Good endangered salamander news from Guatemala

Long-limbed salamander

From Wildlife Extra:

Endangered salamander habitat saved in Guatemala

The last remaining forest home of two species of salamander, lost to science for nearly 40 years, has been saved following the completion of a land purchase supported by World Land Trust (WLT) and a consortium of funders.

The purchase of Finca San Isidro in the western highlands of Guatemala was finalised by WLT’s Guatemalan partner, Fundación Para el Ecodesarrollo y la Conservación (FUNDAECO) in September 2015, following WLT’s donation towards the purchase earlier in 2015.

Among others, the species that are now protected are Finca Chiblac Salamander (Bradytriton silus), categorised by IUCN as Critically Endangered, and the Long-limbed Salamander (Nyctanolis pernix), categorised as Endangered.

High in Guatemala’s Cuchumatanes mountain range, the salamanders’ forest home had been slated for coffee production. Land clearance would have certainly gone ahead if it hadn’t been for the intervention of international funders.

FUNDAECO identified the importance of the property back in 2009. Finca San Isidro measures 2,280 acres (922.5 hectares) and of the total area, WLT funding has secured more than 800 acres (324 hectares). FUNDAECO will oversee the conservation management of the property.

“Thank you for the invaluable support we have received from World Land Trust in creating San Isidro Reserve, in the Western Highlands of Guatemala,” said Marco Cerezo, Director of FUNDAECO. “This important effort among research academics, local conservationists and organisations to fund the protection of unique ecosystems will help avoid the rapid degradation of this unique biological treasure and also assist the fight against poverty by supporting livelihoods for local communities.”

Reptiles and amphibians in the botanical garden

Eastern collared lizard, 7 September 2015

This photo shows an eastern collared lizard, a species originally from North America. We saw this individual on 7 September 2015, at the big AquaHortus exhibition of aquariums and terrariums. Again, all photos in this blog post are macro lens photos.

There were quite some frogs in the terrariums in the botanical garden entrance building, including Dendrobates tinctorius, and Lepidobatrachus laevis.

Eastern collared lizard, on 7 September 2015

One story higher was a terrarium with three eastern collared lizards.

And a terrarium with a central bearded dragon from Australia.

Indian star tortoise, 7 September 2015

We continued to a hothouse. Near the entrance, a terrarium with this young Indian star tortoise.

Nearby, some relatives: Hermann’s tortoise; European pond turtle; red-bellied short-necked turtle; and leopard tortoise.

Also in this hothouse, colourful amphibians. Including oriental fire-bellied toad.

And spot-legged poison frog. Not far from a panther chameleon terrarium.

Mission golden-eyed tree frog, 7 September 2015

Also, a terrarium with some Mission golden-eyed tree frogs.

Dutch Orchid Society terrarium

The Dutch Orchid Society had a terrarium of its own at the exhibition.

Poison dart frog, 7 September 2015

It contained not only various orchid species, but also a few poison dart frogs, like this one.

Stay tuned, as there will be another blog post, about botanical garden plants.

Big aquarium, terrarium exhibition in Dutch botanical garden

This 24 August 2015 video is about preparations for the AquaHortus exhibition, in the botanical garden in Leiden, the Netherlands.

From 5-27 September 2015, there will be that big aquarium and terrarium exhibition, called AquaHortus.

The displays will be in several botanical garden hothouses and other buildings and in the open air.

The plans say there will be 68 terrariums. And 95 big aquariums. And about 200 small aquariums, mainly for killifish and shrimps.

Among the fish will be tropical sea fish, tropical fresh water fish, North Sea fish and fish of the species in the canals of Leiden city.

In the terrariums will be snakes, chameleons and other lizards, turtles and tortoises, salamanders, poison dart frogs and scorpions.

There have been earlier AquaHortus exhibitions here.

In the 1950s, this was one of the first places anywhere were one could see luminescent neon tetras in an aquarium.

This is a neon tetra video.

New frog species discovery in Bolivia

This video says about itself:

Expedition in Bolivia’s Madidi National Park Discovers New Frog Species | WCS

20 August 2015

WCS scientists on a multi-year expedition through Bolivia‘s Madidi National Park have likely discovered a new species of robber frog. They were tipped off by the distinctive orange coloring on its inner thighs and will be working over the next few months to confirm the discovery.

From Wildlife Extra:

A new species of big-headed or robber frog (Oreobates sp. nov.) from the Craugastoridae family has been discovered in Bolivia’s Madidi National Park.

The frog was found during the first leg of an 18-month long expedition called Identidad Madidi to chronicle the staggering wildlife living in what is believed to be the world’s most biodiverse park.

James Aparicio, a professional herpetologists from the Bolivian Faunal Collection, said, “Robber frogs are small to medium-sized frogs distributed in the Andes and Amazon region and to date there are 23 known species. As soon as we saw these frogs’ distinctive orange inner thighs, it aroused our suspicions about a possible new species, especially because this habitat has never really been studied in detail before Identidad Madidi.”

