Looking for salamanders in all the right places


On a chilly morning last week, we were at the Sandy Creek Nature Center in Athens doing some “herping,” or searching for reptiles and amphibians. The term comes from the word herpetology, which means the study of the creatures.

Our leader was Dr. Carlos Camp, a biology professor at Piedmont College in Demorest and a renowned herpetologist. He has expertise in salamanders, which were the focus of our search.

Georgia is a great place to look for salamanders, which, like frogs, are amphibians, Camp noted. Home to nearly 60 salamander species, Georgia is one of the world’s hot spots for the animals. About a dozen of those species probably occur within the rolling hardwood forests, ponds and streams of the Sandy Creek Nature Center, Camp said.

Salamanders, though, while widespread, are extremely shy and seldom seen. They tend to take shelter beneath rotting logs and moss-covered rocks and in other secretive spots. So, to find the salamanders, Camp and two aides constantly turned over rocks and logs as we walked through the forest.

Our first species of the day was a beautiful marbled salamander ensconced under a rotted log. About three to five inches long, marbled salamanders have shiny black bodies with white (for males) or silvery-gray (for females) markings.

It would be one of only two salamander species found during our herping day. The other was an Eastern newt, a small salamander with a golden belly, which Camp, using a a dip net, scooped out of a small pond.

In a larger pond, he and his aides also netted tiny marbled salamander larvae, about the size of tadpoles with delicate gills poking out from behind their heads.

Why the interest in salamanders? A major reason is that they are very sensitive to changes in the environment and thus serve as sentinels for the health of a forest, according to the book “Amphibians and Reptiles of Georgia.”

IN THE SKY: From David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer: Spring officially begins on Tuesday at 12:15 p.m. The moon is new today. Venus and Mercury are low in the west just after dark. Venus will appear near the crescent moon on Sunday. Jupiter rises out of the east just before midnight. Mars and Saturn rise out of the east about an hour after midnight.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Living

What you need to know before visiting Atlanta's High Museum of Art 
What you need to know before visiting Atlanta's High Museum of Art 

Atlanta's High Museum of Art is the leading art museum in the Southeast, housing a large permanent collection of more than 15,000 works ranging from ancient to contemporary. The museum has a particularly diverse array of highlights, including American and European paintings and sculptures, one of the largest collections of civil rights-era prints in...
Your guide to the Fabulous Fox Theatre
Your guide to the Fabulous Fox Theatre

As one of the most cherished city landmarks, The Fox Theatre is more than just a building, it's an experience. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the exquisite architecture and stunning decor inside The Fox transports guests to the temples of Ancient Egypt, palaces of the Far East and into elaborate Arabian mosques. Discover the...
Allman Brothers Band guitarist Dickey Betts suffers brain injury
Allman Brothers Band guitarist Dickey Betts suffers brain injury

It’s been a rough couple of years for former Allman Brothers Band members.  Both bandleader Gregg Allman and drummer Butch Trucks died in 2017, and now, guitarist Dickey Betts is undergoing surgery following what has been called a “freak accident.”  The Florida-based Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who wrote some of the...
This Life: Atlanta attorney forsakes his dream job to help immigrants
This Life: Atlanta attorney forsakes his dream job to help immigrants

After five years of practicing law at two of the country’s premier firms, Chris Richardson had finally landed his dream job as a U.S. diplomat. Not only was he able to travel the world, he could serve his country, assisting American citizens abroad in danger and interviewing visa applicants seeking to visit or reside in the United States. He...
KISS announces farewell tour (for real...we think)
KISS announces farewell tour (for real...we think)

We’ve heard this song before, but it seems genuine that KISS’ upcoming “End of the Road World Tour” will be exactly that. The band announced the decision to pack up the pyro after a performance on Wednesday’s finale of “America’s Got Talent.” "All that we have built and all that we have conquered...
More Stories