Smooth newt swims, video


This 22 May 2017 video shows a smooth newt swimming.

Bregje Brinkmann made this video of her garden pond in the Netherlands.

New elf frog species discovered in Vietnam


Adult male of Ophryophryne elfina sp. n. in calling position in Hon Ba N.R., Khanh Hoa Prov., Vietnam. Photo by L.T. Nguyen

From ScienceDaily:

Herpetologists describe an elf frog from the elfin forests in southern Vietnam

May 19, 2017

Summary: Going under the common name of Elfin mountain toad, a new amphibian is recognized as one of the smallest representative of its group. The new species was identified from the highland wet forests of Langbian Plateau, Southern Vietnam. The discoverers gave it this name that derives from German and Celtic folklore because of the resemblance they found between the tiny delicate amphibians and elves – small magic creatures. Furthermore, their habitat is known as elfin forests.

Deep in the foggy, moss-covered forests of Southern Vietnam, herpetologists uncovered one of the smallest species of horned mountain toads.

The name of the new amphibian (Ophryophryne elfina) derives from European mythology and translates to “elfish eyebrow toad.” Despite being recently discovered, the new species is already considered to be endangered. Having remained hidden in the highlands of Langbian Plateau, it is now described in the open access journal ZooKeys.

The unique species name “elfina” derives from the English word “elf.” In German and Celtic folklore, elves are described as small, supernatural creatures usually dwelling deep in the forests of magical hills. The frogs were named after them primarily because of their small size of around 3 cm, which makes them the smallest known species of the genus — as well as their fascinating appearance — they have small horn-like projections above their eyes.

The unique habitat of the amphibians also inspired their species name. The Elfin mountain toad lives in the highland wet subtropical evergreen forest. There it can only be found on mountain summits higher than 1800 m, or on the slopes of the eastern side of Langbian Plateau, where the rainfall is high because of the sea nearby. Both the rocks and the dwarf curbed trees are covered with a heavy layer of moss, whilst a thick misty fog is constantly lingering amongst the trees. This is why such wet mountain ecosystems are known as elfin forests.

The Elfin mountain toad is one of the three known species in the genus Ophryophryne that inhabit Langbian Plateau. Curiously, all three of them share the same habitat, but can be easily distinguished by their advertisement calls resembling whistling birds.

‘Flying’ frogs video


This video says about itselF:

Gliding Leaf Frogs – Planet Earth – BBC Earth

23 April 2017

Breathtaking slow motion footage of the male Gliding Leaf Frog taking flight. In slowing his descent he uses his extra large webbed feet like a parachute. It is later on when it comes to mating that we learn these feet serve an entirely different purpose.

These frogs live in Central and South America.

Strange cave animals


This video says about itself:

Troglobites: Strange Cave Specialists – Planet Earth – BBC Earth

31 March 2017

Many caves are like islands, cut off from the outside world and other known civilization. This isolation has resulted in the evolution of various strange creatures. These species range from the blind salamander to the Belizean white crab and are considered cave specialists and are better known as troglobites.

World’s oldest amphibian fossil in Scotland?


This video from the USA says about itself:

13 September 2016

In this lecture I will highlight five Devonian fossils that represent steps along the transition to a fully terrestrial tetrapod. You should be able to arrange a cladogram of Devonian tetrapods and illustrate the changes in anatomy that occurred during the transition toward living on land.

By Anna Buckley, BBC Science Radio Unit in Britain:

The most important fossil you’ve never heard of

10 April 2017

It’s not a household name, but an ancient creature found in the Scottish borders fills a crucial period in the evolutionary record. It sheds light on how four-limbed creatures became established on land.

An ancient animal found in rocks from the Scottish borders is thought to be the earliest known example of an animal with a backbone to live on land.

The fossilised remains of this highly significant creature, called Tiny, shed light on a key period in our evolutionary history.

Tiny has four limbs, a pair of lungs and up to five fingers (the fossil evidence is unclear exactly how many).

