African frogs’ mating season, video


This video says about itself:

Frog Fights For Female Attention – Africa – BBC

16 March 2016

One frog is on the biggest climb of his life, a male in search of a mate but he has to overcome some obstacles first.

New frog species discovered in Colombia


Pristimantis macrummendozai frog was discovered in the Iguaque Merchan paramos, Colombia's East Andes (AFP photo)

From the BBC today:

Frog species with yellow eyebrows found in Colombia

Researchers say they have discovered a new frog species with distinctive yellow eyebrows in Colombia.

The frog has a dark camouflage pattern which allows it to blend in with the rocky soil on which it dwells.

Researchers with the Humboldt Institute found the frog, which they named Pristimantis macrummendozai, in the Iguaquen Merchan moorlands, in central Boyaca province.

Colombia is one of the world’s most biologically diverse countries.

Researchers said that the species was well adapted to its moorland surroundings.

They said that female Pristimantis took advantage of the moist soil to lay their eggs in the ground.

According to their studies, the Pristimantis’ preferred breeding environment was at high altitude, above 3,500m (11,500ft).

Environmentalists in Colombia have been fighting for the country’s moorlands to be protected.

Last month, they celebrated when Colombia’s constitutional court banned mining in the moorlands, arguing that it could cause irreversible damage to their fragile ecosystem.

Students save salamanders from death


This music video from the Netherlands is called Harry Sacksioni – De Paddentrek (Toad Migration).

Translated from Vroege Vogels radio in the Netherlands today:

Behind VHL college in Leeuwarden [in Friesland province] is a small river, the Potmarge. In early spring small amphibians there in the morning and the evening cross in order to reproduce. There, they cross the bike path on which they are often crushed by cyclists and scooter riders. Alumni Carlijn Lanrijssens and her classmate Tariq Stark sometimes found thirty killed smooth newts on the bike path. “We thought that really can not go on next to a green college. Moreover, it is unique that there is such a large population of newts so close to downtown,” said Carlijn.

Tariq and Carlijn took the initiative to rescue the animals. With the help of the municipality of Leeuwarden, two 130-meter fences were placed along the Potmarge. On both sides of them thirty buckets were buried. A group of students now twice a day bends over the buckets to free the salamanders and to transfer them safely. Sometimes they also find unfortunate frogs and toads. In each bucket is a stick or a twig. “In that way, mice can climb out.” Students register numbers and sex of the salamanders, to understand the size of the population.

Across the country with the help of volunteers last year more than 270,000 amphibians were transferred.

Many amphibians saved from dangerous roads


This video, from Massachusetts in the USA, says about itself:

Berkshire Amphibian Migration — via Berkshire Outdoors

Join Rene Wendell, resident naturalist at The Trustees of ReservationsBartholomew’s Cobble in Sheffield, MA, as he takes a group of volunteers into a misty March (2011) night to help migrating amphibians cross a busy road. We encounter: spotted salamanders, spring peepers, wood frogs, four toe salamanders, red backed salamanders, and an American toad.

Translated from ANP news agency in the Netherlands:

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016 11:11

Last year, volunteers have helped about 270,000 toads, frogs and salamanders to cross roads in the Netherlands. If the average lengths of the animals are added together, that would create a procession of some 19 kilometers of amphibians; according to figures from Ravon (Reptile Amphibian and Fish Research in the Netherlands).

Common toad

The common toad was most frequently helped crossing: 116,670 times. In second place is the common frog with 14,575 transfers. The third place is for the smooth newt; which was helped 7,514 times. In Amerongen town volunteers were the most fanatical in transferring. More than 11,400 amphibians were helped to cross roads there.

Amphibian migration 2016

The mild winter weather ensures that the first amphibians of 2016 were transferred already in January. Last weekend a combination of relatively high temperatures and heavy rainfall resulted in a small surge of 3,000 transferred animals. The massive migration of amphibians is yet to come and will take some time. For the next few weeks in fact lower night temperatures are predicted. It is expected that the greatest numbers of amphibians will migrate in March.

See also here.

New toad species discovery in Brazil


This 22 February 2015 video from Brazil shows two Melanophryniscus admirabilis toads, relatives of the three newly discovered species, mating.

From AFP news agency:

Brazil scientists discover three new toad species

December 2, 2015

Brazilian scientists announced Wednesday the discovery of three previously unknown species of poisonous toads in the fast-shrinking Atlantic forest of southern Brazil, an area dubbed an “incubator” of new life forms.

The tiny creatures, measuring from one to 2.5 centimeters (up to one inch), were found in Santa Catarina state, a zone of mountains and forested valleys that is considered an important center of biodiversity.

“The great importance of this discovery is that this forest serves as an incubator for the origin of species,” said Marcos Bornschein, a researcher with the Federal University of Parana, who helped identify the creatures.

“It’s a laboratory of huge importance for the mapping and conserving and understanding of biological processes,” he said.

The Atlantic forest once covered most of Brazil’s coastline, but only eight percent has been preserved. Most of the country’s 204 million people live along the coast.