Identidad Madidi is a multi-institutional effort to describe still unknown species and to showcase the wonders of Bolivia’s extraordinary natural heritage at home and abroad. The expedition officially began on June 5th, 2015 and will eventually visit 14 sites lasting for 18 months as a team of Bolivian scientists works to expand existing knowledge on Madidi’s birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish along an altitudinal pathway descending more than 5,000 meters (more than 16,000 feet) from the mountains of the high Andes into the tropical Amazonian forests and grasslands of northern Bolivia.

Participating institutions include the Ministry of the Environment and Water, the Bolivian National Park Service, the Vice Ministry of Science and Technology, Madidi National Park, the Bolivian Biodiversity Network, WCS, the Institute of Ecology, Bolivian National Herbarium, Bolivian Faunal Collection and Armonia with funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and WCS.

Teresa Chávez, Director of the Bolivian Biodiversity and Protected Areas Directorate expressed her satisfaction with the scientific results of the Identidad Madidi expedition: “The description of a new species of robber frog (Oreobates) for science is important news for the country as it confirms the extraordinary biodiversity of Madidi National Park and demonstrates the importance of scientific research in protected areas.”

Scotland’s Loch Ness monster and media sensationalism

This 25 April 2014 video is called Skeptic’s Corner 17: Apple Maps Loch Ness Monster. See also here.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

The endless allure of a non-existent monster

Friday 21st august 2015

The Loch Ness ‘creature’ got its first mention as early as the 7th century and ever since it’s fuelled imaginations the world over. Now PETER FROST wades in with some sobering scepticism

In January of 1934 the Daily Mail, just as much of a reactionary rag as it is today, excelled itself with its most despicable and notorious headline.

“Hurrah for the Blackshirts!” it proclaimed above a paean of praise for Oswald Mosley and his fascist bully boys.

In the April of that same year it was the first London newspaper to report on a strange unknown creature in Loch Ness and the first to publish a photograph.

In the Daily Mail you could read about horrible slimy reptilian monsters emerging from the primordial depths to wreak mindless death and destruction.

But when you had finished with Mosley’s anti-semitic cretins, what did the Mail have to say about the creature in the Scottish loch?

Well, some of its story was nicked from the Inverness Courier which the year before was the first to report on the loch monster with an article headlined “Strange Spectacle on Loch Ness.”

The rest of its story and picture it bought from a prominent London gynaecologist named Robert Kenneth Wilson. He wanted to remain anonymous and the picture was nick-named the “surgeon’s photograph.”

The Daily Mail paid Wilson £100 for the picture (over £6,000 today) but he was later fined £1,000 (£60,000 today) by the British Medical Association for allowing his name to be associated with it.

In his story Wilson claimed to have been walking by the loch when he saw the creature break the surface. He hurriedly took four photos, only two of which came out and one of them was rather blurry.

Tales of a beast in the loch had first came to national prominence in 1933 when a new loch-side motor-road gave easy access to unrestricted views of the loch.

One of the first sightings from the new road were from a couple named Spicer who reported seeing a 25ft (7.5m) animal with a long neck crossing the road in front of their car before splashing into the loch.

The Daily Mail sent big game hunter Duke Wetherell to investigate and, like many a good Mail reporter before and since, when he found no real evidence, he made some up.

He used a hippo foot umbrella stand from his hotel to make giant foot prints in the loch-side mud. The Mail printed the pictures.

It has even been suggested that the Mail’s man Wetherell created a plastic head and neck and attached it to a toy submarine that much later proved to be the real object in the surgeon’s photograph printed on the front page of the Daily Mail.

The legend of a loch monster is an old one. A 7th century book relates how St Columba told the legend of a man who had been attacked and killed by a water beast in Loch Ness.

Perhaps the commonest theory about the creature in the loch is that it is related to plesiosaurs, marine reptiles that existed in prehistoric times. No less a naturalist than Peter Scott held this view.

Since 1933 over a thousand sightings have been recorded. Most are controversial, with much argument and debate about their veracity.

Many have been proved to be inert floating objects, seals, swimming deer and driftwood. Over the years many hoaxers have eventually come forward to admit their deceit.

A million people visit Loch Ness each year and nearly nine out of 10 say they are there to try and spot the monster. They put more than £25 million into the local economy.

Despite all those visitors and despite the fact that virtually all of them today carry a high-definition camera, if only in their phone, there have been very few sightings and even less reliable photographs or film in recent years.

The best recent pictures are probably satellite images and both Google Earth and Apple Maps have had pictures that some think prove the creature’s existence.

The £1,000 prize for best monster picture of the year wasn’t claimed at all. The 2014 prize was won this January by somebody recording Google Earth images from his laptop in Sweden.

Does Frosty have a theory? Well I have taken the advice of a real expert and, if pushed, I’d put my money on a member of the cryptobranchidae family — more commonly known as giant salamanders.

