Often overlooked, amphibians have the most amazing and interesting adaptations in the animal kingdom, making reality often far more surprising than the fiction we could create about them.
Amphibians, like reptiles, have always been seen as inferior and uninteresting life forms, long unable to enthuse even the greatest personalities in the scientific community. Fortunately, modern science has brought to light the true essence of these exceptional animals, revealing some of their extraordinarily complex, bizarre and even endearing behaviors and abilities.
The first colonizers
The Amphibia class is an incredibly diverse class of vertebrates that has existed for more than 230 million years, made up of the direct descendants of the first vertebrates to conquer the land environment. Amphibians are divided into three orders: Anura (amphibians without tails, such as frogs and toads), Caudata (amphibians with tails, such as salamanders and newts) and Gymnophiona (amphibians, such as ceciles, that do not occur in Portugal).
Despite not being able to produce body heat and having complex life cycles, amphibians managed to conquer the terrestrial environment, colonizing all continents except Antarctica. Since they do not expend energy to maintain body temperature, they have lesser food requirements, which allows them to survive in very poor habitats and go through long periods of inactivity.
The wood frog ( Rana sylvatica ) manages to survive the Canadian and Alaskan winters by burying itself in the dead blanket and allowing up to 65% of its body water to freeze. The success of this strategy is due to the production of glucose that acts as an antifreeze in your cells and does not allow the formation of crystals that would damage tissues. In spring, when temperatures start to rise, wood frogs come out of hibernation – thaw – and reproduce. The frogs of the Cyclorana genusthey inhabit some of the most arid regions of the Australian continent, burying themselves in hiding places they have created, where they can remain inactive for years. They have the ability to store large amounts of water in the bladder and to produce a “cocoon” that reduces water losses. They emerge from the subsoil only when there are heavy rains to feed and, of course, quickly reproduce. Thanks to the ability to store water in the Australian desert, these species have always been widely used by Aborigines.