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Variable Poison Dart Frog (Ranitomeya variabilis)

Variable Poison Dart Frog
photo by John P. Clare

Common Name: Variable Poison Dart Frog, Splash-back Poison Frog, and Zimmermann’s Poison Frog
Scientific Name: Ranitomeya variabilis
Family: Dendrobatidae – Poison Dart Frog family
Locations: Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru
Size: .6 – .7 inches (17 – 18 mm)

The Variable Poison Dart Frog was originally thought to be only in rain forests in Peru but populations in Colombia and Ecuador were found recently. These frogs live on the forest floor but they also live in trees. They are primarily active during the day aka diurnal. Due to their poisons, not many predators attempt to eat them. The frog’s create their poison with the help of their diet of ants, termites, and beetles. In captivity, they are not poisonous. You can find them in found in the pet trade with many individuals being captive bred. Always make sure to buy frogs or any animal that is captive bred to help fight against the illegal wildlife trade.

Reproduction for the Variable Poison Dart Frog

Mating for the frogs take place after rainfall. Females lay between 2 – 6 eggs in pools of rain water that collect in bromeliad plants. While the female is laying her eggs, the male positions himself facing away from her and fertilizes the eggs. After mating, the female leaves the eggs while the male sits and watches them. Once the eggs hatch in 12 – 14 days, the males carry some of the tadpoles on their back to other plants to help reduce competition between the tadpoles. Not all males care for their offsprings. Eventually in 12 – 14 weeks, the tadpoles complete their metamorphosis.

The International Union for Conservation (IUCN) Red List hasn’t categorized the Variable Poison Dart Frog yet so they sit at Data Deficient. The frog has a wide range that is generally undisturbed. Hopefully, the land stays safe from logging. They are listed in the CITES Appendix II. This requires that the governments were they are found must issue permits for the exportation of the frog.

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Crab-eating Frog (Fejervarya cancrivora)

photo by W.A. Djatmiko

Common Name: Crab-eating Frog, Mangrove Frog, Asian Brackish Frog, and Crab-eating Grassfrog
Scientific Name: Fejervarya cancrivora
Family: Dicroglossidae – Forked Tongued Frog family
Locations:  Brunei, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Introduced Locations: Guam and Papua New Guinea
Size: 3.1 inches (80 mm) for females, 2.75 inches (70 mm) for males

The Crab-eating Frog is thought to be the most salt tolerant amphibians in the entire world. They are able to survive in brackish waters for extended periods of time and briefly survive swimming in salt water. With this species talent, they are able to feast upon crabs and other small crustaceans, hence their name. They are found along the shorelines, mangrove forests, and inland wetlands.

Reproduction for the frogs is pretty standard. They can breed year round but most activity is at the start of the wet season. At the start, the males will call for the females from a water body. Once the female arrives, the male will grasp her from behind in the amplexus positiion. Then, female will lay her eggs and the male will then fertilize them. Neither parent will provide any parental care for the offspring. The eggs will hatch into tadpoles that transform later into frogs.

The Crab-Eating Frog is listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List as Least Concern of becoming Extinct. The frog has a wide range and is plentiful throughout it. They especially thrive in rice paddy fields. Potential threats to the survive of the frogs is the habitat destruction and over harvesting the frogs for food.

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Small Tree Frog (Rhacophorus lateralis)

SmallTreeFrog
photo by Dr. Gururaja K.V. Acharya
Conservation status is Endangered

Common Name: Small Tree Frog, Boulenger’s Tree Frog, Small Gliding Frog, or Winged Gliding Frog 
Scientific Name: Rhacophorus lateralis
Family: Rhacophoridae – Asian Tree Frog family
Locations: India
Size: 1.22 inches (31 mm)

The Small Tree Frog is found in tropical rain forests and deciduous forests of the southern Western Ghats in India. They are a member of the genus Rhacophorus, known as the Parachuting Frogs due to them being able to glide from tree to tree with their highly webbed fingers.

