Frog of the Week

Japanese Common Toad (Bufo japonicus)

Japanese Common Toad
photo by Yasunori Koide 

Common Name: Japanese Common Toad
Scientific Name: Bufo japonicus
Family: Bufonidae – True Toad family
Locations: Japan
Size: 3.1 – 6.9 inches (80 – 176 mm)

The Japanese Common Toad lives on the islands of Kyusyu, Shikoku, Hokkaido, and Honshu of Japan. They have also been introduced to the island of Izu Oshima. Additionally, they live in a wide range of habitats from coastal areas to high in the mountains. The toads vary in color from a dark green, yellowish brown, to dark brown. Like most toads, they are active during the night and hide during the day.

Two subspecies of the toads are recognized by some researchers. The subspecies are the Eastern Japanese Common Toad (Bufo japonicus formosus) and the Western Japanese Common Toad (Bufo japonicus japonicus). The western subspecies is slightly larger than the eastern.

Mating

The breeding season for the toads is late winter / early spring from February to March. The toads migrate to ponds and swamps to breed. They use odor cues to find their way to these water bodies. In the pond, the males outnumber the females, leading to fighting and scrambling for a mate. The males try to grasp the females from behind in the amplexus position. Next, the female starts to lay her eggs. The females lay between 1,500-14,000 eggs. Then, the male fertilizes the eggs. Neither parent provides any care for their offspring. The eggs hatch into tadpoles shortly after. Then, the tadpoles complete their metamorphosis in June.

Conservation for the Japanese Common Toad

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List categorizes the Japanese Common Toad as Least Concern for Extinction. The species populations are decreasing but not at an alarming rate. The main cause of the declines is habitat loss from the urbanization of their land.

New Species

New Species of Salamander from North Carolina – Carolina Sandhills Salamander

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Carolina Sandhills Salamander (Eurycea arenicola) – photo by L Todd Pusser

North Carolina is home to the most salamander species in the United States, a whopping 63 species! Now, thanks to researchers, the number moves up to 64! The southeastern United States, especially the Appalachian Mountain, is the salamander capitol of the world.

This discovery was 50 years in the making. An unusual salamander species was brought to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Originally, it was thought to be a weird Southern Two-lined Salamander (Eurycea cirrigera). More specimens were collected and curator Alvin Braswell thought it could be a new species. Sadly, he was too busy to pursue the research.

Southern Two-lined Salamander – photo by wikiuser Hargle

In comes Bryan Stuart, research curator of herpetology, who join the museum in 2008. Braswell told him of the salamander and wanted him to research it. Stuart was able to use next generation sequencer to determine that the species was new. He formally described the species as the Carolina Sandhills Salamander (Eurycea arenicola). The salamander is found near the seepages, springs and streams of the Sandhills of North Carolina. The Carolina Sandhills Salamander is red to orange in color. They don’t have a the dark band on its side like the Southern Two-lined Salamander do. These salamanders are pretty small ranging from 2.2 – 3.5 inches (56. -89.1 mm) from snout to tail.

You can read the full paper at https://bioone.org/journals/herpetologica/volume-76/issue-4/0018-0831-76.4.423/A-New-Two-Lined-Salamander-Eurycea-bislineata-Complex-from-the/10.1655/0018-0831-76.4.423.short

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American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus)

American Crocodile
photo by wikiuser Mattstone911

Common Name: American Crocodile
Scientific Name: Crocodylus acutus
Family: Crocodylidae – Crocodile Family
Locations: Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, United States, Venezuela, and Bolivia
US Location: Florida
Average Male Size: 9.5 – 13.1 feet (2.9 – 4 meters)
Average Female Size: 8.2 – 9.8 feet (2.5 -3 meters)
Maximum Size: 20 feet (6.1 meters)

The American Crocodile has the most widespread range of any crocodile in the Americas. They reach from southern Florida, through Central America, and down to northern South America. They live in fresh or brackish water of estuaries, lagoons, and mangrove swamps.

The American Crocodile breeds during the dry season. The males are highly territorial and fight other males for the best land. The courtship and breeding takes place in the water. The male’s main advertisement to females is 1 to 3 headslaps. If this is acceptable for the female, then she either puts her head on his back / head or performs some snout lifts. Next, the male lets out a low frequency noise that makes water blow up off of his back, called water dancing. Finally, the two mate in the shallows.

The female builds their nests on elevated, well drained soil. The female lays between 30 – 60 eggs. Temperature determines the sex of the offspring. Temperatures between 88- 91° F (31.1 – 32.7° C) produce mostly male offspring. Meanwhile, temperatures lower than 88° F (31.1° C) result in mostly females. The female parent protect the nest from scavengers such as raccoons and iguanas. The eggs hatch in 75 – 80 days at the start of the wet season. The female helps dig ups the hatched babies and carries them to the water.

