Plants and Animals

By |
From Missouri Conservationist: Apr 2008

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.

Luna Time

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.

This Issue's Staff

Editor in Chief - Ara Clark
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair
Art Director - Cliff White
Writer/editor - Tom Cwynar
Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Staff Writer - Arleasha Mays
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Ruby
Artist - Dave Besenger
Artist - Mark Raithel
Circulation - Laura Scheuler