Saint Louis Zoo (314) 781-0900
Janet Powell, ext. 4633
Christy Childs, ext. 4639
Joanna Bender, ext. 4703
Awesome Amphibians is a major new exhibit highlighting the global crisis facing this incredible group
of animals. Following is a list of animals on display:
Chinese Giant Salamander
This species of salamander is the largest living amphibian in the world, reaching lengths of nearly six feet! It
has been on earth for more than 100 million years. Giant salamanders have special pressure-sensing organs
on their head that help them hunt fish in the dark. The female lays up to 500 eggs in an underwater nest dug
by the male. Chinese giant salamanders live under rocks and logs and in burrows of cold mountain streams in
Chacoan Waxy Tree Frog
These frogs are named for the waxy glands on each side of its head. The glands secrete a substance that
helps the frogs hold in moisture. They use their hands to wipe the wax all over their bodies. The Chacoan waxy
frog tends to walk slowly, instead of making long leaps. Unlike most other frogs, this frog is able to use its
fingers to grasp objects. Like other tree frogs, it uses its sticky toe pads to climb into trees and other vegetation
in the dry scrub forests of southern South America.
Chuxiong Fire-Bellied Newt (pronounced chew-showng)
Many newts have two different larval stages: a gilled aquatic stage and a terrestrial stage called an eft. As
larvae, fire-bellied newts have external gills. As they mature, they lose the gills and breathe air. If attacked by a
predator, this newt will roll onto its back and show its bright belly colors as a warning that it is toxic. Native to
deciduous forests, ponds and rice paddies of southwestern China, this species of amphibian has been bred at
the Saint Louis Zoo.
Malaysian Horned Frog
This frog resembles other leaf mimic frogs from South America, Africa and Asia. Its unusual “horns” and
pointed snout help it to blend in with leaves on the forest floor. The horned frog spends its life on the ground,
where it hunts insects and spiders. It occasionally lives in waterfalls, where it climbs up the steep walls. It is
native to rainforests of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.
Mexican Caecilian (pronounced suh-SEEL-yun)
You might mistake this unusual animal for a worm, until you notice its sharp teeth! This is no worm—it’s an
amphibian without legs. The caecilian’s dozens of sharp teeth help it grab onto its prey, but they’re not used for
chewing. The animal swallows its victims whole. The caecilian possesses special sense organs, called
tentacles, on the side of its head. It uses its tentacles to locate the worms, insects, snails and other small
animals it eats. It uses its flat snout to dig burrows underground but comes to the surface at dusk to hunt.
Sambava Tomato Frog (pronounced sahm-BAH-vah)
With its round shape and bright red color, it’s easy to see how this frog got its name. Some species even
change from green to red as they grow—just like a tomato! Tomato frogs secrete a white substance from their
skin that deters predators. This substance may also cause allergic reactions in humans. Predators know to
avoid this bright frog because of its aposematic (warning) colors. The tomato frog spends most of the year
underground and emerges during the spring rainy season to breed. It lives in tropical rainforests and swamp
forests of eastern Madagascar.
The Surinam toad blends in with dead leaves and other plants in the water. It lies motionless waiting for food to
come close enough to capture. This strange-looking frog is completely aquatic. It spends most of its time on
the muddy bottom of rivers. The Surinam toad has no tongue. It uses its front legs to push food into its mouth
as it lunges forward. It has very poor eyesight. It uses special star-shaped sensors on its fingertips to detect
food. The eggs of this unique frog develop in special pouches underneath the skin on the female’s back. It is
native to rivers, streams and ponds of northern South America.
This critically endangered frog can be found only in Madagascar. Mantellas lay their eggs on land. As the rainy
season arrives, the eggs hatch, and the tadpoles are washed into creeks and swamps. The black-eared
mantella is threatened by deforestation for the charcoal trade. Sadly, none of this beautiful frog's habitat occurs
within protected areas.
Iberian Ribbed Newt
This large, stocky salamander lives on the bottom of ponds, lakes and slow-moving streams. It rarely comes
out on land. In fact, if its water dries up, the newt will bury itself in the mud until rains refill its water source.
During the breeding season, newts will perform an underwater mating dance. This newt is a strong swimmer
and a greedy predator. It will consume any moving prey it finds, including aquatic insects and other
invertebrates, small fish, and other amphibians.
When this salamander is attacked, its ribs poke through the toxin glands in its skin and act like poisonous
spines. It is native to the lakes, ponds, creeks and rivers of Spain, Portugal and Morocco.
Blue and Yellow Poison Frog
The bright yellow stripes down the back of these colorful frogs warn predators that their skin is toxic. These
frogs are active hunters that search for ants, termites, fruit flies and other small insects. They have a high
metabolic rate and can consume hundreds of insects in a single day. They lay their eggs in the water-filled
cavities of bromeliad plants. Male poison frogs guard the developing eggs and carry tadpoles on their backs
from pool to pool.
Though native people in Surinam, French Guiana, Guyana and northern Brazil do not use these frogs for their
blowgun darts, they are still threatened by collection for the international pet trade.
Green and Black Poison Frog
The bright colors of this frog warn predators that it tastes terrible and will make them sick. Poison frogs require
a steady diet of ants in order to manufacture their skin toxins. While hunting their insect prey, poison frogs will
tap their toes rapidly.
