Kingswood’s Amphibian Friends

Written by Kingswood camper Addison Martin

Our amphibian friends are a hallmark of the Kingswood experience. The sounds of peepers at night and frogs by the lake comfort the seasoned Kingswood camper. The delicate and subtle sight of a newt’s nose just barely breaking the surface of the lake is a peaceful reminder of the tranquilly that pervades the quieter corners of the lake.  

The fact that we have so many different amphibians living at Kingswood is a good sign–amphibians are considered indicator species for ecologists. Indicator species are plants, animals, or other living things whose presence in a place can say a lot about the cleanliness and health of the ecosystems. Why might these amphibians be such good indicator species? It all comes down to their skin!

Why their skin? Adult amphibians do not have very complex or large lungs–in fact some have no lungs at all! In addition to this, even if an adult amphibian has lungs, it doesn’t have a diaphragm and must pump air into its lungs with its cheeks or throat–a very inefficient process and the characteristic in-and-out movement of a frog’s throat. So how can adult amphibians make up for their inefficient lungs? By breathing through their skin!

So why does breathing through their skin have anything to do with them being an indicator species? In order for amphibians to breathe through their skin, it must be extremely thin and stay moist. Chemicals or other substances that harm living things easily and quickly can pass into the body of an amphibian through their thin skin. In this way, the disappearance of amphibians from an environment can act as an early warning sign for environmental trouble. As an important aside: this is also why it’s important to not hold our froggy friends if you have bug spray or sun screen on your hands–the chemicals in these products could easily pass into their bodies.

So next time you walk around the Kingswood lake, be thankful for the cheery blurps and plops as frogs leap into the water. And remember to let them be if your hands aren’t clean!