The tiger salamander was declared the Colorado State Amphibian in March 2012, after a sustained campaign initiated by the John Babiak family of Denver. It turns out that the tiger salamander is also the state amphibian of Kansas and Illinois.
The tiger salamander is the largest terrestrial salamander in the United States. They commonly grow 6 to 8 inches in length, but can rarely be found as long as 12 to 14 inches. It takes four to five years for salamanders to reach sexual maturity, and they may live up to 15 years.
The young hatch from eggs planted by the female in small bodies of water. The most amazing thing about these salamanders is that they are born with gills and live under water for months until they move up onto land, shed their gills, and develop lungs! Even more interesting is that some never move onto land, keep their gills, and live the rest of their lives under water. Oh, and by the way, they can regenerate a detached leg.
What piqued my interest in tiger salamanders was stopping by our pond to see if the resident Koi had survived the winter, and finding two striped lizards swimming around under water. I was surprised that they never came up for air. Then I remembered that a biologist neighbor told me the pond was prime habitat for young tiger salamanders and she was worried that the Koi would have them for dinner. Sure enough, there was the Koi lurking nearby. So intrigued, I was off to the internet to learn more about the Colorado State Amphibian.
Reading the volumes of information on tiger salamanders, I kept thinking, How do they know that? How long did it take for someone to actually observe a detached leg grow back? Did someone pull the leg off a captured salamander just to see what would happen? Who was the first person to discover that some salamanders never grow lungs and live under water for the rest of their lives? It took me two years checking the pond before I spotted my first tiger salamander.
I have always been amazed at the body of knowledge we humans have documented since the days of cavemen. Millions, if not billions, of average Joes have contributed, without an ounce of recognition, to this vast amount of information so that we can blithely say, “I read that… ”