WHEN the distance of the frogs migration is calculated as a function of weight, as Dr. Baldwin has done. It is comparable to the trek undertaken by caribou between Arctic tundra and boreal forest.

The frogs make wildebeest migrations look like weekend hikes. 

SALAMANDERS and frogs find fewer hazards during their astounding migration.

Out they come on warm, wet spring nights, from beneath leaves and under legs and inside burrows where they have hibernated since fall: an army of amphibians embarking on one of nature's great migrations, albeit largely hidden human sight and all too-often ending beneath automobile tires.

It is an ignominious fate for creatures with life histories that read like fairy tales. And although nobody knows exactly how many frogs and salamanders are killed while crossing roads, scientists say that even moderate traffic at wrong time can wipe out entire populations in a few years.

This year, however, amphibian migrations in the northeastern United States coincides with the  Covid-19 pandemic.

Social distancing and shelter-in-place orders have caused vehicular traffic to decline, turning this spring into an unintended, large-scale experiment.

''It's really exciting to see what might come of this year,'' said Greg LeClair, a graduate herpetology student at the University of Maine.

He is the founder of Big Night Maine, a statewide network of citizen scientists who help amphibians cross roads and count them in the process.

''It's not too often that we get this opportunity to explore the true impacts that human activity can have on road-crossing amphibians,'' he said.

On a night in early May, Mr. LeClair and Samantha Grimaldi, patrolled a stretch of wooded road in the central Maine town of Unity. {They took turns carrying their 10-month-old daughter, Audrey, who was clad in a dinosaur-print face mask and a ''Future Herpetologist'' onesie.]

On each side of the road was a vernal pool. Unknowing eyes might dismiss these ephemeral springtime ponds as large puddles, but they are fonts of woodland life.

The air resonated with the trilling of spring peepers seeking mates :

A pool may contain thousands. Two of these finger-tip size frogs were the first amphibians spotted on the road. Frozen solid on a forest floor just months earlier, they were now headed to a bacchanal. Mr. LeClair and Ms. Grimaldi set them by the pool.

Farther along on his journey was a wood frog, evidently returning home after mating. His mottled brown skin helped him hide on the forest floor but offered little camouflage on the tarmac.

The round trip could easily span a quarter-mile - not much to a human pedestrian, but an epic journey for a ground-level, three-inch-long frog.

''Large animals who migrate a lot and are highly visible doing so tend to get some attention,'' Robert Baldwin, a conservation biologist at Clemson University, said in an email.

''But when you consider what a wood frog has to negotiate, it's kind of mind-boggling. Nighttime and rain, giant legs to get around, sticks and leaves, snakes.         

The honor and serving of the latest operational research on Salamanders and Frogs, continues. The World Students Society thanks authors, Brandon Keim and Greta Rybus.


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