Amphibians

Amphibians are an important part of Yellowstone’s aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Many of Yellowstone’s reptiles, birds, mammals, and fish prey on larval and adult amphibians and amphibians, in turn, eat a variety of vertebrate and invertebrate species. Amphibians are also sensitive to disease, pollution, drought, variations in annual snowpack, and the arrival of nonnative species; these documented sensitivities make them valuable indicators to environmental change. Amphibians often congregate in large numbers for breeding or overwintering. As a result, they can be adversely affected by localized disturbance or the loss of individual breeding or overwintering sites. Amphibian populations that are affected by one or more of these stresses may exhibit changes in their distribution or abundance. These changes can, in turn, have cascading effects on other aspects of the ecosystem.

Declines in amphibian populations are occurring globally in areas where habitat destruction is pervasive, but also in protected areas. About one-third of all amphibian species are believed to be threatened with extinction. Yellowstone includes some of the most climatologically and topographically complex landscapes in the lower 48 states and therefore provides a valuable study area to examine how climate may influence amphibian distribution and trends. Information about the status and trends of amphibians here may shed light on declines documented in other high-elevation locations or other protected areas around the West. Continue: Population and Studying Amphibians in Yellowstone

 
A tan frog with some dark spots on glistening green vegetation

Boreal Chorus Frog

Boreal chorus frogs are common with conspicuous calls.

A frog on a small log with white belly and dark green back reflected in water

Columbia Spotted Frog

To survive the winter, Columbia spotted frogs go into water that does not freeze.

Two dark green glistening salamanders with light green bellies side by side on gravel

Blotched Tiger Salamander

Blotched tiger salamanders are common and abundant in some areas of Yellowstone.

A bumpy, black spotted rests on top of another toad

Boreal Toad

Boreal toads were once common throughout Yellowstone.

A green and brown bumpy toad in held in the hollow of two gloved hands

Plains Spadefoot Toad

In 2015, a breeding population of plains spadefoot toads was confirmed in Yellowstone.

 

Quick Facts

Number in Yellowstone

5 species: blotched tiger salamander, boreal chorus frog, boreal toad, Columbia spotted frog, and plains spadefoot toad.

Identification

Toads are not taxonomically different from frogs. The species called “toads” are associated with drier skin and more terrestrial habitats.

Status

  • Columbia spotted and boreal chorus frogs are widely distributed with many breeding sites in the park.
  • Tiger salamanders are common and abundant in some portions of the Yellowstone, such as the northern range and Hayden Valley.
  • Boreal toads are abundant in some local areas.
  • None of the park’s amphibians are federally listed as threatened or endangered.
  • Scientists are concerned about the boreal toad, which has declined sharply in other parts of the West.

Research

  • 2000: Researchers begin inventorying amphibians.
  • 2005: Long-term amphibian monitoring begins in Yellowstone.
  • 2014: A breeding population of plains spadefoot toad (Spea bombifrons) was confirmed near Fountain Flat Drive.

Survival in Winter

To survive the winter, some Yellowstone amphibians go into water that does not freeze (spotted frogs), others enter underground burrows (salamanders and toads), and others (boreal chorus frog) actually tolerate freezing and go into a heart-stopped dormancy for the winter in leaf litter or under woody debris.

 

More Information

  • Listen to the sounds of amphibians in Yellowstone in the Sound Library

Frequently Asked Question: Amphibian or Reptile?

Both amphibians and reptiles are ectothermic ("cold-blooded"), meaning they derive body heat from outside sources rather than generate it internally. Reptiles have scaly, dry skin. Some lay eggs; others bear live young. Amphibians have thin, moist glandular skin permeable to water and gases. The young must pass through a larval stage before changing into adults. Amphibious means "double life" and reflects the fact that salamanders, toads, and frogs live in water as larvae and on land for much of the rest of their lives.

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168

Phone:

(307) 344-7381
Recorded information. For road and weather information, please dial 307-344-2117.

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