Updating this previous post - I found this additional educational resource at National Geographic Kids website on Spotted Salamanders. The site includes pictures, life history and a really nice video. I found these two links to curricula involving salamanders. I'll add more as I find them. From South Carolina Aquarium, an online assignment using Anne Mazer's book, The Salamander Room, to introduce salamander habitat and other ecology principles. (The Salamander Room is available at Amazon.com and proceeds benefit the development of this Blog and the TSMP. Just click on 'The Salamander Room' image to the right.) From Hands on the Land, "a network of field classrooms stretching across America from Alaska to Florida. HOL is sponsored by Partners in Resource Education, a collaboration of five Federal agencies, a non-profit foundation, schools, and other private sector partners", an online program to monitor salamander species. I am not sure how active this program is but there is a link for "Salamander Salute" describing general salamander information and monitoring .
February 2007 Archives
During the last few days several news sources have published an AP article on injured soldiers being tested with a procedure to possibly regrow limbs or at least a portion of them. How is amphibian regeneration aiding in this human regeneration experiment? It turns out that the regeneration powder is derived from pig bladders and it is not even a new procedure. ACell Inc., the company making the powder, has a link to a Wall Street Journal regarding the latest experiments but also mentions that they have been developing regeneration products since 1999. Salamanders are mentioned in both articles primarily because they are heavily studied since they able to regenerate limbs and not produce scar tissue as in humans (there is a large Pentagon project currently studying salamander regeneration but I could not find any details on what they are specifically studying). So salamanders are helping to understand the regeneration process and, thankfully, are not being ground up for regeneration powder.
Two articles came out during the last week which show the effect that human activites can have on salamander populations. Leeches increase in number as nutrients from human activities enter aquatic environments. Researchers at Penn State have found that salamanders, specifically Red Spotted Newts, are used as a host by these leeches. The leeches pass a fungus named Ichthyophonus (see image) and this infection apparently causes the salamanders to stop breeding. So, increased leeches leads to increased infections which leads to decreased salamander reproduction. Artificial wetland creation can be a good thing for some species but is probably not as good as the undisturbed wetland when it comes to where salamanders choose to reproduce. Salamanders and other amphibians don't like to reproduce in wetlands that include predators especially fish. Man-made wetlands often due contain fish. Seasonal wetlands often do not as they don't contain water much of the year. A recent study looked at the preference of one salamander species, Spotted Salamander, Ambystoma maculatum, and found that the salamander species selected the man-made wetlands much less than the undisturbed wetlands. So, more development leads to less choice breeding areas for salamanders and a possible decrease in salamanders as they are all gobbled up by fish or other predators.