Getting Connected 4: Reptiles and Amphibians

As we make our way up the food chain, I hope we’re discovering just how important everything is. There are many groups that play the same role, but that doesn’t mean they’re not any less important that animals that have their own unique functions. Diversity is the key to ecosystem working.

Amphibians include salamanders, frogs, and toads. In phase of its life, frogs play a different role in the ecosystem. As tadpoles they tend to rely on plants. As they grow they lean towards small insects and as in adulthood they may even take on small rodents.

Reptiles include snakes, lizards, turtles, and crocodilians. Unlike amphibians, reptiles have scaly, impermeable skin that does not need to stay moist. All reptiles use lungs to breathe.

Reptilian diet varies widely between groups and species and can include small vertebrates (such as birds, mice, and frogs), invertebrates (insects and crustaceans), and plants.

http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/forestry/resources/publications/documents/ag744.pdf

As consumers of insects, rodents, and other pest species, herps (all reptiles and amphibians)  also provide a

significant benefit to agriculture and recreational activities. When abundant, amphibians can consume substantial quantities of favored prey organisms, perhaps serving to limit prey populations. For example, salamanders appear to play important roles in organizing many terrestrial and aquatic communities. The larvae of mole salamanders are top predators in vernal pond communities and influence the abundance and diversity of aquatic invertebrates and other amphibians therein. By serving as prey, herps provide food for small mammals, birds, and other herps. This website also has a small list of reptiles and amphibians and what they eat. At every point in their life they are responsible for maintaining the population of something and its everything from small insects to mice. Even though it’s not really a topic for this series of post, this website has some very good information on just how much we’re damaging their homes and their species.

http://directives.nrcs.usda.gov/OpenNonWebContent.aspx?content=18528.wba

In Wetlands, along with their other roles, amphibians and some reptiles are help in many ways. They help process dead organic matter and thereby making available detrital food chains. They modify the habitat to make it more homely for a more diverse and abundant population of fauna.

Because the smaller animals are so in tune with their environment, the existence or non-existence of these animals will tell us if our water is healthy.

http://el.erdc.usace.army.mil/elpubs/pdf/si22.pdf

These are just a few examples of how our environment would be affected without them.

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