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©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez
©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez

12 Facts and Photos of Bright, Beautiful Amphibians

©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez
©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez

This weekend, Chicago's Shedd Aquarium will unveil a new special exhibit dedicated to fascinating double lives of amphibians. Featuring 40 species of salamanders, frogs, toads, and worm-like creatures called caecilians, Amphibians will be running through 2017. But if you can't make it out to Chicago, or you want a preview of what you'll be seeing there, check out these vibrant close-ups of the exhibit's stars.

1. American Toad: The Classic

You might not even need to head to an aquarium to spot these guys, who can be found throughout Eastern North America. But you probably don't realize just how amazing toads are: They don't drink water or any fluid, but instead absorb it through the skin. And when it comes to defense mechanisms, they really rely on one another. American toads have glands that produce a poisonous fluid that tastes horrible to predators—this way, no particular predator will go after more than one toad.

2. Axolotl: The Mexican Walking Fish

We recently wrote a whole list of facts about these exotic amphibians (they naturally never live on land), which are found only in a network of lakes and canals built by the Aztecs near Mexico City.

3. Blue-Legged Mantella Frogs: The Toxic Beauty

The mantella frogs with the striking blue markings are becoming endangered in part because of sapphire mining. When a blue-legged mantella gets threatened, he'll secrete a toxin through his skin to upset any predator planning on making him a meal.

4. Cricket Frog: The Jumping Bean

The tiny (often less than an inch!), short-lived (often less than a year) cricket frog has one especially notable ability: They can jump over 3 feet, which is more than 60 times their body length. If humans could do that, we'd be able to land on top of a 38 story building in a single bound.

5. Fire-Bellied Newt: The Neon Warning

All newts excrete toxins through their skin to paralyze or kill over-eager predators, but not all newts have the vibrant red-orange bellies that serve as a warning and give the fire-bellied newt its name.

6. Golden Mantella Frog: The Hyper-Saturated

These tiny residents of Madagascar come in a range of hyper-saturated golden colors—bright yellow, neon orange, or ruby red.

7. Green And Black Dart Frogs: The Pest Control

These technicolor frogs hail from Central and South America, but they were intentionally introduced to Hawaii to serve as insect control in 1932 and have been living there, as well, ever since.

8. Hellbenders: AKA The Mud Devil, Ground-Puppy, or Devil Dog

The largest salamander in North America—they grow up to 20 inches long—has deep wrinkles to increase surface area because, like all giant salamanders, they breathe by absorbing oxygen through their skin.

9. Southern Leopard Frogs: The Year-Rounder

These distinctive frogs make their home in the Southern United States, where it's warm enough for them to not only hop around all year long but also mate way into the winter.

10. Spotted Salamanders: The Bold Move

When threatened, the spotted salamander attacks head-on—literally. He head butts his attacker and lashes at it with his tail, likely to smear as much sticky toxin on the predator as possible. Because they live in dark, damp habitats, the spotted salamander relies on chemical signals to find a mate.

11. Tiger Salamanders: The Everyman

The largest land-dwelling salamander (hellbenders live most of their lives underwater) can be found all throughout North America.

12. Wood Frogs: The Real Cold-Blooded

The wood frog has the distinction of being the only amphibian found north of the Arctic Circle. In order to withstand temperatures as low as 23 degrees Fahrenheit, they can "freeze" in the winter—with up to a third of the frog's internal fluids literally frozen—and thaw in the spring. Special proteins keep any internal ice crystals small while specialized "antifreeze" sugars keep their cells from freezing solid.

All facts courtesy Shedd Aquarium; All photos ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez.

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Martin Wittfooth
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Art
The Cat Art Show Is Coming Back to Los Angeles in June
Martin Wittfooth
Martin Wittfooth

After dazzling cat and art lovers alike in 2014 and again in 2016, the Cat Art Show is ready to land in Los Angeles for a third time. The June exhibition, dubbed Cat Art Show 3: The Sequel Returns Again, will feature feline-centric works from such artists as Mark Ryden, Ellen von Unwerth, and Marion Peck.

Like past shows, this one will explore cats through a variety of themes and media. “The enigmatic feline has been a source of artistic inspiration for thousands of years,” the show's creator and curator Susan Michals said in a press release. “One moment they can be a best friend, the next, an antagonist. They are the perfect subject matter, and works of art, all by themselves.”

While some artists have chosen straightforward interpretations of the starring subject, others are using cats as a springboard into topics like gender, politics, and social media. The sculpture, paintings, and photographs on display will be available to purchase, with prices ranging from $300 to $150,000.

Over 9000 visitors are expected to stop into the Think Tank Gallery in Los Angeles during the show's run from June 14 to June 24. Tickets to the show normally cost $5, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting a cat charity, and admission will be free for everyone on Wednesday, June 20. Check out a few of the works below.

Man in Garfield mask holding cat.
Tiffany Sage

Painting of kitten.
Brandi Milne

Art work of cat in tree.
Kathy Taselitz

Painting of white cat.
Rose Freymuth-Frazier

A cat with no eyes.
Rich Hardcastle

Painting of a cat on a stool.
Vanessa Stockard

Sculpture of pink cat.
Scott Hove

Painting of cat.
Yael Hoenig
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Tony Karumba, AFP/Getty Images
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Animals
How a Pregnant Rhino Named Victoria Could Save an Entire Subspecies
Sudan, the last male member of the northern white rhino subspecies, while being shipped to Kenya in 2009
Sudan, the last male member of the northern white rhino subspecies, while being shipped to Kenya in 2009
Tony Karumba, AFP/Getty Images

The last male northern white rhino died at a conservancy in Kenya earlier this year, prompting fears that the subspecies was finally done for after decades of heavy poaching. Scientists say there's still hope, though, and they're banking on a pregnant rhino named Victoria at the San Diego Zoo, according to the Associated Press.

Victoria is actually a southern white rhino, but the two subspecies are related. Only two northern white rhinos survive, but neither of the females in Kenya are able to reproduce. Victoria was successfully impregnated through artificial insemination, and if she successfully carries her calf to term in 16 to 18 months, scientists say she might be able to serve as a surrogate mother and propagate the northern white rhino species.

But how would that work if no male northern rhinos survive? As the AP explains, scientists are working to recreate northern white rhino embryos using genetic technology. The San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research has the frozen cell lines of 12 different northern white rhinos, which can be transformed into stem cells—and ultimately, sperm and eggs. The sperm of the last northern white male rhino, Sudan, was also saved before he died.

Scientists have been monitoring six female southern white rhinos at the San Diego Zoo to see if any emerge as likely candidates for surrogacy. However, it's not easy to artificially inseminate a rhino, and there have been few successful births in the past. There's still a fighting chance, though, and scientists ultimately hope they'll be able to build up a herd of five to 15 northern white rhinos over the next few decades.

[h/t Time Magazine]

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