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Checklist of Amphibian Species and Identification Guide

An Online Guide for the Identification of Amphibians in North America north of Mexico


Identification Guide

The checklist is also accompanied by a growing identification guide the purpose of which is to help you learn how to identify the species you are likely to encounter in your area, wherever you may be planning a field trip or in North America in general. To this end we are in the process of collecting photographs of the amphibians found throughout the United States and Canada. For the species covered in this guide we provide a brief description of along with several pictures to display the different color morphs and patterns. When appropriate, tips are given to help separate very similar species. Line drawings are also available to help explain some of the terminology used. Range maps show approximately where each species may be found, but be aware that amphibians are not uniformly distributed throughout this area. Also, many species have special habitat requirements and all amphibians are more or less dependent on sources of moisture. Naturally, maps small enough to fit on your monitor's screen can not show much detail. Some regions have been poorly studied as well, and large portions of the ranges shown in these areas are extrapolations from only a few records.

An advantage that the herpetologist has over the ornithologist is that his or her study animal can often be approached quite closely for a good look or photo, or even to be captured. However, before attempting to capture any animals make sure that you know what species are protected by law! Also, keep in mind that being captured on film is far less stressful than being physically captured, and that a good photo often suffices for identification purposes. Nevertheless, some species must be caught for positive identification. If this is necessary make sure you have the proper equipment and training (if you have no experience in this find someone that can teach you).

In addition, you should consider obtaining a field guide if you are interested in learning more about amphibians and identifying them on your own. Listed below are the more comprehensive guides currently on the market, listing all known species in the region they cover.

In addition to the titles above, there are many specific state and regional guides or checklists that may provide additional information on the amphibians and reptiles, collectively known as herps, in your state. A comprehensive list of such publications can be found in Moriarty & Bauer (2000) (see reference list below).

This guide is designed mainly for the identification of the adult phase of the amphibian life cycle. Some pictures of tadpoles and larvae do exist, but additional information on their identification is not given. A good resource for the identification of anuran tadpoles is available online.


Species Checklist

Below is a checklist of all amphibian species and subspecies currently recognized in North America north of Mexico. This list is based on Crother (2000; published by the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, SSAR). Two versions of the list are available, one is sorted by family and then species name, the other by scientific name only. The advantage of the latter is that many people may not be familiar with the families that amphibians are divided into and this in turn can make it difficult to find a species on the list. On the other hand, if you want to learn which species belong to a given family you can simply click over to the other list. Also, all species accounts allow you return to return to either list.

One will notice that in some cases the scientific and/or common English names used may not agree with some of those found in the field guides mentioned above. One reason for this is that there has been changes in taxonomy since those books were published. In some cases new species have been identified (especially among salamanders), in others new research has led taxonomists to revise their views on the status of subspecies, elevating some to species status or vice versa, an example being Fowler's Toad which is now called Bufo fowleri; before it was regarded as a subspecies of Woodhouse's toad, Bufo woodhousii fowleri. In other cases new data has revealed that there are bigger differences between some similar looking species than what was previously assumed. For example, some species of treefrogs have been found to be more closely related to the chorus frogs and have thus been moved from the genus Hyla to the genus Pseudacris (the Spring Peeper, the California Treefrog and the Pacific Treefrog). Another example is the creation of a new genus, Spea, for the spadefoots of western North America.

Also, the SSAR's Committee on Standard English and Scientific Names has been attempting to create a list of common names that is both consistent and standardized (Crother 2000). The amateur (and professional!) may find this confusing at times. An example of such a change proposed by the committee is the use of the name Northern Cricket Frog only for the species Acris crepitans as a whole, while the subspecies Acris crepitans crepitans would be called the Eastern Cricket Frog. In the field guide by Behler and King both the species as a whole and A. c. crepitans is called the Northern Cricket Frog while in Conant and Collins' guide there is no collective name given to the species and A. c. crepitans is also called the Northern Cricket Frog! The SSAR list generally follows this pattern, with there being one common name for a species and different names for the various subspecies. The aim of these changes is to create a system of common names that is not just standardized but consistent as well. A consistent system produces a framework for the creation of new common names, while a standardized system leads to the application of the same name for a taxon by everyone. It may seem paradoxical, however, that this should lead to some well-worn names being replaced with entirely new ones, but this was done with an eye to the future and the expectation that a list of standard common names that is also consistent will be to the herpetological community's advantage. If you have comments on the choice of names used send them to:

Brian Crother, Common and Scientific Names Committee Chairperson
Dept. of Biological Sciences
Southeastern Louisiana University
Hammond, LA 70402, USA

On the list below, species for which we have photographs have links leading to those pages. We have not yet acquired photos of all species listed, and some pages have only one or a few photos when it would be preferable to have more to fully describe the taxon. A contribution to those species and pages would be appreciated, so if you are willing to contribute slides or prints for this ID-Guide please send an e-mail to NARCAM for the address to send them. The photos will be returned within 1-2 days after receiving them. As a way to say thank you for the use of your photos, digitized copies of the photos sent in will be made available. Credit will be given at our site to the photographer on the photo, along with the statement above that no reproductions or the use of photos beyond our website is allowed without permission of the original photographer.

A few technical terms will be used to describe the orientation of the animal and the markings that are on them. The definition page will explain these.

Note: If pictures look dark, adjust your monitor's brightness control.


References

Crother, B. I. (ed.)  2001.  Scientific and Standard English Names of Amphibians and Reptiles of North America North of Mexico, with Comments Regarding Confidence in Our Understanding.  SSAR Herpetological Circular 29. iii + 82 pp.

Moriarty, J., and A. M. Bauer.  2000.  State and Provincial Amphibian and Reptile Publications for the United States and Canada.  SSAR Herpetological Circular 28. 56 pp.

These publications may be purchased from the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles (SSAR).


Return to Contents
Anura: Frogs and Toads - by Family / by Species
Caudata: Salamanders - by Family / by Species

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