There are more than 100 species in the poison frog family. Though sometimes called poison dart frogs, only
two of these species are actually used by indigenous people to treat their darts for hunting. These frogs are
found in the tropical lowland forests of Central America.
African Clawed Frog
Clawed frogs spend most of their lives in water. Native to southern and central Africa, they have been
introduced worldwide. They live in streams, rivers and lakes. During droughts, they can burrow into mud and
survive for up to a year without food.
In the past, clawed frogs were used as laboratory animals and for human pregnancy testing. Clawed frogs that
escaped or were released went on to form invasive populations. This species of clawed frog can be a carrier of
the amphibian chytrid fungus.
Jade Gliding Frog
This frog can glide from one tree to another by spreading the thin webbing between its toes. It has sticky pads
on its fingertips that allow it to walk on almost any surface, even upside down. Female gliding frogs lay their
eggs inside of foam nests that they make high in the treetops. They are threatened by deforestation and the
draining of wetlands in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.
European fire salamander
Fire salamanders get their common name because they often emerge from logs that people use for firewood,
leading to the false belief that they are born from the fire. Their bright colors warn predators to stay away. To
defend themselves, fire salamanders can shoot poison up to six feet from special glands along their neck and
Unlike most salamanders that transform from eggs into larvae, this species gives birth to fully developed
young. They are found in deciduous forests, in river valleys and lowlands in western Europe and extreme north
Africa and the western Arabian peninsula.
Panamanian Golden Frog
Golden frogs lack a tympanum (outer ear) and hear by picking up vibrations in their jaw bones. Life in a
waterfall is loud, so in addition to calling, these frogs communicate by waving their hands at each other.
The golden frog has aposematic (warning) coloring to advertise its potent skin toxins. Scientists are
discovering chemicals from the skin of this frog that may be useful in treating human diseases. This species is
practically extinct in the wild due in part to the amphibian chytrid fungus.
The Saint Louis Zoo has been successful in breeding this highly endangered amphibian.
These interesting aquatic salamanders can live over 30 years in the wild. They can absorb oxygen from the
water through their internal gills and through their skin. The hellbender is one of the largest salamanders in
North America, reaching lengths of over two and a half feet. They are native to fast-flowing streams under
cover, such as flat rocks and sunken logs, in eastern and central U.S., including Missouri. The Saint Louis
Zoo’s WildCare Institute has established the Ron Goellner Center for Hellbender Conservation to breed these
endangered hellbenders in captivity and to conserve them in the wild.
Puerto Rican Crested Toad
Crested toads only breed at certain times of the year. They rely on rainfall to make them temporary breeding
pools. This frog is quickly losing its natural habitat and without urgent help it will soon become extinct in the
wild. The Saint Louis Zoo is working to conserve this species by releasing captive hatched tadpoles into the
wild. This large, seven-inch marine toad preys upon the tadpoles of crested toads and also competes with
them for food, habitat and breeding sites.
The American bullfrog spends nearly all its time in the water. Its webbed feet and smooth, slimy skin help it
move easily under the water’s surface. It eats a wide variety of prey such as insects, fish, other frogs, snakes
and even birds. It is very adaptable to forests, lakes, creeks and swamps, was native to the U.S. east of the
Rockies but has been widely introduced throughout the Western Hemisphere. It may be a carrier of the
amphibian chytrid fungus.
Cave salamanders do not have lungs. They absorb oxygen from the water through their skin. Their bright
colors warn predators that their skin produces toxins. They are agile climbers that can be found high on the
walls of limestone caves in eastern and central United States from the Appalachians to the Ozarks, including
These newts are unique among amphibians because they have two different larval stages. After hatching from
eggs, the aquatic larvae lose their gills and live on land for several years before returning to the water as
adults. The brightly colored land-stage of the eastern newt is called an eft. Predators avoid the efts because
they are toxic. If an eft is attacked by a predator, it will arch its back and raise its tail over its head to appear
larger. The eastern newt is one of the most widespread salamanders in the United States. Eastern newts are
common in Missouri and frequently seen swimming in ponds.
Like other cave salamanders, it lacks lungs and absorbs oxygen from the water through its skin. This
salamander’s long tail can break off easily if grabbed by a predator, allowing the salamander to escape.
Long-tailed salamanders are threatened by acid rain and habitat loss from logging. Once common in Missouri
caves and springs, long-tailed salamanders are becoming harder to find in the wild.
The marine toad’s large size enables it to dominate many native species of amphibians in areas where it is
invasive. Also known as cane toads, marine toads have been introduced to tropical areas around the world to
control pests. They are one of the few amphibians that can live in brackish (somewhat salty) water. They are
greedy predators, eating anything that they can swallow, including other frogs. Historically from Central and
northern South America, they have been introduced to many parts of the world.
Plains Leopard Frog
The leopard frog’s pattern helps it to blend into vegetation at the edge of the water. Plains leopard frogs are
one of the most abundant frogs in Missouri. Humans hunt these and other large native frogs to use their legs
for food. During the cold winter months, leopard frogs can be found buried in the mud at the bottom of ponds
“Awesome Amphibians,” a new exhibit in The Living World at the Saint Louis Zoo, opens on Friday, February 29,
2008 at 10:30 a.m. “Awesome Amphibians” will be open every day thereafter from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission to
the Saint Louis Zoo and the exhibit is free.