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Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of the ACE Basin

There are over 600 species of amphibians (salamanders, frogs, and toads) and reptiles (lizards, snakes, turtles, and alligators) in the United States. Over a hundred of these can be found in the ACE Basin area.
The red line demarcates the NERR (National Estuarine Research Reserve) boundary around the ACE Basin.
This area is in southwestern South Carolina. ACE is an acronym for Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto, the names of the three main rivers that feed into this watershed. The Basin consists of ~350,000 acres that contain pine and hardwood uplands, forested wetlands, fresh, brackish and salt water marshes, barrier islands and beaches.140,000 acres belong to the National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR). The ACE Basin offers a great variety of habitat for amphibians and reptiles.

Amphibians have moist glandular skin. The name implies that these animals live a double life ("amphibious"): with few exceptions amphibians have a larval stage that is aquatic and an adult stage that usually is terrestrial. Thus, larvae and adult animals live in different habitats and have different lifestyles. Three groups belong to the amphibians: Salamanders (Urodela), Frogs and Toads (Anura or Caudata), and Caecilians (Gymnophiona). The latter group only occurs in the tropics. Amphibians use their skin for gas exchange and it is also permeable to water. Amphibians do not drink, they take up water through their skin. Their eggs are not covered by a calcareous membrane.

Reptiles are covered with keratinized scales, shields, or plates. This protects them from losing water through their skin. Most lay eggs with a calcareous membrane (oviparous), but some give live birth. Most reptiles are terrestrial- but even those that are not deposit their calcareous eggs on land. Four groups belong to the reptiles: Lizards and Snakes (Squamata), Turtles (Testudinea), Crocodilians (Crocodylia), and Tuataras (Rhynchocephalia). The latter group contains only two species that are restricted to New Zealand. Strictly speaking birds (Aves) also belong to the reptiles, because they descended from the same ancestor as other reptiles. But since birds are so different from the other groups, they are excluded from herpetology (the study of amphibians and reptiles).

This guide gives a brief introduction to the various groups of reptiles and amphibians that may be encountered in the ACE Basin area. It contains species and family descriptions with images and soundclips where applicable and available. The literature listed under the description of each family is an example of published piece of research that specifically pertains to the systematics of a family.

Table 1. List of number of species found in the ACE Basin as well as numbers of species of particular legal status.
Salamanders
Frogs&Toads
Lizards
Snakes
Turtles
Alligators
# Species
19
27
11
35
16
1
SC
1
3
2
9
3
-
SE
-
-
-
-
1
-
ST
1
-
-
-
-
-
FE/SE
-
-
-
-
2
-
FT/SE
1
-
-
-
1
-
FT/ST
-
-
-
-
1
-
SC = Of concern, State
SE = State Endangered
ST = State Threatened
FT = Federal Threatened
FE = Federal Endangered

There are a number of great webpages for Amphibians and Reptiles- please check the following page that contains links to some of these.

Here is a photo of a pretty sunset seen at the ACE Basin:

HomepageFrogandToadpage

SalamandersSalamanderpage Frogs&ToadsFrogandToadpage

Lizards Lizardpage

Snakes Snakepage Turtles Turtlepage Alligatorsgo to Croc page
 
  • This website was created by Susanne Hauswaldt as part of her NERR (National Estuarine Research Reserve) Graduate Student Fellowship for the ACE Basin NERR Site; Susanne is currently pursuing her Ph.D. degree in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of South Carolina. Dr. Elizabeth Wenner (SC Department of Natural Resources) is the Research Coordinator for the ACE Basin NERR Site.
  • Images were kindly provided by John Jensen (Herpetologist at the Georgia Department of Natural Resources) and David Scott (Herpetologist at the Savannah River Research Laboratory)
  • Soundclips were kindly provided by Herrick Brown and Ri Crawford (Graduate Students in the Department of Biology at the University of South Carolina), as well as by Walter Knapp (author of the webpage "The Frogs and Toads of Georgia")
  • John Jensen and Julian R. Harrison III helped proofreading the content
  • Literature used to prepare this site : (1) Conant, R. and J.T. Collins. 1998. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, 3rd edition, expanded. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston and New York. (2) Martof, B.S., W.M. Palmer, J.R. Bailey, and J.R. Harrison III. 1980. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. (3) Pough, F.H., R.M Andrews, J.E. Cadle, M.L. Crump, A.H. Savitzky, K.D. Wells. 1998. Herpetology. Prentice Hall, NJ. (4) Obst, F.J. 1986. Turtles, Tortoises and Terrapins. Edition Leipzig. (5) Cogger, H.G. and R.G. Zweifel (eds.) 1998. Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. University of New South Wales Press Ltd., Sydney.
  • The occurance of most animals listed in this guide was confirmed by Heather Lee, who conducted a survey of frog and toad calls, and observed many of the other non- sound producing amphibians and reptiles at the ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge as a research intern during spring and summer of 2002. Heather is a student at the University of Tennessee and did this study in her sophmore year.