In the US, the people of each state choose a particular symbol to associate with their locality. A state amphibian is one of several symbols that may be selected. The choice is submitted to the legislative body of the state, which then enacts a bill that makes the animal an official symbol. Puerto Rico, a US territory, has a state amphibian, and many other countries adopt species common to their shores as symbols.
Amphibians are animals that have an aquatic, gill-breathing stage, but as adults live on land and breathe air. They are cold-blooded and depend on sunlight and cool mud or water to regulate their body temperature. Many species of frogs, salamanders, and toads fit this description. Most of the animals are either native to or plentiful in the state or territory in question. Missouri’s state amphibian, the North American bullfrog, is the largest frog native to the state and is common in warm shallow waters there.
Many state animals are chosen by schoolchildren who campaign for their favorite reptile, bird, or amphibian, and consider its symbolic value. Qualities the animal may embody that fit the ideal picture of the population, such as fierceness or stoicism, are also taken under advisement. Choosing a state amphibian allows children to learn about the animal in question and follow the legislative process as their petition makes its way through. Once a US state amphibian is nominated the process generally works like any other bill, and it passes through the state legislature and is voted on.
Another reason for choosing a particular animal is conservation efforts. Amphibians in general are sensitive to pollution and habitat encroachment, making them good mascots for preservation efforts. The Tennessee cave salamander is a threatened species, and its designation as the state amphibian brings attention to its plight. Salamanders are valuable species because they are sensitive to environmental changes, and their well-being helps monitor climactic and environmental health.
Canada, Brazil, India, Australia and other countries have animals that represent each province or territory. In Cornwall, England, the chough, a crowlike bird with red feet, appears on the county coat of arms. While few sub-national animals are amphibians, they vary from domesticated animals, such as dogs and cats, to equines, dinosaurs, and insects. Most of them are picked the same way the US designates their state animals and birds. Puerto Rico, a US territory, has the common coqui, a small brown frog native to the island, as its unofficial state amphibian.