Endangered Andean toad rediscovery in Ecuador


In this video, one can hear and see a male of the recently rediscovered toad species Andinophryne olallai call.

From mongabay.com:

Scientists rediscover endangered Andean toad in Ecuador

By Joanna Parkman

January 30, 2015

In 1970 researchers uncovered the Tandayapa Andean toad (Andinophryne olallai), previously unknown to science, in the Pichincha Province of Ecuador. Given that only a single individual was discovered, even after further exploration in the following years, the toad was soon presumed to be extinct. Forty-two years later, however, a research team rediscovered the species in Manduriacu, Ecuador. Their recently published study in Amphibian & Reptile Conservation describes new knowledge of the cryptic Tandayapa Andean toad, including population status, geographic extent, and natural history.

The Rediscovery

While rediscovering an “extinct” species may appear to be an unusual phenomenon, Lynch says that “…approximately 12 percent of [frog and toad] species previously thought to have gone extinct have in recent years been rediscovered.” This suggests that similar occurrences will increase with additional research efforts, especially in the neotropics. Lynch credits a global initiative created in partnership with the Amphibian Survival Alliance to find these so-called Lost Frogs.

“In response to the global amphibian crisis researchers and conservationists in all corners of the world have increased their efforts to understand and protect amphibian populations before they disappear forever,” he told mongabay.com.

Lynch and fellow scientists conducted stream surveys for reptiles and amphibians throughout the premontane tropical forest—directly below the mountainous zone—and cloud forests of Northwest Ecuador. The survey sites, located along the Western slope of the Andes Mountain range near the Cotacahi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve, ranged from 1,100 to 1,400 meters (3,609 to 4,593 feet) in elevation.

Most notably, the research team identified a new locality for the long missing Tandayapa Andean toad: Imbabura Province, roughly 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of the location where the species was first discovered in 1970. Across the four stream systems sampled, the group observed 18 individuals, including two froglets, five juveniles, and two pregnant adult females.

Other reptiles

not only reptiles. Also amphibians.

observed during surveys included two nationally endangered species—the Darwin Wallace poison-frog (Epipedobates darwinwallacei) and the spiny Lirecko (Lepidoblepharis conolepis)—and one internationally endangered species—the Ricuarte robber frog (Pristimantis scolodiscus)—as well as multiple species that have yet to undergo an assessment.

The rediscovery of the Tandayapa Andean toad is particularly important to the scientific community, as it demonstrates the value of field research, the continued existence of new and unexpected discoveries, and the capacity of species resilience. Furthermore, rediscoveries illustrate the importance of in-situ conservation, or on-site conservation of naturally occurring populations.

Dutch amphibians and reptiles in winter


This video from France shows a grass snake and an adder together.

Because winter weather has been relatively mild so far in January, some reptiles and amphibians in the Netherlands are already active, Dutch RAVON herpetologists report.

From 1 till 19 January 2015 were seen: two adders; four slow worms; eight Alpine newts; fifteen great crested newts; twenty smooth newts; eighteen common toads; 35 common frogs; one moor frog; six edible frogs; one red-eared slider turtle; and one loggerhead sea turtle.

Biodiversity, including small predators such as dragonflies and other aquatic bugs that attack and consume parasites, may improve the health of amphibians, according to a team of researchers. Amphibians have experienced marked declines in the wild around the world in recent decades, the team added: here.

New legless amphibian discovery in Cambodia


This video says about itself:

Amazing Amphibians Vol.1, No.1: Caecilian – Ichthyophis kohtaoensis

This is a common caecilian found in Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Cambodia. It was almost 38cm big!!! I took this video in Khao Yai National Park in Dec. 2, 2010.

The species in the video is a relative of the species recently discovered in Cambodia.

From Fauna & Flora International:

New legless amphibian discovered in Cambodia

by Louisa McKerrow

14 January 2015

New discovery marks the second caecilian species ever to be found in the country

Scientists have discovered a new species of legless amphibian in Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains

The new species, Ichthyophis cardamomensis, is a caecilian, an order of limbless amphibians often mistaken for snakes, with larger species known to grow to 1.5 metres in length. This discovery, at only 30 cm, is linked to the continuing ground-breaking work at the Centre for Biodiversity Conservation (CBC) in Phnom Penh, a joint initiative of Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP).

