Shape-shifting frog discovered in Ecuador


Skin texture variation in one individual Pristimantis mutabilis; note how skin texture shifts from highly tubercular to almost smooth; also note the relative size of the tubercles on the eyelid, lower lip, dorsum and limbs. Image credit: Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society

From Sci-News.com:

Pristimantis mutabilis: Scientists Discover Shape-Shifting Frog in Ecuador

Mar 24, 2015

Case Western Reserve University PhD student Katherine Krynak, naturalist Tim Krynak of Cleveland Metroparks’ Natural Resources Division, and their colleagues from the Universidad Indoamerica, the University of Kansas, and organization Tropical Herping, have described a unique species of frog from Reserva Las Gralarias, Pichincha, north-central Ecuador. According to the team, the new species – named Pristimantis mutabilis (mutable rainfrog) – changes skin texture in minutes, appearing to mimic the texture it sits on.

Pristimantis mutabilis, described in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, is believed to be the first amphibian known to have this shape-shifting capability.

It belongs to a large genus of approximately 470 frog species found in the southern Caribbean and in Central and South America from Honduras to northern Argentina and southern Brazil.

The scientists believe the ability to change skin texture to reflect its surroundings may enable Pristimantis mutabilis to help camouflage itself from birds and other predators.

Katherine and Tim Krynak originally spotted the small, spiny frog, nearly the width of a marble, sitting on a moss-covered leaf about a yard off the ground on a misty July night in 2009.

The scientists captured one specimen and tucked it into a cup with a lid before resuming their nightly search for wildlife. They nicknamed the frog ‘punk rocker‘ because of the thorn-like spines covering its body.

The next day, Katherine Krynak pulled the frog from the cup and set it on a smooth white sheet of plastic for Tim Krynak to photograph. “It wasn’t ‘punk’ – it was smooth-skinned,” they said.

The scientists found the frog shifts skin texture in a little more than 3 minutes. They then performed morphological and genetic analyses showing that the frog was a unique and undescribed species.

They also studied the frog’s calls, finding three songs the species uses, which differentiate them from relatives.

In addition, team members Dr Juan Guayasamin and Dr Carl Hutter discovered that Pristimantis sobetes – a previously known species of frog with similar markings but about twice the size of Pristimantis mutabilis – has the same trait when they placed a spiny specimen on a sheet and watched its skin turn smooth.

The team plans to continue surveying for Pristimantis mutabilis and to further document their behaviors, lifecycle and texture shifting, and estimate their population, all in effort to improve our knowledge and subsequent ability to conserve this paradigm shifting species. Further, they hope to discern whether more relatives have the ability to shift skin texture and if that trait comes from a common ancestor.

If Pristimantis mutabilis and P. sobetes are the only species within this branch of Pristimantis frogs to have this capability, they hope to learn whether they retained it from an ancestor while relatives did not, or whether the trait evolved independently in each species.

Big Triassic amphibian fossil discovery in Portugal


This video says about itself:

24 March 2015

Excavation in Portugal of giant Triassic fossil amphibian Metoposaurus algarvensis – Paleontology dig.

From Associated Press:

Researchers Find Fossil of ‘Super Salamander’ Species

LONDON — Mar 24, 2015, 11:01 AM ET

Fossil remains of a previously unknown species of a crocodile-like “super salamander” that grew as long as a small car and was a top predator more than 200 million years ago have been found in southern Portugal, researchers announced Tuesday.

The species grew up to two meters (six feet) in length and lived in lakes and rivers, University of Edinburgh researchers said.

The team said the species, given the name Metoposaurus algarvensis, was part of a wider group of primitive amphibians that were widespread at the time but became extinct. They are the ancestors of modern amphibians such as frogs, and are believed by paleontologists to have lived at the same time the dinosaurs began their dominance.

Steve Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, who led the study, said the new species, which had hundreds of sharp teeth, is “weird compared to anything today.”

It was at the top of the food chain, feeding mainly on fish, but it was also a danger for newly appeared dinosaurs and mammals that strayed too near the water, Brusatte said.

The team says the find establishes that this group of amphibians lived in a more diverse geographic area than had been thought.

Andrew Milner, an expert on early amphibians at the Natural History Museum in London who was not involved in the study, said the find “is another piece of the picture.” The Portuguese site has “very good potential to give us more and different types of animal” from the Upper Triassic period, he added.

