hall, but amphibians’ roles in medical research that benefits humans can be equally newsworthy.
“Amphibians produce an array of skin secretions, and scientists are using those secretions to create new antibiotics and painkillers that can potentially improve human health,” Hall said.
Practical medical and ecological contributions aside, Hall said that the aesthetics of having frogs and salamanders as part of the natural world made them worthy of conservation efforts.
“Frogs and salamanders deserve our utmost dedication to helping conserve their populations so that our children’s children can enjoy the thrill of flipping over a fallen log and finding a salamander or hearing the nasally honk-honk of a Pine Barrens treefrog as it calls for a mate,” he said.
While the Pine Barrens treefrog and the marbled salamander had a strong show of support at the signing ceremony, the Virginia opossum, with less fanfare, was designated the official state marsupial under HB 830, which was also sponsored by Reps. Susan Martin, Pat McElraft, Roger West, Jonathan Jordan, Nathan Ramsey and Rena Turner.
For more information on amphibians and other nongame wildlife in North Carolina, visit the Conserving page.