In trouble Down Under.

Eungella torrent frog (Taudactylus eungellensis)

Eungella torrent frog (Taudactylus eungellensis)

Cute Frog of the Week: April 30, 2012

About 27 years ago, no one in Australia thought twice about the Eungella torrent frog (Taudactylus eungellensis). Then, suddenly, populations first at low altitudes and then even those higher up began to decline. For more than five years in the late 1980s and early ’90s, no one reported seeing these frogs. Fortunately, since then nine small populations have been discovered, although they are reproducing slowly. The frog is still listed as critically endangered, and the fact that its habitat is small and fragmented means it isn’t out of the woods yet. Scientists don’t know what caused the population to plummet in the first place, but chytrid may have been involved. Now, important habitat is protected and the frog is listed as endangered by the Australian legislature, while scientists are working to learn more about it.

Photo by John Augusteyn via Arkive.

Every week the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project posts a new photo of a cute frog from anywhere in the world with an interesting, fun and unique story to tell. Be sure to check back every Monday for the latest addition.

Send us your own cute frogs by uploading your photos here: http://www.flickr.com/groups/cutefrogoftheweek/

Bringing polka dots back.

Dark-spotted frog (Rana nigromaculata)

Dark-spotted frog (Rana nigromaculata)

Cute Frog of the Week: April 23, 2012

The dark-spotted frog (Rana nigromaculata) sports stylish dark grey spots on its olive skin. Found in Japan, Korea, China, and the Far East of Russia, this near-threatened frog lives in stagnant water in meadows, forests and deserts; it has a particular soft spot for rice paddies. In fact, diversifying crops are one factor causing trouble for these frogs. Other threats include the live animal trade, harvesting for food, and water pollution. Each year, dark-spotted frogs hibernate from between late September and November to between February and May; they reproduce after they wake up from their long, refreshing rest.

Photo by Shouma Sejima via Arkive.

Every week the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project posts a new photo of a cute frog from anywhere in the world with an interesting, fun and unique story to tell. Be sure to check back every Monday for the latest addition.

Send us your own cute frogs by uploading your photos here: http://www.flickr.com/groups/cutefrogoftheweek/

Panama’s National Amphibian Conservation Action Plan

Panama City, March 29, 2012.

The National Environmental Authority of Panama (ANAM) and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute today presented the “Action Plan for the Conservation of Amphibians in Panama,” the first step in a series of actions to address the alarming decline of amphibians in Panama.

Atelopus certus, an endangered Panamanian amphibian

Amphibians (frogs, toads, salamanders and caecilians) were the first vertebrates to populate the land environment. They present biological and ecological characteristics that make them extremely sensitive to changes in their environment. They are an important part of the ecological balance, as they feed on large quantities of insects and in turn are food for other animals. For this reason, they are widely used as indicators and as a warning system to alert to factors that influence health or environmental quality.

In 1989, scientists sounded the alarm because amphibian populations worldwide were declining. A few years later, they discovered that frogs, toads, salamanders and caecilians were disappearing due to a fungus that causes a disease known as chytridiomycosis, and that this decline in populations and disappearance of species was more evident in Panama than anywhere else in the world.

It has been confirmed that in Panama this disease is responsible for the progressive and sustained decline of the greater part of the country’s frog and toad populations. According to the IUCN Red List, of the 197 species of amphibians recorded in Panama, around 25% – about 50 species – are listed as threatened. The disease has devastated frogs from the highlands of western and central Panama and is spreading eastward across the country.

The speed and lethality of this fungal pathogen highlights the need to respond quickly, as scientists predict that before long the disease will spread throughout the entire country, reaching areas of high amphibian richness such as the Darien. This situation is aggravated by the imminent disappearance of species which might contain medicinal compounds (analgesics, antifungals) in their skin, or which may not yet have been described by science.

For this reason, the Action Plan for the Conservation of Amphibians in Panama seeks close collaboration with various stakeholders to carry out participatory planning, integrate initiatives, optimize resources and identify potential funding sources. The Plan details specific research, conservation and education components for the short and medium term to ensure future populations.

The Research component seeks to propose and promote specific actions that will generate scientific information for understanding the problem and implementing conservation strategies. The Conservation component includes the ex-situ conservation project as an immediate response to preserve in captivity those species of amphibians currently under threat in their natural habitat. Finally, the Education component seeks to implement education programs and information campaigns aimed at raising public awareness, which will in turn facilitate the implementation of conservation measures.

- Mónica Alvarado Garrido, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Teachers: Don’t let ‘em go!

American toad tadpoles

Learning about the process of turning from a tadpole to a frog is an important lesson for students. Teachers should understand how to do it safely. (Photo by Brian Gratwicke, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute)

The seemingly harmless act of collecting tadpoles from a pond for nature study and re-releasing them after metamorphosis could actually contribute to the spread of a fatal frog disease, amphibian chytrid fungus. We want to be sure that schools, parents and students are aware of the risks to local amphibians and do NOT spread this fungus by moving or releasing frogs to the wild.

NEVER release a frog or any other amphibian into the local environment even if it came from there in the first place!

