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Hoppy Amphibian Awareness Week!

  • Lemur frog on a coconut shell

'Hoppy' Amphibian Awareness Week! All week long, the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute will be sharing stories about amazing amphibians and the scientists working to save them from extinction. Follow along below and on FacebookInstagram and Twitter with the hashtag #AmphibianWeek. 

May 1 | Amphibians Through Time

Japanese giant salamanders breathe through their skin, have impossibly small eyes and can grow up to 5 feet long! Get the scoop on these freshwater giants from Reptile Discovery Center keeper Kyle Miller. Read the Q+A here. 

May 2 | Amphibian Superpowers

Did you know that salamanders can *literally* give you a hand—then grow it back? Check out Reptile Discovery Center keeper Matt Neff’s top 6 salamander facts! Read the keeper update. 

Carly Muletz Wolz collects salamanders in Front Royal, Virginia

The secret to salamanders’ survival may be in their slimy secretions. Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute scientist Carly Muletz Wolz is swabbing salamanders in Shenandoah, looking for disease-fighting microbes that live in the mucus on their skin. Get the scoop in our scientist Q+A.  

May 3 | Meet an Amphibian


Celebrate Amphibian Week with an interactive online tour from the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. What is an amphibian? Why are they important? Explore these questions and more as you learn about the three groups of amphibians and what you can do to help conserve them. Take the virtual tour! 

Vietnamese mossy frog sitting on a branch

Meet the cutest clump of “moss” you ever did see: the Vietnamese mossy frog! In spring, the Reptile Discovery Center team celebrated the arrival of 50 hatchlings. Learn what it takes to set the mood for mossy frog mating from assistant curator Matt Evans. Leap to the Q + A.

May 4 | Meet an Amphibian Biologist

Learn why frogs matter and how you can help frogs from our colleagues at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

Matt Evans looks at the camera holding a brown tree frog in Panama. He is indoors.

Amphibians—animals that live in water and on land—need specialized habitats, atmospheres and food in order to thrive. Leap into learning what it takes to care for some of the frogs found in Zoo Guardians and at Smithsonian’s National Zoo from Matt Evans, assistant curator of the Reptile Discovery Center. Read the update. 

DNA barcoding revealed that these frogs all belong to the same species: the Eare

Take a close look at these frogs. Even though they differ in color, pattern and shape, they are all the exact same species! Using DNA barcoding, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute scientist Jessica Deichmann and partners at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History are working to identify these “masters of disguise.” Read the Q+A here. 

May 5 | Name That Amphibian

With a sleek, eel-like body and beady eyes, the aquatic caecilian is quite an unusual amphibian! Check out some of Amazonia keeper Denny Charlton’s favorite fun facts about these wiggly wonders. Check out the keeper Q+A! 

Jet black toad with flames of brilliant across fanning across its belly. The head is mottled with green

Can you tell a fantastic frog from a terrific toad? (Hint: there are 4 key differences between them.) Test your amphibian knowledge with the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project! Hop over to Amphibian Rescue to learn more! 

May 6 | Amphibians on the Move

How do frogs survive, thrive and breed in the wild? Armed with tiny radio transmitter “backpacks,” these Limosa harlequin frogs are helping Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute scientists better understand amphibian lives in Panama’s rainforest. Partners at the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project help us keep track of the frogs’ movements. Learn more about their research

  • A yellow and black frog on a white background.

    As their name implies, harlequin toads (Atelopus) are brightly colored . . . and beautiful! There are more than 100 species of harlequin toads, and they’re all up against the same formidable foe: the deadly amphibian chytrid fungus.

  • Yellow frog sitting on a branch

    The amphibian chytrid fungus is a fungal pathogen that exclusively affects frogs. It starts out as a swimming zoospore — think of it like a microscopic tadpole. It smells out the frog’s skin, burrows into it, and begins to grow. When that spore has fed off of the frog, it will produce its own fruiting body, called a sporangium, which is full of lots of new spores. Those spores will swim out, and either reinfect the same frog, or swim out into the stream and find a different frog.

  • Close-up of a brown and white harlequin frog

    A frog maintains homeostasis using its skin. When the chytrid fungus infects the frog’s skin, it mucks up its ability to drink, exchange ions and function properly. For frog species that are not resistant to this disease, it infects their skin and ultimately leads to a heart attack, killing them.

  • An orange frog in a gloved hand

    Scientists at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute are studying five critically endangered Atelopus species and working to save them with the help of their partners in the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project and Atelopus Survival Initiative.

  • A gloved hand holds a vial with a small frog inside

    One way scientists can understand a frog's susceptibility to the amphibian chytrid fungus is by giving the frogs a bath in water to sample the mucus in the frog’s skin. That water can then be mixed with a culture of the amphibian chytrid fungus to see if it inhibits the fungus’s growth.

  • A scientist holds a frog in his hand.

    Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute scientists hope that this method will allow them to quantify a frog's resistance to the chytrid fungus without exposing it to the disease.

  • A scientist fertilizes frog eggs in a petri dish.

    Set the mood . . . with science! To save critically endangered harlequin toads (Atelopus) from extinction, Zoo scientists are developing assisted reproduction and sperm cryopreservation methods to help frogs in human care reproduce.

The Appalachian ecosystem is home to more salamander species than any other region on the planet. Of the estimated 700 salamander species in the world, 54 call Virginia home. Take a (virtual) trip and salamander sleuth alongside our Reptile Discovery Center team!

May 7 | Amphibians are Important

Swift waters rush us into Salamander Saturday, celebrated on the first Saturday of May! Check out how Reptile Discovery Center animal keeper, Matt Neff, cares for and studies the largest salamander in the Americas: the hellbender. Read the update.

For decades, scientists have wondered whether the key to saving frogs from the deadly chytrid fungus lies in their skin. Could they genetically modify bacteria found in the frogs’ mucus layer and boost its antifungal properties, in effect creating a “living pharmacy” on the frogs? Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute scientist Brian Gratwicke and partners set out to test whether probiotics could protect the frogs from their fungal foe. Find out in this Q+A with Dr. Gratwicke!