The toads are dark brown with red markings and are speckled with warts. They eat ants and mites and during digestion create a chemical in the skin that can poison predators, principally snakes.

“They are not dangerous to humans,” Bornschein said. “During the fieldwork, some researchers felt a numbing in their finger ends after touching them, but nothing more.”

The discovery of the toads, all classified as part of the Melanophryniscus genus, was described Wednesday in the scientific journal Plos One.

The article said that the discovery of the toads in a fairly restricted geographical area—they were found between the cities of Garuva and Blumenau, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) apart—suggested that the species “might be severely underestimated.”

But it added that the “status of these species is of particular concern, given that one of them is at risk of extinction.”

Frog-killing fungus, good news at last


This video from Spain is about the Mallorcan midwife toad.

From Wired.com:

Lizzie Wade

11.17.15

7:02 pm

A Frog-Killing Fungus Finally Meets Its Match on the Island of Mallorca

This fall, like every fall for the past six years, Jaime Bosch found himself dangling off a cliff on the island of Mallorca with a backpack full of tadpoles. The Spanish ecologist was rappelling down to the bottom of a steep canyon, preparing to return his precious cargo to the ponds where they had hatched.

Bosch, who works at Spain’s National Museum of Natural History, had evacuated the tadpoles weeks earlier, hoping to save them from certain death at the hands of the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, better known as Bd. Since researchers discovered it in the late 1990s, the fungus has decimated amphibian populations around the world, leading to the collapse or extinction of at least 200 species. Bosch was hoping against hope that he could prevent the Mallorcan midwife toad (Alytes muletensis) from being next.

Bd is an insidious fungus, growing all over an infected amphibian’s skin—the organ through which the creatures breath and drink. Infection often leads to fatal organ failure. Normally, once Bd makes its way into an ecosystem, scientists can’t do much besides tally up the carnage.

Mallorca and its native toads have some unique characteristics that made Bosch think he might be able to save them. First of all, it’s a very simple system, ecologically speaking: one island, with one amphibian species. Plus, the island only has a few ponds, making it possible to capture every last tadpole that hatches in them. Finally, the ponds tend to dry out every summer and get refilled by autumn rains, which should flush out any Bd-infected water.

Not that it was easy. Hence the rappelling down into canyons to reach the ponds, loading the tadpoles into plastic water bottles, and making an arduous hike out. Once Bosch got the tadpoles back to his lab, he bathed them for seven days in an anti-fungal solution designed to kill any Bd spores growing on their skin. At first, he thought that would be enough to eliminate the fungus from the island. Optimistic, he loaded the tadpoles into a helicopter that would get them as close to the ponds as it could, before transferring them to his backpack for another rappelling trip down the canyons.

But when he and his team went back the next year, they found that the tadpoles were infected again. That meant the local environment was hiding a reservoir of Bd somewhere—most likely the adult toads that were too reclusive to catch.

Bosch decided that if his team couldn’t treat every infected animal, they would have to disinfect the whole place. So this time, after they evacuated the tadpoles to the lab for their anti-fungal baths, they drained the breeding ponds and scrubbed the underlying rock with a chemical call Virkon-S, renowned for its Bd killing ability.

“That’s what works. That’s when the fungus didn’t come back,” Bosch says. In an article published today in Biology Letters, he reports that his team successfully eliminated Bd from four out of five infected ponds on Mallorca. They repeated the protocol on the fifth pond this year, and Bosch hopes the whole island will be officially free of the fungus by the next tadpole season.

“It’s a monumental achievement,” says Brian Gratwicke, a biologist who leads the amphibian efforts at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Washington, DC. “It provides huge hope for the whole community.”

But it’s not exactly transferable. Flying tadpoles around by helicopter? Rappelling down inaccessible canyons? Covering every rock in a pond with toxic chemicals? If this is what it takes to stop Bd on one island, in one simple ecosystem, how can scientists even hope to eradicate it in the rest of the world?

Well…they can’t. Karen Lips, a biologist at the University of Maryland who helped discover Bd, doubts any of these methods would be effective in the rainforest of Panama, where she works. “Sterilizing one pond is not going to do it. You’d have to sterilize the entire jungle.” Still, she says, such techniques could be useful for protecting other islands and isolated ecosystems from Bd. “Perhaps that’s what we’re going to be left with: lots of islands. Either islands in oceans, or mountaintop islands, or islands in a sea of concrete. Maybe that’s the way we’re going to be able to protect our amphibians in the future,” Lips says.

Bosch agrees that his protocol “is not a solution for eliminating Bd from everywhere in the world.” But, he says, “we can’t just stand still and do nothing,” watching amphibian after amphibian go extinct. “Every now and again [the amphibian science] community needs a win. And this is one of those wins,” Gratwicke says. Bosch won this battle. And sometimes, in a war, that’s the best you can hope for.

Dipper and frog, photo


Dipper and frog

This video shows a dipper and a frog. An edible frog; not edible for the dipper.

Wampys from the Netherlands made this photo.