The history of the Small Tree Frog is rather weird. They were first described by George Albert Boulenger in 1883 but no other specimens of the species was found for over a hundred years. Some researchers questioned the validity of the species. Thankfully, researchers in 2000 “rediscovered” the species.

Small-Tree-Frog
photo by Vipin Baliga

Reproduction

The Small Tree Frog breeds from June to September. First, the males will call from territory they take out in the tree branches over hanging water. They will defend their territory from other males. They will even jump on rival male’s head so it can’t call. Once a female arrives, the male will grasp her from behind in the amplexus position. Then, the female will move to a single leaf where she begins laying her eggs. While she is laying the eggs, the male will fertilize them at the same time.

Once she is done laying the eggs, the male leaves but her work is not done. Next, she folds the leaf around the eggs, thus protecting them from drying out. This is a unique form of parental care in frogs, with only a few other species creating nests over water with leaves. Then, she leaves and provides no further parental care for her offspring. Eventually, the eggs hatch and drop from the leaf and into the water. The tadpoles eventually complete their metamorphosis and return to the trees.

Conservation of the Small Tree Frog

The Small Tree Frog is listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List as Endangered. They are found only in two locations. Luckily, one of the locations in the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary. Deforestation of the forests that they are found in is the main threat to the frogs. The land is being transformed into farms and timber planations.

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Two New Toad Species from the Western USA

Two new species of true toads from the family Bufonidae, the True Toad family was discovered in the state of Nevada in the United States. They were confused with the Western Toad (Anaxyrus boreas), very much like the newly discovered Dixie Valley Toad (Anaxyrus williamsi). Researchers, Michelle R. GordonEric T. SimandleFranziska C. SandmeierC. Richard Tracy, performed genetic testings to discover the new species.

photo by M. R. Gordon

 Railroad Valley Toad (Anaxyrus nevadensis)

The name of the toad comes from the area it was found, the Railroad Valley. They are a rather small toad, averaging only 2.5 inches long. Another distinguishable trait of the Railroad Valley Toad is their mottled stomach.

photo by M. R. Gordon

Hot Creek Toad (Anaxyrus monfontanus)

Just like the Railroad Valley Toad, the Hot Creek Toad is named after the area that they are found in. They are smaller than the Railroad Valley Toad, only averaging around 2.3 inches (59.6 mm). The Hot Creek Toad has rather larger parotoid glands (ball behind the eye) for such a small toad.

The life history of the toads are not much different than the most other toads. They are nocturnal, emerging from their burrows at night to hunt and eat.

You can read the full scientific paper here – https://bioone.org/journals/Copeia/volume-108/issue-1/CH-18-086/Two-New-Cryptic-Endemic-Toads-of-Bufo-Discovered-in-Central/10.1643/CH-18-086.full

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Smooth Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris)

photo by John Beniston

Common Name: Smooth Newt
Scientific Name: Lissotriton vulgaris
Family: Salamandridae
Locations: Albania, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, and United Kingdom
Introduced Locations Australia
Size: 3.9 inches (10 cm)

The Smooth Newt is one of the most common amphibians found throughout temperate, forest areas in Europe. They are mostly terrestrial, only staying in water for extended periods of time during breeding season. They are also nocturnal, spending their days under logs and rocks. The newts do come out during rains during the day.

The Smooth Newt reproduces after the newt wake up from hibernation. The males and females move to ponds to breed. The males will grow out a wavy crest on their back to impress the females. The male will do a courtship dance to attract females. The males will deposit a sperm packet in the water and will lead a female over it during the courtship. The female will pick it up with her cloaca and bring it inside her to fertilize her eggs. A few days layer, the female will lay her eggs, as many as 300. Eggs hatch a few weeks later and larvae will appear. The larvae take a few months to complete their metamorphism, but some individuals may take over a year. These individuals will then have to survive in the water over winter.

In Australia, the Smooth Newt has established populations in the wild. It is believed the newts were released into the wild from a pet owner who didn’t want them anymore. Never do that please. Currently, it is not known if the newt is causing any serious environmental problems so the Australian Government isn’t actively trying to prevent their spread or eliminate them.