“It was one small step for Tiny, one giant leap for vertebrates,” said palaeontologist Dr Nick Fraser in an interview on the BBC Radio 4’s Life Scientific.

“Without Tiny, there would be no birds, no dinosaurs, no crocodiles, no mammals, no lizards and obviously we wouldn’t be around.”

“So that one step is crucial”, Fraser said. “And this fossil is right here on our doorstep in the Scottish Borders.”

There are infuriatingly few fossils from this important period in our evolutionary history, known as Romer’s Gap.

Previously, some palaeontologists had argued that this gap in the fossil record was due to lower than average oxygen levels in the earth’s atmosphere.

But the recent discovery of several four-limbed creatures like Tiny suggests many terrestrial tetrapods were thriving on land about 360 million years ago.

The late Stan Wood, a field collector, spent several decades looking for fossils to fill Romer’s gap, convinced that it didn’t really exist. In the late 2000s, he began to uncover a number of important fossils near the Whiteadder river in East Lothian.

He phoned Nick Fraser, director of natural sciences at the National Museums in Scotland, to alert him.

Members of the Tw:eed Project then collected rocks from this area and analysed them using CT scans.

Many ancient tetrapods were the size of dogs. So, with a skull just 4cm long, this one was dubbed Tiny.

So why isn’t this important fossil better-known? Perhaps because it is so small.

Or perhaps because, to this day, Tiny remains trapped in a rock and hidden from view.

Frogs’ fluorescence, why?


This video says about itself:

17 March 2017

A group of Argentine and Brazilian researchers has discovered the first case of natural fluorescence in amphibians, in a species of tree frog that is frequently found in South America.

From Science News:

First fluorescent frogs might see each others’ glow

Natural Day-Glo may play a role in amphibian’s fights and flirtations

By Susan Milius

10:00am, April 3, 2017

Could fluorescence matter to a frog? Carlos Taboada wondered. They don’t have bedroom black lights, but their glow may still be about the night moves.

Taboada’s question is new to herpetology. No one had shown fluorescence in amphibians, or in any land vertebrate except parrots, until he and colleagues recently tested South American polka dot tree frogs. Under white light, male and female Hypsiboas punctatus frogs have translucent skin speckled with dark dots. But when the researchers spotlighted the frogs with an ultraviolet flashlight, the animals glowed blue-green. The intensity of the glow was “shocking,” says Taboada of the Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales “Bernardino Rivadavia” in Buenos Aires.

And it is true fluorescence. Compounds in the frogs’ skin and lymph absorb the energy of shorter UV wavelengths and release it in longer wavelengths, the researchers report online March 13 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. But why bother, without a black bulb? Based on what he knows about a related tree frog’s vision, Taboada suggests that faint nocturnal light is enough to make the frogs more visible to their own kind. When twilight or moonlight reflects from their skin, the fluorescence accounts for 18 to 30 percent of light emanating from the frog, the researchers calculate.

Polka dot frogs, common in the Amazon Basin, have plenty to see in the tangled greenery where they breed. Males stake out multilevel territories in vast floating tangles of water hyacinths and other aquatic plants. When a territory holder spots a poaching male, frog grappling and wrestling ensues. Taboada can identify a distinctive short treble bleat “like the cry of a baby,” he says, indicating a frog fight.

Males discovering a female give a different call, which Taboada could not be coaxed to imitate over Skype. The polka dot frogs’ courtship is “complex and beautiful,” he says. For instance, a male has two kinds of secretion glands on the head and throat. During an embrace, he nudges and presses his alluring throat close to a female’s nose. If she breaks off the encounter, he goes back to clambering in rough figure eights among his hyacinths, patrolling for perhaps the blue-green ghost of another chance.

Glass frogs’ parental care, new research


This video says about itself:

Just a few hours of motherly attention help glass frog eggs survive | Science News

31 March 2017

Guarding her eggs, a glass frog stays with the brood despite annoying finger prods from scientists. This species provides the only prolonged maternal care yet found among glass frogs, but even short-term moms stayed on duty when researchers poked at them. Read more here.

Credit: Jesse Delia/Boston University