AMPHIBIANS AND REPTILES OF LAND BETWEEN LAKES is Launched
Land Between the Lakes-a tract of land spanning 170,000 acres between Barkley and Kentucky lakes in Stewart County, Tennessee, and Trigg and Lyon Counties, Kentucky-is a richly diverse ecosystem with a wide variety of plants and animals. Visitors to the area have the opportunity to stumble across any number of interesting creatures, some native only to this region of the world. To assist with recognizing some of the most over-looked species, Amphibians and Reptiles of Land Between the Lakes has just been published. Building on the work of the late David H. Snyder, his colleagues A. Floyd Scott, Edmund J. Zimmerer, and David F. Frymire have created a guide for the general public to identify and learn about the amphibians and reptiles of this unique ecosystem, as well as the surrounding areas of western Tennessee and Kentucky.
Opening with an introduction describing the area as well as the ecological importance of these creatures, the guide then divides into two major sections, one on amphibians and the other on reptiles. Each section begins with a general overview and describes the types of species within the classes discussed. Each species entry includes a description, distribution and habitat, and natural history. The guide also includes over ninety vivid, color images depicting each species listed along with dichotomous keys to help with identification; a list of forms of marginal occurrence in the Land Between the Lakes; a glossary of terms; and an extensive index, all of which make the book an accessible and easy tool for expert and enthusiast alike.
"Amphibian" comes from two Greek words meaning "both" and "life," referring to the fact that they begin their lives in the water before undergoing a metamorphosis to prepare for life on land. Among the amphibians found in this region are sixteen species of salamanders and fourteen species of frogs and toads. LBL is home to the Hellbinder salamander, the largest known amphibian, which can grow to lengths of two feet or more. This nocturnal predator resides in deep streams and is found mainly at upstream locations in Cumberland and Tennessee drainages. Among the most common salamanders in LBL is the Northern Slimy Salamanders. Its skin secretions are very sticky and can dry on human skin to form a dark film that is very difficult to remove.
Befitting the locomotion of many reptiles, the word has roots in the Latin for "creep." This group included the first vertebrates to develop an amniotic, or "land," egg as well as the first class of animals to develop a waterproof skin, allowing for inhabitation of drier habitats than that of amphibians. The editors document thirteen species of turtles, six species of lizards, and twenty-six species of snakes. One of the largest turtles in LBL, the Spiny Softshell turtle is agile and fast, both in water and on land. Feared by many, the most common venomous snake in the region is the Copperhead, though its bite, while painful, is rarely deadly.
The goal of Snyder, Scott, Zimmerer, and Frymire in creating this catalog of amphibians and reptiles found in the Land Between the Lakes is to inform visitors and the general public not only how to identify the species there, but also how to respect them. Though this guide applies specifically to the LBL, this catalog of their history and behaviors can help readers gain a deeper understanding for the herpetofauna in their own lives. Scott makes a plea for this cause, "Reptiles and amphibians, though often maligned, are an integral part of the web of life. . . . Knowing more about them and their roles in nature will likely lead to an increase in the respect and appreciation they deserve."
David H. Snyder (1962-2004) was a professor of biology at Austin Peay State University, where the Museum of Zoology is named in his honor. A. Floyd Scott is professor emeritus of biology at Austin Peay State University. Edmund J. Zimmerer is professor emeritus of biology at Murray State University. David Frymire has been a field researcher of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, Murray State University, Austin Peay State University, and University of North Carolina-Charlotte.