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American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)

American Alligator

Common Name: American Alligator
Scientific Name: Alligator mississippiensis
Family: Alligatoridae = Alligator family
Locations: United States and Mexico
US Locations: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas
Size: 10 – 15 feet (3 – 4.5 meters)

The American Alligator is an iconic species of the southeastern United States. They live a long time, up to 50 years in the wild. Female alligators don’t grow as long as males, only reaching 10 feet long max. The alligators have an interesting way of surviving freezing temperatures. They stick the tip of their snout of the water so they can breed while keeping the rest of their body underwater. Then, they go into a state of brumation to preserve their energy. Also, the gators create massive tunnels to help them escape dangerous weather conditions.

Courtship begins in April with mating typically happening in May. The male bellows out for the females and to ward off other suitors. These bellows make the water on the back of the alligator “dance”. Mating takes place only in fresh water. The female lays her eggs in a nest she builds in late June or early July. The eggs take between 63 – 84 days to hatch. The babies break open their eggs and call out for the mom. Then, the mom digs out her babies and protects them from predators for a few years. Even with the mom’s protection, around 80% of the offspring dies from predation.

American Alligator

American Alligator Conservation

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List classifies the American Alligator as Least Concern for Extinction. This wasn’t always the case. The alligator was once on the Endangered Species List. People hunted the gators to the brink of extinction. Legal protections were in acted that saved the species. Now, alligators are numerous throughout their range. Thanks to proper wildlife management, people can hunt the gators once again.

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Crocodile Research Coalition

Crocodile Research Coalition

The Crocodile Research Coalition is a non-profit organization that focuses on the protection of crocodiles throughout Central America and the Caribbean. The group was founded by Dr. Marissa Tellez and her husband Karl Kohlman in 2016. The group runs a variety of different projects to help crocodiles. They do hands on science such as population surveys to help aid in the conservation of the crocodiles. The CRC also educates the public about crocodiles and they also lobby the government to help crocodiles and clean up / protect their habitat.

The Crocodile Research Coalition is working to build a state of the art facility in Placencia Peninsula. You can help them build the facility by donating to them.

You can view their website at CrocodileResearchCoalition.org or follow them on Facebook or twitter @CrocResCoal

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Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)

Saltwater Crocodile
photo by flickr user fvanrenterghem

Common Name: Saltwater Crocodile or Salties
Scientific Name: Crocodylus porosus
Family: Crocodylidae – Crocodile family
Locations: Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines,, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vanuatu, and Vietnam
Size: 17 – 23 feet (5.1 – 7 meters)

The Saltwater Crocodile is the largest living crocodile species in the world. These crocodiles can reach 23 feet and over 2,200 pounds! They received their name due to their resistance to saltwater. Most crocodiles only enter the saltwater in emergencies while the Saltwater Crocodile just lives there. They are capable of living over 70 years in the wild and longer in captivity.

Saltwater Crocodile Reproduction

The Saltwater Crocodile breeds during the wet season when the water levels are the highest. The females select a nesting site where she and a male eventually mates. The male is a dead beat dad and doesn’t provide any care for his offspring. He leaves the mom and tries to find more potential mates. The female crocodile shows a high amount of parental care.

The mother guards her nest of eggs, even splashing water on the eggs to help prevent them from drying up. The eggs take 3 months to hatch. The sex of the offspring depend on the incubation temperature. Temperatures below 86 ºF (30 ºC) result in females. Meanwhile, temperatures above 89 ºF (32 ºC) results in male offspring. Once the eggs hatch, the female digs out the babies and carries them to the water in her mouth. Then, she protects the babies until they are able to take care of themselves. What a mom!

Conservation

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List categorizes the Saltwater Crocodile as Least Concern for Extinction. They have a fairly large range but the destruction of potential nesting sites is a concern. Another threat is hunting of the crocs for their pelts and meat. These threats are rather low though.

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CROCtober

Welcome to CROCtober, the annual celebrations of all things crocodilian, the animal group – not the shoes, during October. The term Crocodilians includes crocodiles, alligators, caimans, and gharials. These creatures are often misunderstood as furious, killing machines but there’s more to them than that. Crocodilians are one of the most endangered group of animals on the planet. Out of the 23 species, 7 of the species are listed as critically endangered. Additionally, 4 species are listed as vulnerable to extinction. That’s not great.

Over the month of CROCtober, I plan to highlight the different species of crocodilians, the troubles they face, some researchers who study them, and how you can help save the crocs. Don’t worry, frog content will still be posted. Stay tuned!

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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.