The dig in Portugal began in 2009 and took several years. The “super salamander” bones were uncovered in a half-meter thick layer of rock in a hillside that is “chock-full” of bones, Brusatte said. The team hopes to raise funds to continue excavating the site.

See also here.

The scientific description of this newly discovered species is here.

Smooth newt’s mating season, video


This is a video about a male smooth newt, preparing for the mating season which will start at the end of March.

Jos van Zijl from the Netherlands made the video.

Blue moor frog video


This is a video about a male moor frog in the Netherlands.

It has its blueish mating season skin.

The video is by smuldershans.

North American animals in winter


This video from the USA says about itself:

Black-Capped Chickadee Calls and Sounds – Fee Bee Call, Chicka Dee Dee Dee Call and a couple of others

An amiable sight to behold at winter backyard feeders, chickadees are a delight to watch as they fly with their happy, bouncy flight back and forth to feeders collecting seeds to eat elsewhere or to hoard away for later feeding. But most delightful of all is hearing their “chicka dee dee dee” call, in the quiet and desolate feeling dead of winter their call stands out and begs to be heard, like a song of promise for bright sunny days to come.

The black-capped chickadee may be the most incredible of all winter survivors. These little birds have evolved an unusual means of saving energy and coping with cold weather—they actually lower their body temperature! Click here to get the story of how a tiny bird is able to keep the elements at bay.

It’s been a cold winter across the US and many of us are struggling to stay warm. Animals have special adaptations to survive the cold. There’s a lot we can learn from Arctic Foxes, Ptarmigans and even Polar Bears. Read on to find out how YOU can stay warm too.

When winter arrives in the Arctic, the Wood Frog responds accordingly. That is, it freezes and becomes, basically, a frog-shaped Popsicle. But when spring arrives, an interesting thing happens: the frog thaws and is soon hopping, croaking, mating—enjoying all the amphibian pleasures life has to offer. How is this possible? Read on to learn more about this deep frozen frog.

Bears have an interesting problem as they hibernate through the winter. Where and when to go to the bathroom? As with many such quandaries, nature has evolved a clever solution to a potentially messy problem. Read onto get the scoop.

Do you know how animals cope with winter’s severe conditions? Test your winter wildlife knowledge by taking the quiz.

Invasive cane toads stopped in Australia


This September 2014 video is called Invasion Of The Deadly Cane Toads – Australia with Simon Reeve – BBC.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

At long last, Australia is able to halt the relentless advance of the cane toad

The toad’s seemingly relentless advance across the Australian landscape has challenged and defeated two generations

Lewis Smith

Sunday 22 February 2015

When farming experts sought a solution 80 years ago to the damage that beetles were doing to Australia’s sugar cane crops, and to profits, they fixed upon a voracious amphibian as the answer. It was a decision they have regretted ever since.

Introducing the cane toad Down Under in 1935 was an ecological disaster. Placed in where food was plentiful and predators had no idea how to avoid its highly toxic skin, the toad thrived while native wildlife paid the price. Quolls (carnivorous marsupials), goannas (monitor lizards), and the fearsome freshwater crocodile could die from eating the toxic toad which can also shoot its venom and blind a predator.

The toad’s seemingly relentless advance across more than a million square kilometres of the Australian landscape has challenged and defeated two generations of scientists, farmers and conservationists. But now they believe they may finally have found its Achilles heel.

Having discovered that in dry weather cane toads need to find a source of water at least once every three days, scientists decided to build small fences around the man-made ponds and troughs for watering livestock. At 60cm, the fences were too high for the toads to jump over or climb, and a cloth covering was dug into the ground to prevent them burrowing underneath.

And researchers found this simple technique worked.

“We smashed ’em!” declared a triumphant Dr Mike Letnic, of the University of New South Wales, after witnessing the bodies of hundreds of cane toads piled in front of the fences. “They died en masse … our control technique massively reduced toad numbers.” Dr Letnic found that some of the dams that the team targeted had supported up to 700 toads.

“Until now, no one had demonstrated an effective control technique,” he said. “You can imagine we were chuffed when one year later, there were still hardly any toads.”

The success, reported in the Journal of Applied Ecology, is a welcome break for Australia’s native predators such as the cat-sized quoll, which had been eradicated in some regions such as the Kakadu National Park in Northern Territory.

See also here. And here. And here.