Leading Cambodian FFI herpetologist Neang Thy has been researching amphibians and reptiles since 2003 and is very excited that the I. cardamomensis species has been officially confirmed. This discovery is one of three new species of unstriped Ichthyophis caecelians (the other two were found in Vietnam) introduced in the ‘New Ichthyophis species from Indochina’ paper published recently in the Organisms Diversity & Evolution scientific journal (published by the Society for Biological Systematics).

Between 2009 and 2011, Cambodian species samples were collected by Neang Thy and Dr Lee Grismer from the US La Sierra University with final confirmation from lead paper author, Dr Peter Geissler from the State Museum of Natural History Stuttgart, Germany.

Why caecilians are important to conservation

The I.cardamomensis species is only the second caecilian species ever discovered in Cambodia. The other is the striped Koa Tao Island caecilian, I. kohtaoensis, which is also found in Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.

“These discoveries are important to demonstrate that much of Cambodia’s biodiversity remains unknown and unstudied by science, and many more areas need to be searched,” Thy said.

The forested Cardamom Mountains Range represents some of the largest remaining areas of habitat for more than 80 threatened species, including Asian elephant and gaur.

Thy said in recent years the Cardamom region had revealed its extensive reptile and amphibian diversity, including frogs, turtles, lizards and crocodiles.

“We are still learning about this area and the animals in it, since it was a region formerly held by the Khmer Rouge and the mountains were closed to researchers until the 1990s,” he said.

“The Cardamom region is under threat from logging, land concessions, and other habitat destruction, and the danger of any new species, including the new caecilian, is that they may be discovered one year and go extinct the next.”

Caecilians have a valuable role in the ecosystems of tropical and subtropical regions, including providing a food source for the red tailed pipe snake (Cylindrophis ruffus). Caecilians eat invertebrates, such as earthworms, ants and termites.

Speaking the science of caecilian

Caecilians are a difficult group to describe as they look so similar, and there are few caecilian experts, so comprehensive morphological and molecular (DNA) analyses is needed to recognise a new species.

Zoologist Dr Peter Geissler said caecilians of the genus Ichthyophis were some of the most poorly known amphibian taxa within Southeast Asia.

“Three distinct unstriped Ichthyophiid species – I. cardamomensis from western Cambodia, I.catlocensis from southern Vietnam, and I.chaloensis from central Vietnam are now described as new species, almost doubling the number of Ichthyophis species known from the Indochinese region, ” he said.

Caecilians are best described as snake or worm-like amphibians that lack limbs. They have the typical amphibian skin that clearly differs from snakes, and they have skull and bones which differs from worms.

To read the ‘New Ichthyophis species from Indochina’ paper in the Organisms Diversity & Evolution magazine click here.

Morpho butterflies and stick insects at the botanical garden


This video says about itself:

16 December 2014

What does it mean to be blue? The wings of a Morpho butterfly are some of the most brilliant structures in nature, and yet they contain no blue pigment — they harness the physics of light at the nanoscale. Learn more about these butterflies here.

On 11 January 2015, to the botanical garden again.

In the biggest hothouse, two aquariums. One for bigger fish species, like Botia histrionica. And one for smaller species like wrestling halfbeak; and some shrimp.

In the Victoria amazonica hothouse, again morpho butterflies. Today, they don’t show their blue upper sides of their wings, but the brownish undersides, while sitting on red mangrove bushes on the pond banks. Red mangrove belongs in the Indo-Pacific region; not in the morpho butterflies’ native Americas. The morphos didn’t seem to mind.

There were morpho caterpillars as well. On the pot of a peanut plant. Peanut plants, contrary to red mangrove, are native to South America. And they belong to the Fabaceae family, favoured by morpho caterpillars for food.

This video is about Morpho peleides caterpillars.

This video is called Hatching of Blue Morpho butterflies (Morpho peleides).

The axolotls are still in their aquarium, not far from the orchids.

In a hothouse beyond the Victoria amazonica and the orchids, a smallish Eucalyptus tree in a pot. Several adult giant prickly stick insects from Australia in the tree. A juvenile on the rim of the pot.

This video from the USA says about itself:

Extatosoma tiaratum has the common names giant prickly stick insect, spiny leaf insect, Macleay’s spectre, and as the guide at the San Bernardino Natural History Museum calls them, the giant Australian leaf insect. The giant Australian leaf insect is a large species of stick insect endemic to Australia. It has big “bug eyes” like a cartoon character!

Outside in the garden, a blue tit and great tits.

Many blackbirds feeding on fruit which has fallen from trees.