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Dixie Valley Toad (Anaxyrus williamsi)

photo by Kris Urquhart/USFWS

Common Name: Dixie Valley Toad
Scientific Name: Anaxyrus williamsi
Family: Bufonidae – True Toad family
Locations: United States – Nevada
Size: 2 inches (50.8 mm)

The Dixie Valley Toad is a relatively new species, only being described in 2017. Before, it was considered an isolated population of the Western Toad (Anaxyrus boreas). Physical and genetic tests revealed that it was in fact, its own species. Dixie Valley Toad is physically different than the Western Toad. They have gold specks on its body and is smaller than the Western Toad.

Most life history of the Dixie Valley Toad is presumed to be similar to the Western Toad. They are a nocturnal species, living under rocks or burrowed in the dirt during the day. Reproduction is external. The males will call to attract females. Once the female selects a male, the male will grasp the female from behind. The female will then lay her eggs and the male will fertilize them. No parental care has been shown.

While only just described, the toad is already a candidate for the Endangered Species List. The exact number of toads are unknown but their range is small. Their habitat is already threatened by a geothermal energy plant that has plans to go up right next to it.

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Brazilian Torrent Frog (Hylodes asper)

Common Name: Brazilian Torrent Frog
Scientific Name: Hylodes asper
Family: Hylodidae
Locations: Brazil
Size: 1.57 inches (40 mm)

The Brazilian Torrent Frog has one of the most sophisticated form of communication for a frog. The male of the species will pick a mating spot, high on rocks next to a busy stream. They will try to make mating or territorial calls but the stream is very loud behind them, drowning out their calls. The frogs have adapted a way to talk to the frogs over the sounds on the stream. The male frogs will raise their feet in a circular movement and show off their white toe pads. This is called foot flagging.

The males will do it to attract females and to warn other males to leave. If the other males don’t leave, they will fight it out for the spot with the loser hopping away. If a predator was to see the foot flagging and come after the male frog, the male will jump into the stream. This is a really quick getaway.

If a female picks a male to mate with, they will approach the male. The male will continue to call. The female will then stretch one or both of her legs backwards and move one hand up and down. The male will then touch her snout with his throat. Next to male will jump around the rocks and perform more foot flagging. He then jumps into the water followed by the female.

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Chile Mountains False Toad (Telmatobufo venustus)

photo by wikiuser Cipsdesign 
Conservation status is Endangered

Common Name: Chile Mountains False Toad
Scientific Name: Telmatobufo venustus
Family: Calyptocephalellidae
Locations: Chile
Size: 2.8 inches (71 mm)

The Chile Mountains False Toad gets its name from its large, oval paratoid glands that make it look like a toad. They are found along the western slopes of the Chilean Andes, living up to a mile ( 1,700 metres) above sea level. There are only three known locations of the frogs. The frogs are found along rocks surrounding streams.

The Chile Mountains False Toad is listed as Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Much of its habitat has been converted into pine and eucalyptus plantations. Electric dams have been built in parts that haven’t been converted. Also trouts have been introduced into water bodies that the frogs live in. These trouts eat the frogs and their tadpoles. The only stable populations of the frog are found in the Altos de Lircay National Reserve. Better protection of the frog and their habitat is needed to save them.

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International Polar Bear Day

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Today is International Polar Bear Day! The Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) is one of the largest species of bears, capable of weighing over 1500 pounds and standing over 9 feet tall. Sadly, they are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. While Polar Bear numbers have increased due to proper hunting regulations on the species, other problems are arising.

Polar Bears spend their winter and spring on the ice sheets hunting for seals to eat. They try to eat enough food to build up fat reserves to survive the winter months when they have to move to shore. Due to the rising temperatures of the arctic because of climate change, the sea ice that they hunt on is melting earlier. This causes the Polar Bear to become malnourished or die from starvation. Also, the Polar Bears are forced to swim further distances between each sheet of ice, which burns up fat reserves and causes some Polar Bears to drown. Other threats to them include pollution especially from increased drilling in the arctic.