The Chinese giant salamander (Andrias davidianus) can reach a length of nearly two metres (6ft 6in), is fat and lumpy, black in colour and lives in deep freshwater lakes, only coming to the surface very infrequently.

That description matches exactly many of Nessie’s reported sightings.

Whatever it is, or was, there is a very good chance that, like any tiny population in a remote and isolated location, it must be under great threat of extinction.

So with the lack of recent sightings it may be that the last specimen of whatever it was is lying rotting at the bottom of the loch and, as that is 755ft (230m) down, we’ll probably never know for sure.

But I am sure that won’t stop many people heading for Loch Ness for many years to come. I wish them all good hunting.

Frog discoveries, new species, poison

This video is called BBC: Poison Dart FrogsWild Caribbean.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Ribbiting news: frogs’ poison spines revealed and new species discovered

In two separate breakthroughs, a new species of tree frog has been discovered, while two species of Amazonian frog have been revealed to be venomous

Many of world’s frogs may be at risk of extinction, but something new always hops up in the amphibian world. In two separate journals in one afternoon, scientists have identified a brand new tree frog species high in the Peruvian cloud forest, while on the other side of the Andes, a biologist in the Amazon basin discovered the hard way the secret of survival of two familiar species: they are venomous.

The deadly duo – formally named Corythomantis greeningi and Aparasphenodon brunoi – are not just poisonous in the way made notorious by the poison dart frogs known as Dendrobatidae, which are the ones that indigenous Amerindians traditionally used to poison their blow darts. They are poisonous in the sense that they can inject a toxin from a sharp spine on their heads.

The poison is more deadly than the secretions of a pit viper, and one of the discoverers, Carlos Jared of the Instituto Butantan in Sao Paulo found out the hard way. While collecting C. greeningi he got a spine in his hand: intense, radiating pain followed for the next five hours.

The experience immediately explained why no hungry hunters are known to dine off either kind of frog. “This action would be even more effective on the mouth lining of an attacking predator,” said Dr Jared. As he and his research colleague Edmund Brodie of Utah State University tell the story in the journal Current Biology, it may have been a lucky strike. They calculate that one gram of toxin from the other, even more poisonous species, would be enough to kill 300,000 mice, or about 80 humans.

“It is unlikely that a frog of this species produces this much toxin, and only very small amounts would be transferred by the spines into a wound,” said Brodie. “Regardless, we have been unwilling to test this by allowing a frog to jab us with its spines.”

Meanwhile, 2350 metres high in the forests of the Peruvian Andes, biologists found a tiny fleshbelly frog hardly bigger than a beetle and hitherto unknown to science that had been leaping around in the leaf litter under their feet. The frog has been named Noblella madreselva (which means “mother jungle” in Spanish), in the journal Zookeys by its discoverers Allessandro Catenazzi of Southern Illinois University and Dr Vanessa Uscapi.

It announced itself by its striking colouration: a wide white mark on a black background, stretching from chest to belly, with a brown splash on its head that looks like a dark facial mask. The frog may have escaped notice until now, but it may survive only in that location, and in parts of the forest not yet logged. So it could be at high risk of hopping away to extinction. Half of all the world’s toads, frogs, newts and salamanders are in decline, and one third are at risk of extinction.

“It is therefore imperative to document the highly endemic amphibian faunas of the wet montane Andean forests as a first step towards designing a network of natural reserves that maximises protection of amphibian diversity,” the authors say.

See also here.

103 new species described by the California Academy of Sciences in 2015. From unknown African frogs to electric rays and animal viruses, spanning five continents and three oceans, these discoveries add to Earth’s tree of life: here.

Indian caecilians threatened by traffic

This music video from California in the USA says about itself:

Caecilian Cotillion

21 April 2014

Celebrating the 200th known species of caecilian (it’s Ichthyophis multicolor from Myanmar), another AmphibiaWeb song by the Wiggly Tendrils (supported by the California Academy of Sciences).

Download the song here at the Wiggly Tendrils’ Bandcamp.

From the Navhind Times in India:

Environmentalists concerned over rise in caecilian deaths on roads

July 21, 2015

SANKHALI: Environmentalists have rued the rise in number of caecilians that are killed by speeding vehicles on roads in Chorla Ghat area. Chorla Ghat comes under the jurisdictions of Goa, Maharashtra and Karnataka states and is home to many varieties of caecilians. Every year during monsoon season a large number of caecilians cross the road and come under the vehicles, observed environmentalists.

Well-known caecilian expert and wild-lifer associated with Bombay Natural History Society Doter Varadagiri said, “The Chorla Ghat region is rich in caecilian diversity. There is a need to study the unknown facets of their life.”

Gajanan Shetye, a volunteer of Vivekanand Environment Awareness Brigade said that they find many caecilian carcasses on the road. Nirmal Kulkarni, a wild lifer associated with Mhadei Research Centre, who was instrumental in discovering three species of caecilians, said, “Caecilians are important since they play important role in enriching soil nutrients and increasing its fertility.”