American Crocodile Conservation

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List classifies the American Crocodile as Vulnerable to Extinction. The Croc’s populations has improved than it previously had been. It was listed as Endangered before conservation work was done to help save them. Unfortunately, they were over-hunted for their hides before being listed on the US Endangered Species List in the 1970s. However, they moved from listed as federally endangered to federally threatened. Protections are still in place to help conserve the species from overharvesting. Unfortunately, their habitat is under threat of destruction to make room for more urban areas.

Uncategorized

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.

Family Friday

Craugastoridae – Fleshbelly Frogs

Suborder: Neobatrachia
Number of Genera: 4*
Number of Species: 100~ or 800~*

Craigastoridae is a family of direct developing frogs from the southern United States all the way down to South America. Some sources combine the family Craugastoridae and Strabomantidae into one single family so exact number of genera and species depends on sources and who you ask. We need to better study the amphibians all over the world.

Other Amphibian of the Week

Chinese Giant Salamander (Andrias davidianus)

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Chinese Giant Salamander by ZSL

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Common Name: Chinese Giant Salamander
Scientific Name: Andrias davidianus
Family: Cryptobranchidae– Giant Salamander family
Location: China
Introduced Locations: Taiwan and Japan
Size: 5.9 feet or 180 cm

The Chinese Giant Salamander is the largest salamander and amphibian in the world. It is considered a living fossil and is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. There are known records of the salamander living as long as 60 years but there are stories of them living over 200 years. They are primarily nocturnal but they are known to emerge during the day during breeding season.

A new study showed that the Chinese Giant Salamander is at least 5 different species and as many as 8.  Sadly, all of the new species are in bad shape conservation wise. Amphibiaweb and Amphibian Species of the World hasn’t recognized the distinct species so I’m not going to either until they have.

The breeding season for the salamanders is thought to be in August or September. For breeding, the female salamanders lays her eggs in an underwater cavity. The male salamander fertilizes the eggs and then guard the eggs until they hatch.  It takes the eggs almost two months to hatch. The new born salamanders take around 5 to 6 years to reach sexual maturity.

The Chinese Giant Salamander is moving fast to becoming extinct. Most of their habitat has been destroyed and they are illegally taken for medicine and food. The streams that they live in have also been polluted. They needs help before its too late.

Articles

The Hate on Keeping Reptiles and Amphibians as Pets

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Pet owners of reptiles and amphibians are often criticized for their love of their animals. TV and movies often show people who own herps (reptiles and amphibians) as weird and strange. Articles are often posted about how reptiles and amphibians shouldn’t be kept as pets.  There’s so much hate and dislike for these wonderful creatures. I’m going to go over some of the benefits of owning herps.

Herps, especially snakes, are often feared and hated by the general public. This hate and fear can have serious consequences for the animals. There are festivals where they round up snakes and kill them. People try to kill all the snakes that they encounter which is the #1 cause of being bitten in the United States. Herp owners often try to change this attitude. Many owners are part of groups that do public events to try to show the positive signs of herps and to change people’s mind.

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Having a pet herp can also inspire people to help animals. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life until I received some fire bellied toads. After feeding them and watching them, I learned what I wanted to do: save frogs. Many other scientists and conservationists have similar stories.

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Skylar, one of the original Fire Bellied Toads

Reptiles can be therapy animals and better than cats or dogs for some people. Reptiles don’t show emotions, like cats or dogs, which is better for some people. Some people are also allergic to cats and dogs but not reptiles. Reptiles are also less active than a dog so you don’t have to take it on a walk.

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Bearded Dragons are great therapy animals

One common arguments that people make against having a herp as a pet is that they are a common invasive species. Common herp pets such as Burmese Pythons, Cane Toads, and tegus are all invasive species in Florida (and elsewhere). These species are to blame for problems but are they worse than more common pets? It is estimated that cats kill over a million birds per day in Australia. That is an insane number for one country. Cats are maybe one of the worst mammal invasive species on the planet. Dogs are also considered an invasive species. Fish are huge problems. People release their fish from their aquariums all the time. Goldfish are found in many water bodies around the world now and these fish can grow BIG. There are more examples but I think I made my point. I don’t think we should blame herps when it’s all pets that are invasive.

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DO NOT RELEASE YOUR GOLD FISH

I will admit, there are problems with the herp pet trade. Some breeders keep their animals in terrible conditions. Some stores sell malnourished or sick animals. Animals are removed from the wild, even ones that are low in numbers. These imported animals could be spreading diseases such as Chytrid Fungus. We need to fix these problems. Better regulations need to be put in place.