New frog species discovered in Ecuador


This video says about itself:

25 May 2017

In the Amazonian lowlands of Ecuador, scientists discovered a new glassfrog. Hyalinobatrachium yaku is differentiated from all other species by having small, middorsal, dark green spots on the head and dorsum, a transparent pericardium, and a tonal call that lasts 0.27–0.4 s. H. yaku is closely related to Hyalinobatrachium pellucidum.

From ScienceDaily:

New species of frog from the Neotropics carries its heart on its skin

May 29, 2017

Summary: In the Neotropics, there is a whole group of so-called glassfrogs that amaze with their transparent skin covering their bellies and showing their organs underneath. A recently discovered new species from Amazonian Ecuador, however, goes a step further to fully expose its heart thanks to the transparent skin stretching all over its chest as well as tummy.

In the Neotropics, there is a whole group of so-called glassfrogs that amaze with their transparent skin covering their bellies and showing their organs underneath. A recently discovered new species from Amazonian Ecuador, however, goes a step further to fully expose its heart thanks to the transparent skin stretching all over its chest as well as tummy.

The new amphibian is described by a team of scientists led by Dr. Juan M. Guayasamin, Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Ecuador, in the open access journal ZooKeys.

It can also be distinguished by the relatively large dark green spots at the back of its head and the foremost part of the body. Additionally, the species has a characteristic long call.

The new frog is named Hyalinobatrachium yaku, where the species name (yaku) translates to ‘water’ in the local language Kichwa. Water and, more specifically, slow-flowing streams are crucial for the reproduction of all known glassfrogs.

The reproductive behaviour is also quite unusual in this species. Males are often reported to call from the underside of leaves and look after the egg clutches.

Having identified individuals of the new species at three localities, the researchers note some behavioural differences between the populations. Two of them, spotted in the riverine vegetation of an intact forest in Kallana, have been calling from the underside of leaves a few metres above slow-flowing, relatively narrow and shallow streams. Another frog of the species has been observed in an area covered by secondary forests in the Ecuadorian village of Ahuano. Similarly, the amphibian was found on the underside of a leaf one metre above a slow-flowing, narrow and shallow stream.

However, at the third locality — a disturbed secondary forest in San José de Payamino — the studied frogs have been perching on leaves of small shrubs, ferns, and grasses some 30 to 150 cm above the ground. Surprisingly, each of them has been at a distance greater than 30 metres from the nearest stream.

The researchers note that, given the geographic distance of approximately 110 km between the localities where the new species has been found, it is likely that the new species has a broader distribution, including areas in neighbouring Peru.

The uncertainty about its distributional range comes from a number of reasons. Firstly, the species’ tiny size of about 2 cm makes it tough to spot from underneath the leaves. Then, even if specimens of the species have been previously collected, they would be almost impossible to identify from museum collection, as many of the characteristic traits, such as the dark green marks, are getting lost after preservation. This is why the conservation status of the species has been listed as Data Deficient, according to the IUCN Red List criteria.

Nevertheless, the scientists identify the major threats to the species, including oil extraction in the region and the related water pollution, road development, habitat degradation and isolation.

“Glassfrogs presumably require continuous tracts of forest to interact with nearby populations, and roads potentially act as barriers to dispersal for transient individuals,” explain the authors.

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.