This weekend, Chicago's Shedd Aquarium will unveil a new special exhibit dedicated to fascinating double lives of amphibians. Featuring 40 species of salamanders, frogs, toads, and worm-like creatures called caecilians, Amphibians will be running through 2017. But if you can't make it out to Chicago, or you want a preview of what you'll be seeing there, check out these vibrant close-ups of the exhibit's stars.
1. American Toad: The Classic
You might not even need to head to an aquarium to spot these guys, who can be found throughout Eastern North America. But you probably don't realize just how amazing toads are: They don't drink water or any fluid, but instead absorb it through the skin. And when it comes to defense mechanisms, they really rely on one another. American toads have glands that produce a poisonous fluid that tastes horrible to predators—this way, no particular predator will go after more than one toad.
2. Axolotl: The Mexican Walking Fish
We recently wrote a whole list of facts about these exotic amphibians (they naturally never live on land), which are found only in a network of lakes and canals built by the Aztecs near Mexico City.
3. Blue-Legged Mantella Frogs: The Toxic Beauty
The mantella frogs with the striking blue markings are becoming endangered in part because of sapphire mining. When a blue-legged mantella gets threatened, he'll secrete a toxin through his skin to upset any predator planning on making him a meal.
4. Cricket Frog: The Jumping Bean
The tiny (often less than an inch!), short-lived (often less than a year) cricket frog has one especially notable ability: They can jump over 3 feet, which is more than 60 times their body length. If humans could do that, we'd be able to land on top of a 38 story building in a single bound.
5. Fire-Bellied Newt: The Neon Warning
All newts excrete toxins through their skin to paralyze or kill over-eager predators, but not all newts have the vibrant red-orange bellies that serve as a warning and give the fire-bellied newt its name.
6. Golden Mantella Frog: The Hyper-Saturated
These tiny residents of Madagascar come in a range of hyper-saturated golden colors—bright yellow, neon orange, or ruby red.
7. Green And Black Dart Frogs: The Pest Control
These technicolor frogs hail from Central and South America, but they were intentionally introduced to Hawaii to serve as insect control in 1932 and have been living there, as well, ever since.
8. Hellbenders: AKA The Mud Devil, Ground-Puppy, or Devil Dog
The largest salamander in North America—they grow up to 20 inches long—has deep wrinkles to increase surface area because, like all giant salamanders, they breathe by absorbing oxygen through their skin.
9. Southern Leopard Frogs: The Year-Rounder
These distinctive frogs make their home in the Southern United States, where it's warm enough for them to not only hop around all year long but also mate way into the winter.
10. Spotted Salamanders: The Bold Move
When threatened, the spotted salamander attacks head-on—literally. He head butts his attacker and lashes at it with his tail, likely to smear as much sticky toxin on the predator as possible. Because they live in dark, damp habitats, the spotted salamander relies on chemical signals to find a mate.
11. Tiger Salamanders: The Everyman
The largest land-dwelling salamander (hellbenders live most of their lives underwater) can be found all throughout North America.
12. Wood Frogs: The Real Cold-Blooded
The wood frog has the distinction of being the only amphibian found north of the Arctic Circle. In order to withstand temperatures as low as 23 degrees Fahrenheit, they can "freeze" in the winter—with up to a third of the frog's internal fluids literally frozen—and thaw in the spring. Special proteins keep any internal ice crystals small while specialized "antifreeze" sugars keep their cells from freezing solid.
All facts courtesy Shedd Aquarium; All photos ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez.