THE SNAKE AND THE SALAMANDER Reptiles and Amphibians from Maine to Virginia

Available for sale at this links - https://jhupbooks.press.jhu.edu/content/snake-and-salamander

From Johns Hopkins University Press -

A beautifully illustrated tour of the region’s snakes, lizards, turtles, frogs, and salamanders.

In the best tradition of natural history writing and art, The Snake and the Salamander explores the diverse collection of reptiles and amphibians that inhabit the northeastern quadrant of the United States. Covering thirteen states that run from Maine to Virginia, author Alvin R. Breisch and artist Matt Patterson showcase the lives of 83 species of snakes, lizards, turtles, frogs, and salamanders. These intriguing animals are organized by habitat and type, from forest to grassland to bog to big waters, and revealed through a combination of Breisch’s engaging prose and Patterson’s original color illustrations.

Breisch’s guided tour combines historical notes and conservation issues with lessons on genetics, evolution, habitats, life histories, and more. Discover how careful attention to frog calls coupled with DNA analysis led to the discovery of a new species of frog in New York City, why evolutionary adaptations made the Eastern Ratsnake a superb climber, and the surprising fact that Spiny Softshell turtles actually sprint on land to retreat from predators. Breisch also tells the odd tale of the Green Frog and the Smooth Greensnake, two “green species” that do not actually have any green pigment in their skin. Every species has a story to tell—one that will keep the reader wanting to learn more. The breadth of herpetofauna in the area will surprise many readers: more than 8% of the world’s salamanders and 11% of all turtle species live in the region. Beyond numbers, however, lie aesthetics. The surprising colors and fascinating lifestyles of the reptile and amphibian species in this book will mesmerize readers young and old.

Alvin R. Breisch, a collaborator with the Roosevelt Wild Life Station, was the amphibian and reptile specialist and the director of the Amphibian and Reptile Atlas Project for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation until his retirement in 2009. He is the coauthor of The Amphibians and Reptiles of New York State: Identification, Natural History, and Conservation. Matt Patterson is the illustrator of Freshwater Fish of the Northeast, which won the 2010 National Outdoor Book Award in the category of Design and Artistic Merit.

8 x 10 x .45, 192 pp., 93 color illus.

 

“Ugly.” I have often heard that term used to describe the Eastern Hellbender. But I would say their appearance is more primitive than ugly. Hellbenders look unlike any species you have seen before: mud brown in color, loose folds of skin running down their sides, beady little eyes, and mouths as wide as their very wide heads. And if you see a full-grown adult, they are huge for an amphibian and possibly even older than you are! Unlike James Ellsworth DeKay, author of The Zoology of New York, who lamented in 1842, “I have never met with this animal myself,” I was fortunate to meet the Hellbender courtesy of the late Professor Richard “Dick” Bothner of St. Bonaventure University during the summer of 1985. Careful rock lifting was our modus operandi. Dick was quick to scold if you lifted what he called a “sexy-looking” cover rock, incorrectly resulting in a dark cloud of suspended sediments that would hide the escaping Hellbender. And his scolding was even harsher if you did not carefully reposition the rock so it would remain suitable as a Hellbender shelter rock. To me, those first few Hellbenders were huge, larger than any salamander I had found before. But when we found the really big ones I was speechless. They were nearly 2 feet (61 cm) long and as big around as my forearm! Hellbenders are strong, muscular, slithery creatures that are hard to hold. A dip net and a large, flat-bottomed container were essential to get a good look and to give me an opportunity to wipe off the gobs of white slime the animal had exuded on me. As with most salamander slime, it really does not wipe off, nor does it stay white. Dark-stained hands often result from handling a Hellbender. Hellbenders have declined to such an extent that there are few places left in the Northeast where they are easy to find. They are also one of the species that contradicts what it means to be an amphibian, living a life that is half aquatic and half terrestrial. Hellbenders are purely aquatic from egg to larva to adult, preferring cool, clear, fast-flowing, and well-oxygenated water—the kind of streams where I often find Wood Turtles. I think of the best habitat for Hellbenders to be trout-quality streams where the their favorite food—crayfish—is abundant. But many of these streams have disappeared because of a variety of land-clearing activities, dam construction, stream realignment, and road construction. Fishermen who fear the bite of the Hellbender or mistakenly think they are predatory on game fish will often kill them when they are accidently hooked. Today in the Northeast, Hellbenders are more frequently found in slower-flowing streams burdened with large amounts of suspended solids. At these sites, reproduction is often poor, and what we are left with are often aged populations where most members are 25 or more years old. Breeding season begins in late summer. At this time of the year it is easiest to find them as they congregate in areas where there are numerous rocks suitable for nesting under. It is also the time when the most harm can be done. If a nest rock is lifted, many of the eggs are washed loose, and it is impossible to get them back under the rock, where the male guards the eggs. And if the rock is not replaced properly, it may no longer be suitable as a cover or nest rock at all. Since that first day with Dick, I have spent countless hours searching for them in the Susquehanna and Mississippi drainages, more times than not ending the day without finding a single Hellbender. But one day stands out. Although their movements away from cover rocks are usually nocturnal, one fall afternoon we found what looked like a large male lying in plain view about 6 feet (1.8 m) from the closest cover rock. On closer examination we saw it was not one but four individuals piled on top of each other. Within 10 feet (3 m) there were two more Hellbenders moving toward this pile. We did not want to disturb this gathering to determine size and sex of all the participants, so we just watched in fascination from a respectable distance. They were so absorbed in their own affairs that they did not notice us. At the end of one particularly successful day in the field, Dick commented about what he found so great about studying Hellbenders. “On the average, Hellbenders are uglier than we are,” he said as he turned and glanced directly at me before adding “on the average.” Primitive-looking, intriguing critters, I thought.

“Ugly.” I have often heard that term used to describe the Eastern Hellbender. But I would say their appearance is more primitive than ugly. Hellbenders look unlike any species you have seen before: mud brown in color, loose folds of skin running down their sides, beady little eyes, and mouths as wide as their very wide heads. And if you see a full-grown adult, they are huge for an amphibian and possibly even older than you are! Unlike James Ellsworth DeKay, author of The Zoology of New York, who lamented in 1842, “I have never met with this animal myself,” I was fortunate to meet the Hellbender courtesy of the late Professor Richard “Dick” Bothner of St. Bonaventure University during the summer of 1985. Careful rock lifting was our modus operandi. Dick was quick to scold if you lifted what he called a “sexy-looking” cover rock, incorrectly resulting in a dark cloud of suspended sediments that would hide the escaping Hellbender. And his scolding was even harsher if you did not carefully reposition the rock so it would remain suitable as a Hellbender shelter rock. To me, those first few Hellbenders were huge, larger than any salamander I had found before. But when we found the really big ones I was speechless. They were nearly 2 feet (61 cm) long and as big around as my forearm! Hellbenders are strong, muscular, slithery creatures that are hard to hold. A dip net and a large, flat-bottomed container were essential to get a good look and to give me an opportunity to wipe off the gobs of white slime the animal had exuded on me. As with most salamander slime, it really does not wipe off, nor does it stay white. Dark-stained hands often result from handling a Hellbender. Hellbenders have declined to such an extent that there are few places left in the Northeast where they are easy to find. They are also one of the species that contradicts what it means to be an amphibian, living a life that is half aquatic and half terrestrial. Hellbenders are purely aquatic from egg to larva to adult, preferring cool, clear, fast-flowing, and well-oxygenated water—the kind of streams where I often find Wood Turtles. I think of the best habitat for Hellbenders to be trout-quality streams where the their favorite food—crayfish—is abundant.
But many of these streams have disappeared because of a variety of land-clearing activities, dam construction, stream realignment, and road construction. Fishermen who fear the bite of the Hellbender or mistakenly think they are predatory on game fish will often kill them when they are accidently hooked. Today in the Northeast, Hellbenders are more frequently found in slower-flowing streams burdened with large amounts of suspended solids. At these sites, reproduction is often poor, and what we are left with are often aged populations where most members are 25 or more years old. Breeding season begins in late summer. At this time of the year it is easiest to find them as they congregate in areas where there are numerous rocks suitable for nesting under. It is also the time when the most harm can be done. If a nest rock is lifted, many of the eggs are washed loose, and it is impossible to get them back under the rock, where the male guards the eggs. And if the rock is not replaced properly, it may no longer be suitable as a cover or nest rock at all. Since that first day with Dick, I have spent countless hours searching for them in the Susquehanna and Mississippi drainages, more times than not ending the day without finding a single Hellbender. But one day stands out. Although their movements away from cover rocks are usually nocturnal, one fall afternoon we found what looked like a large male lying in plain view about 6 feet (1.8 m) from the closest cover rock. On closer examination we saw it was not one but four individuals piled on top of each other. Within 10 feet (3 m) there were two more Hellbenders moving toward this pile. We did not want to disturb this gathering to determine size and sex of all the participants, so we just watched in fascination from a respectable distance. They were so absorbed in their own affairs that they did not notice us. At the end of one particularly successful day in the field, Dick commented about what he found so great about studying Hellbenders. “On the average, Hellbenders are uglier than we are,” he said as he turned and glanced directly at me before adding “on the average.” Primitive-looking, intriguing critters, I thought.

