While most visitors don’t come to Grand Teton National Park seeking amphibians, they are some of the most unique and important species found in the park. The word amphibian comes from the Greek words meaning “double life”, and refers to their unusual two-stage life cycle. An amphibian begins life as an egg, laid either in water, or in some other damp environment. The larvae hatch and spend their time in water breathing through gills. They then undergo a metamorphosis into an adult form, and the adults breathe using lungs. While adults are considered terrestrial, amphibians continue to spend most of their lives near water. Unlike reptiles that have dry scaly skin, amphibians have moist, smooth, glandular skin with no scales, and they have no claws on their toes.

Amphibians are cold-blooded and cannot regulate their body’s temperature like mammals and birds, so in the park, the cold annual temperatures, high elevation, and dry climate limits amphibian diversity and numbers. The park is home to six species of amphibians: spotted frogs, boreal chorus frogs, boreal toads, tiger salamanders, northern leopard frogs (unfortunately, these are now believed to be extinct in the area), and bullfrogs (which were introduced just outside the park).

The best places to find amphibians are near the rivers, streams, and lakes along the valley floor. Good places to look for spotted frogs include String Lake, Schwabacher’s Landing (along the Snake River), and Taggart Lake. Chorus frogs are easiest to find in late May and early June because the males are actively calling during their breeding season, moist valley meadows are great spots to look and listen for these frogs at dusk. The boreal toad seems to be disappearing from their historic range; sightings of these, as well as leopard frogs, should be reported to any of the park’s visitor centers.

Take some time on your visit to search for these interesting creatures; they can be readily seen if one knows where to look. They are key links in the food web—providing food for many other animals including birds, otters, and fish. Amphibians are also important predators of insects. Finally, they are excellent indicators of overall ecosystem health. Their dependence on water and the dual life cycle they lead makes them extremely sensitive to changes in environmental conditions.

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