Plants and Animals
Species of Concern: Three-toed Amphiuma
Common Name: Three-toed Amphiuma
Scientific Name: Amphiuma tridactylum
Range: Southeast Missouri
Classification: State imperiled
To learn more about endangered species: see the links listed below.
This is Missouri’s longest salamander, growing to more than 30 inches. It is easy to mistake for a snake, but it has four tiny legs and lacks scales. Amphiumas also are called Congo eels, conger eels or blue eels, but they are amphibians, not fish. Amphiumas live in ditches, sloughs and cypress swamps in 10 counties of Missouri’s Bootheel. This is on the northwestern edge of the species’ national range, which extends from Texas to Alabama and northward to southeastern Missouri and southwestern Kentucky. Amphiumas come out at night to hunt for crayfish, worms, insects, tadpoles, snails and small fish. Females lay about 200 eggs in late summer or early autumn, usually under rotten logs near water. They stay with the eggs throughout most of their five-month incubation. Amphiumas have lungs and come to the surface to breathe. They will bite, but they are not venomous. If you catch one on a hook, cut the line to release it.
The Day for Returns
Two sure things on April 15—taxes and hummingbirds.
Most people think of April 15 as the deadline for filing tax returns, but it also is the approximate date when Missourians first see ruby-throated hummingbirds each year. Now is the time to refill nectar feeders and put them out. A mixture of four or five cups of water to one cup of sugar meets the tiny birds’ needs. Refrigerate extra nectar until it is needed. Wash, sterilize and refill feeders weekly for best results. For more details, explore the links listed below.
In April they live their life in pursuit of love.
If you were looking for a six-legged symbol of love, you could do worse than the luna moth, Actius luna. Romance consumes adult lunas’ one-week life on the wing. These members of the silk-moth family lack mouth parts. Undistracted by hunger or thirst, males follow invisible trails of pheromone molecules to stationary females. Clutches of 100 to 300 eggs take 10 days or so to hatch. The green caterpillars spend two months eating the leaves of hardwood trees before spinning silken cocoons. There they turn into brown, hard-shelled pupae that take two weeks to transform into adults. The last of each year’s two or three generations of luna moths goes dormant, waiting until the following spring to emerge. For more information, explore the links listed below.