Smooth newt males ready for mating season


This video from England says about itself:

9 April 2013

I’ve finally set out herping. With all this cold weather we’ve been having I thought I would never see the day. But I turned out to have great success in Dorset. I found lots of newts, lots of lizards, and lots of snakes. This video shows you the two species of newt which I found on my trip: the smooth newt (Lissotriton vulgaris), and the palmate newt (Lissotriton helveticus). Which turns out to be a new species for me. I also encountered some Italian crested newts along the way but was unable to get some footage. :( Maybe next time…

On 3 January 2014, Dutch RAVON herpetologists investigated amphibians in Aamsveen nature reserve in Overijssel province.

They found two male smooth newts, already in full spring mating season colours, waiting for females.

One should hope for them that the winter, relatively mild so far, will not become harsher.

Italian crested newts in the Netherlands: here.

New fanged frog species discovery in Indonesia


This video says about itself:

17 February 2013

Male Rough Guardian Frog (Limnonectes finchi) protect their tadpoles. Look carefully and you will see the tadpoles on this males back, Danau Girang Field Centre, Lower Kinabatangan, Sabah, Malaysia. Endemic to Borneo.

From PLoS One:

A Novel Reproductive Mode in Frogs: A New Species of Fanged Frog with Internal Fertilization and Birth of Tadpoles

Djoko T. Iskandar, Ben J. Evans, Jimmy A. McGuire

December 31, 2014

Abstract

We describe a new species of fanged frog (Limnonectes larvaepartus) that is unique among anurans in having both internal fertilization and birth of tadpoles. The new species is endemic to Sulawesi Island, Indonesia. This is the fourth valid species of Limnonectes described from Sulawesi despite that the radiation includes at least 15 species and possibly many more. Fewer than a dozen of the 6455 species of frogs in the world are known to have internal fertilization, and of these, all but the new species either deposit fertilized eggs or give birth to froglets.

See also here.

Good Puerto Rican toad news


This video says about itself:

15 November 2010

A short video about the Puerto Rican Crested Toad – Peltophryne lemur.

From mongabay.com:

Puerto Rico‘s only native toad bounces back from edge of extinction

Shreya Dasgupta, mongabay.com correspondent

December 19, 2014

Captive breeding program increases Puerto Rican crested toad from 200 to thousands

The Puerto Rican crested toad (Peltophryne lemur) has had a miraculous journey. Once common on the islands of Puerto Rico and Virgin Gorda, its population declined by more than 80 percent over the past decade, leaving behind just some 200 individuals in the wild. These few individuals are now known only from a handful of locations in Puerto Rico.

The toads were even thought to have gone extinct from 1931, until a small population was rediscovered in 1966. But researchers have turned their fate around. Since 1992, they have successfully bred in captivity and re-introduced to the wild more than 300,000 of these threatened toads.

In October of this year, for instance, researchers from the toad’s Species Survival Plan (SSP) of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA), released captively bred tadpoles to six sites in north and south Puerto Rico.

“Many species such as the Puerto Rican Crested Toad are declining and will not persist in the wild without ex situ conservation action, such as captive breeding, until threats in the wild can be mitigated or resolved,” Diane Barber, Coordinator of the SSP, the AZA Amphibian Taxon Advisory Group Chair and Curator of Ectotherms at the Fort Worth Zoo, told mongabay.com.

Puerto Rico

The island of Puerto Rico suffered extensive deforestation that reduced its forest cover to less than six percent by the 1940s. But many areas cleared for agriculture and sugar plantations that eventually became unproductive began undergoing natural regeneration, and by 2003, Puerto Rico’s forest cover increased to 53 percent. As of 2012, about 64 percent of the island of Puerto Rico is under natural or planted tree cover, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.

However, less than one percent of the forests today are the island’s original primary forests. Moreover, the regenerated vegetation differs considerably from the original forest cover before deforestation, and a significant portion of the island is now covered by coffee plantations. Between 2001 and 2012, Puerto Rico experienced about 13,000 hectares of tree cover loss, according to the Global Forest Watch—although some of this loss may be due to plantation harvesting.

Much of the terrestrial fauna on the island have been introduced by people. Some of these include cats, dogs, mongoose, and several species of ants, birds, amphibians and reptiles. But Puerto Rico also boasts of a number of endemic species found only on the island, such as the Critically Endangered Puerto Rican parrot, whose population in the wild was reduced to about 13 individuals by 1970s largely due to habitat destruction. The bird is now being bred in captivity and released into the wild. The Puerto Rican crested toad, like the Puerto Rican parrot, is on its path to recovery.