The Ring-necked Snake is the most slender snake in the region. The plain dark gray, almost black, back with smooth scales gives it a satiny appearance. A bright yellow ring around its neck joins with a bright yellow belly. The ventral surface of the tail is often reddish. A few small black dots can be seen in the center of the belly scales of the northern subspecies, Diadophis punctatus edwardsii. The southern subspecies, D. punctatus punctatus— found in southern New Jersey, the Delmarva Peninsula, and southern Virginia and south—has a central row of crescent-shaped spots on its belly scales and an incomplete ring that doesn’t quite join at the base of the head. The southern subspecies is smaller than its northern cousin, reaching a maximum length of only 18.9 inches (48.0 cm). When handled, a Ring-necked Snake assumes a defensive posture, curling its tail into the shape of a spiral curly fry while exposing its brightly colored belly. In addition to two subspecies, there are ten other subspecies of Ring-necked Snake in North America. I often find members of this woodland species on rocky, second-growth forested hillsides, road cuts, or old shale borrow pits. I also expect that where I find Ring-necked Snakes, small Plethodon salamanders, one of their favorite foods, will not be far away. They also prey on earthworms, slugs, and small lizards. Ring-necked Snakes use constricting as a way to hold and kill prey. Unlike humans, who replace their baby teeth just once to grow adult teeth, Ring-necked Snakes can replace their teeth many times during their life. Most snakes have four rows of teeth on their upper jaw and two rows on their lower jaw. Their teeth point backward on their jaws toward their throat. This geometry makes it difficult for prey to escape from the snake’s grasp once it is securely grasped. In the struggle with the prey, however, these delicate teeth break off easily and are swallowed. New teeth quickly replace the lost ones. The Southern Ring-necked Snake and all other subspecies, except D. punctatus edwardsii, are rear-fanged snakes that use envenomation in combination with constriction to secure their prey. The southern subspecies is only slightly venomous. Their nonaggressive nature and small, rear-pointing fangs pose little threat to humans who handle them. The rear fangs, which are the last teeth on the upper jaw, are longer than the other maxillary teeth and are connected to the Duvernoy’s gland by a groove. Duvernoy’s gland is in some ways analogous to the venom gland in pit vipers. But the secretions from this gland aid in swallowing and digestion rather than killing the prey.

The Ring-necked Snake is the most slender snake in the region. The plain dark gray, almost black, back with smooth scales gives it a satiny appearance. A bright yellow ring around its neck joins with a bright yellow belly. The ventral surface of the tail is often reddish. A few small black dots can be seen in the center of the belly scales of the northern subspecies, Diadophis punctatus edwardsii. The southern subspecies, D. punctatus punctatus— found in southern New Jersey, the Delmarva Peninsula, and southern Virginia and south—has a central row of crescent-shaped spots on its belly scales and an incomplete ring that doesn’t quite join at the base of the head. The southern subspecies is smaller than its northern cousin, reaching a maximum length of only 18.9 inches (48.0 cm). When handled, a Ring-necked Snake assumes a defensive posture, curling its tail into the shape of a spiral curly fry while exposing its brightly colored belly. In addition to two subspecies, there are ten other subspecies of Ring-necked Snake in North America. I often find members of this woodland species on rocky, second-growth forested hillsides, road cuts, or old shale borrow pits. I also expect that where I find Ring-necked Snakes, small Plethodon salamanders, one of their favorite foods, will not be far away. They also prey on earthworms, slugs, and small lizards. Ring-necked
Snakes use constricting as a way to hold and kill prey. Unlike humans, who replace their baby teeth just once to grow adult teeth, Ring-necked Snakes can replace their teeth many times during their life. Most snakes have four rows of teeth on their upper jaw and two rows on their lower jaw. Their teeth point backward on their jaws toward their throat. This geometry makes it difficult for prey to escape from the snake’s grasp once it is securely grasped. In the struggle with the prey, however, these delicate teeth break off easily and are swallowed. New teeth quickly replace the lost ones. The Southern Ring-necked Snake and all other subspecies, except D. punctatus edwardsii, are rear-fanged snakes that use envenomation in combination with constriction to secure their prey. The southern subspecies is only slightly venomous. Their nonaggressive nature and small, rear-pointing fangs pose little threat to humans who handle them. The rear fangs, which are the last teeth on the upper jaw, are longer than the other maxillary teeth and are connected to the Duvernoy’s gland by a groove. Duvernoy’s gland is in some ways analogous to the venom gland in pit vipers. But the secretions from this gland aid in swallowing and digestion rather than killing the prey.