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

Carolina Sandhills Salamander
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

Frog of the Week

Limosa Harlequin Frog (Atelopus limosus)

Limosa Harlequin Frog
photo by Brian Gratwicke

Common Name: Limosa Harlequin Frog
Scientific Name: Atelopus limosus
Family: Bufonidae – True Toad family
Locations: Panama
Size: 1 – 1.6 inches (26.5 – 40.2 mm)

The Limosa Harlequin Frog lives amongst slopes of rocky streams in the forests of central Panama. Their bright colors warn predators of their toxicity, allowing them to be active during the day. There are two different morphs of the species. The lowland morph has a brown color with yellow fingertips. Meanwhile, the highland morph is green and yellow with a black V on its back. The females generally have a red / orange colored belly.

Limosa Harlequin Frog Conservation

The Harlequin Frogs(Atelopus) are one of the most endangered group of frogs in the world and sadly, the Limosa Harlequin Frog doesn’t fair any better. Additionally, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List classifies the frog as Critically Endangered. It is estimated that 80% of the population will die off One of the main reason for the declines is the invasive fungal pathogen Chytrid Fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis). This pathogen causes the skin of the frog to harden. Due to frogs only breathing through their skin, this causes them to suffocate and die. The loss of habitat for urban development and farms is another reason for the declines. At last, pollution from gold mining isn’t helping either.

To help ensure that the Limosa Harlequin Frog survives, researchers at the Smithsonian Institute and the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project have taken some of the frogs into captivity. They are raising frogs and tadpoles to release into the wild as well as keeping an emergency group in place.

Articles, conservation

Last Known Loa Water Frogs Reproduce!

Loa Water Frog
photo by Metropolitan Park of Santiago, Parquemet

The Loa Water Frog (Telmatobius dankoi) is a critically endangered frog from Chile. They are found only in 1 location, Las Cascadas along the Loa River. Sadly, the river has become inhabitable for the frogs. The river had dried up to illegal extraction of water for mining, agriculture, and urban development.

Last year in 2010, the last known Loa Water Frogs were taken from the wild to be kept safe in captivity. Unfortunately, there was only 14 frogs left. The frogs were flown to the National Zoo of Chile. The frogs arrived malnourished and unfortunately, 2 of them died. The other 12 are in great shape.

Loa Water Frog
photo by Metropolitan Park of Santiago, Parquemet

Lately, the researchers started to notice the female frogs gain weight and the male’s skins changing. Then, the female frogs laid eggs, a first for the species in captivity! The eggs then hatched into tadpoles! A total of 200 tadpoles of the Loa Water Frog hatched. Now, the zoo has the challenge of raising these tadpoles in hopes of saving the species.

croctober

Black Caiman (Melanosuchus niger)

Black Caimen
photo by wikiuser Rigelus

Common Name: Black Caiman
Scientific Name: Melanosuchus niger
Family: Alligatoridae – Alligator family
Locations: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, and Peru
Size: 7.25 – 14.1 feet (2.2 to 4.3 meters) , can grow to 16.5 feet (5 meters)

The Black Caiman is the largest living species of caiman, capable of reaching 16.5 feet long and reaching over a thousand pounds! They live in the Amazon River Basin, where they are one of the apex predators there. Once the Black Caiman reaches full size, only humans attempt to hunt them. The caiman feeds on a variety of animals such as snakes, fish, monkeys, frogs, and even other caiman. They hunt at night, where their excellent night vision help out.

At the end of the dry season, the females start to build their nests of soil and vegetation. Additionally, these nests are almost 5 feet (1.5 meters) long and 2 and a half feet (0.75 meters) wide. At the start of the wet season (May – June), the caiman lays between 30 – 60 eggs. The mother protects her nests from predators until they hatch. The eggs hatch between 42 – 90 days after being laid. The mother helps dig the hatchlings out of the nest. Then, the offspring stick close to their mom. Even with their mom’s protection, a large number of the offspring die.

Black Caiman Conservation

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List categorizes the Black Caiman as Conservation Dependent. The IUCN Red List no longer uses this category. The caiman’s status hasn’t been reassessed since 2000 when they were placed there. Before, they were categorized as endangered due to over hunting of the species. Hunting of the species has slowed down thanks to legal protections.

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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.

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Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus)

Gharial
Male Gharial – photo by Charles J Sharp

Common Name: Gharial, Gavial, and Fish-eating Crocodile
Scientific Name: Gavialis gangeticus
Family: Gavialidae – Gharial family
Locations: Bangladesh, India, and Nepal
Female Size: 8.5 feet (2.6 meters) – 14.75 feet (4.5 meters)
Male Size: 10 feet (3 meters) – 20 feet (6 meters)

The Gharial is known for their long, narrow snout that is adept at catching fish. Males of the species develop a gross looking growths called a ghara on the tip of their snouts once they reach sexual maturity. Ghara means Mud Pot in Hindi. They use the ghara to vocalize more loudly and blow bubbles during their mating displays.

The mating season for the frogs happens during the dry season, between March and April. The males stake out their territory and defend it from rival males. Females in the territory mate with the male and she then lays an average on 40 eggs. Their eggs are the largest eggs of all the living crocodilians, averaging over 5 ounces. The male provides no parental care for their offspring and will move onto reproducing with other females. The female stays to protect her nest from predators. The eggs hatch between 30 – 80 days. After hatching, the mom still protects the babies for weeks and even months.

Gharial Conservation

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List classifies the Gharial as Critically Endangered. Their habitat has been drastically altered due to damming and diverting water from the rivers. Gharials don’t do well far away from the river. These alterations to the habitat causes them to have to travel farther on land when moving to new spots in their river, increasing their chance of dying. Overfishing is also rampant in rivers that the Gharial is found in. This reduces their food source and they get stuck or injured by nets.

Uncategorized

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.

Uncategorized

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!

Frog of the Week

Cape Platanna (Xenopus gilli)

Cape Platanna
photo by flickr user Chris Verwey
Conservation status is Endangered

Common Name: Cape Platanna, Gill’s Plantanna, and Cape Clawed Toad
Scientific Name: Xenopus gilli
Family: Pipidae – Tongueless Frog family
Locations: South Africa
Size: 2.3 inches (60 mm)

The Cape Platanna is an aquatic frog that inhabits the highly acidic seepages, marshes, ponds, and lakes of coastal South Africa. These waterbodies are dark in color, allowing the frogs to blend in. The Platanna are able to “see” in this water due to their highly developed lateral line system. This system always them to detect small vibrations in the water. The frogs have highly webbed clawed toes on their back legs to help them swim. They only come to the surface when their wetlands dry up during the summer or when they want to migrate ponds during the mating season. The frogs aestivate during the summer when their ponds dry up by digging deep into the mud.

The Cape Platanna breeds during the winter months between July to October. Unlike most frogs, members of the family Pipidae lack vocal sacs. To communicate with female frogs, the male frogs make a series clicks. Once the female selects her mate, the male grasps her around the waist in the amplexus position. Then, the female lays between 300 – 400 eggs while the male fertilizes them. Neither parent is known to provide any parental care. Once the eggs hatch, the tadpoles take 120 days to complete their metamorphosis.

Cape Platanna Conservation

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List categorizes the Cape Platanna as Endangered with Extinction. There is believed to be only 5 locations where the frogs live. Most of the wetlands that the frog calls home as been filled to make room for housing development and farm lands. Additionally, the frog hybridizes with the African Clawed Frog (Xenopus laevis), reducing their numbers. Better protections are needed to help save them.