Puerto Rican Crested Toad

Currently listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List, Puerto Rican crested toads were once divided into two distinct populations, one in the north coast and the other in the south coast of Puerto Rico. Since 1992, however, no toad has been recorded in the northern coast, where they are now thought to be extinct. The last extant wild population of the toads, according to the IUCN Red List, lies within the Guanica National Forest in southern Puerto Rico.

In 1984, the AZA created the Species Survival Plan to save the Puerto Rican Crested Toads from extinction, the first of its kind for an amphibian. Captive breeding and reintroduction of tadpoles to ponds in the wild became one of the most important goals of the plan.

Currently, sixteen AZA institutions participate in the toads’ breeding efforts every year, according to Barber. Each toad at these breeding centers is individually identifiable and their ancestry in the wild tracked. The toads are paired and bred to ensure the captively bred population maintains the highest possible genetic diversity.

The resulting tadpoles are then sent to sites within the toads’ historic habitat, and are not mixed with the remaining wild population, Barber said.

But successful captive breeding of an endangered species such as the Puerto Rican crested toad is not easy. It involves a lot of tricks, Scott Silver, Facility Director and Curator of Animals at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Queens Zoo, told mongabay.com. WCS’s Queens Zoo breeds the Puerto Rican Crested Toads as part of the AZA, and has successfully raised tadpoles for the toads’ recovery program for the first time this year.

“We estimate we raised and released approximately 2,400 tadpoles,” Silver said.

To ensure successful breeding in captivity, conditions at the breeding enclosures are adjusted to mimic conditions in the wild. For instance, since the toads breed during the rainy season in the wild, enclosures at the Queens Zoo are equipped with misting chambers, according to WCS’s press release. Researchers also play the toads’ breeding calls to encourage courtship and mating. Hormones are also used to induce the toads to lay eggs, to fertilize them within a short time frame, and provide enough offspring for reintroduction efforts, Barber said.

“We currently breed the toads for six different releases per year,” she said. “Typically three to four institutions will attempt to breed for each release and normally at least two to three will be successful. The breeding process from start to finish typically takes three months and is coordinated so everyone is sending the tadpoles to Puerto Rico at the same time.”

Currently, there are six release sites in Puerto Rico for the toads. Two of these are on properties managed by the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, and four are on lands privately managed by non-profit groups, Barber said.

“We released at all six sites in 2014,” she added. “Three of our sites are new enough that reintroduced toads are not mature enough to return to breed (an indicator of success), but the tadpoles metamorphosed and dispersed naturally after the events and have survived/been observed 1-2 years after release (another indicator of success). We have had good survivorship and breeding events at our ‘older’ sites, but population numbers are unknown due to the difficulty of being able to census/monitor this cryptic species outside of major breeding events.”

The main threats to Puerto Rican crested toads in the past have been habitat loss, as well as competition with introduced species of toad such as the giant cane toad that sugarcane farmers imported from South America to eat pests attacking sugarcane. These existing threats need to be addressed for reintroduction of the toads into the wild to be truly successful.

“We continuously monitor our reintroduction sites and land managers eradicate predators such as the marine toad and mongoose,” Barber said “Enclosures are put up around the reintroduction ponds to keep dragonfly larvae from consuming the tadpoles and also keep out marine toads and birds. Reintroduction sites are placed in protected, managed areas where the toads will have room to disperse within karst [limestone] habitat.”

While there is still a long way to go for Puerto Rico’s only native toad, success of the AZA’s captive-breeding program offers some hope.

“If the Puerto Rican Crested Toad goes extinct, so would any hope we have of discovering any other unique, interesting or beneficial characteristics they may possess,” Silver said. “That is a loss we always have when a species goes extinct. We lose the chance to learn, and we lose something that the world has had for thousands and thousands of years.”

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article mentioned sugar cane plantations cover a significant portion of Puerto Rico. However, a source informed us that while sugar cane was cultivated intensively in decades past, it’s currently grown on just approximately 500 hectares of the island.

Citations:

  • Hansen, M. C., P. V. Potapov, R. Moore, M. Hancher, S. A. Turubanova, A. Tyukavina, D. Thau, S. V. Stehman, S. J. Goetz, T. R. Loveland, A. Kommareddy, A. Egorov, L. Chini, C. O. Justice, and J. R. G. Townshend. 2013. “Hansen/UMD/Google/USGS/NASA Tree Cover Loss and Gain Area.” University of Maryland, Google, USGS, and NASA. Accessed through Global Forest Watch on Dec. 19, 2014. http://www.globalforestwatch.org.