The study of amphibian metamorphosis is an integral part of nearly every K-8 curriculum. At this time of year some schools bring tadpoles into the classroom to watch metamorphosis in action.

Frog eggs and tadpoles, commercially available online from science supply companies, can be carriers of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd or chytrid for short).  This disease spreads easily and is rapidly fatal to many native amphibians. Unfortunately, many of these companies advise customers to simply release the frogs to the wild. This is not only illegal in some states, but dangerous.

To prevent the spread of chytridiomycosis, consider studying tadpoles in a pond without bringing them back to the classroom. If you are collecting or purchasing tadpoles or eggs, make absolutely sure that: 1) it is legal – permits are required in some states; 2) the tadpoles are kept by themselves and never mixed with any other tadpoles or frogs or water that has been with other animals; 3) you are prepared to care for the frogs for the rest of their lives or can find appropriate captive homes. So, only raise as many as you can re-home responsibly or care for yourself. Some companies, (e.g. Grow-a-Frog) will welcome your frog back and provide shipping bags. If you have no other options please call your local zoo, state wildlife department or nature center.

If planning for care of native frogs in the classroom post-metamorphosis, please take into consideration that in nearly all cases you will need to provide a steady diet of live insects as most native frogs only eat live food. Most native tadpoles have relatively easy care requirements, but most native frogs have very demanding care requirements. You need to consider whether you are committed to providing the special requirements and steady diet of live, moving insects for the frog’s entire lifespan. If so, this can be a wonderful thing for students to participate in.

The release of any animal, captive, non-native or native, into your local ecosystem is a serious cause for alarm.  Now more than ever, it is imperative to inform your students about the global amphibian extinction crisis and risks of releasing any animal and especially any amphibian into your local ecosystem. Pure and simple: Don’t let ‘em go !

Survival of amphibians and the well-being of our environment depends upon what your students learn now. You can and will make a difference for future generations!

To help educate students about the immediate global concern for amphibian extinctions please see this link for curriculum materials.

–Della Garelle, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Merry as a cricket…frog.

Northern cricket frog (Acris crepitans)

Northern cricket frog (Acris crepitans)

Cute Frog of the Week: April 15, 2012

Talk about a frog that can’t seem to make up its mind! The Northern cricket frog looks like a toad and sounds like a bird, though it is really a tree frog that prefers living near lakes.

One of the smallest of North America’s vertebrates, these tiny frogs usually range from 0.75 inches to 1.5 inches in length. Their color patterns vary from browns to grays to greens, often in irregular blotchy patterns, and there is often a darker triangular mark on the back of their heads. They also tend to have bands of darker pigment on their legs, a lighter band that runs from the eye to the base of the foreleg, and sometimes a slightly lighter band of color that is present down the spine. Due to their size and camouflage, it is not easy to spot these guys!

Because of the bumpy, “warty” texture of their skin, these frogs are often mistaken for toads by those who manage to spot them. However, they are not—they do not have parotid glands near the back of their heads, which can secrete toxic substances and are common to toads. In addition, even though they are tree frogs, they do not have enlarged toe pads to help them climb. This may be one of the reasons that these so-called ‘tree frogs’ don’t actually spend much time in the trees.

Northern cricket frogs are diurnal and active throughout much of the year except for when it is so cold that the water freezes. They are most commonly found in the eastern half of the United States, and tend to be heard most during mating season from late April to late July or early August. Their call is a sharp “glick-glick-glick” similar to that of many small birds and described as two glass marbles being struck together. They also migrate each spring and autumn through several different types of habitats, but little is known about this behavior.

Being a small prey species, their main defense strategy is to swim or hop away from danger as fast as possible, and despite their small size, they have been seen to leap more than 6 feet in a single jump. That’s equivalent to an average 6 foot-tall human jumping 288 feet in a single bound! They have also been seen to make a series of smaller jumps in a zigzag to throw off predators before diving underwater.

These frogs prefer to live along the banks of slow moving bodies of water, such as lakes or ponds as opposed to in trees, though they can be found in lower vegetation as well. They hibernate upland, away from icy water when the weather gets very cold. Northern cricket frogs are considered endangered in Minnesota and Wisconsin, threatened in New York, and as a species of special concern in Indiana, Michigan and West Virginia.

Photo by Gonçalo M. Rosa via ARKive.

Every week the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project posts a new photo of a cute frog from anywhere in the world with an interesting, fun and unique story to tell. Be sure to check back every Monday for the latest addition.

Send us your own cute frogs by uploading your photos here: http://www.flickr.com/groups/cutefrogoftheweek/

Spring is coming, time to get planting. But let’s think of our amphibian friends when we do.

Phlyctimantis leonardi

With spring in the air, there is much we can do to make sure our yards are safe for amphibians. (Photo by Brian Gratwicke, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute)

Last month, my husband and I were laying some huge pieces of flagstone in our backyard.  We had moved them into the yard over the winter, but had not placed them yet.  It was a nice day, so we decided to lay out our walkway.

Lo and behold, my husband exclaimed that there was a baby snake under one of the stones.  I took a closer look, and to my surprise, there were actually, not one, but three salamanders! What a discovery! These little guys were clearly hibernating under our flagstone. As I picked them up, they stretched in the sunshine and started to crawl around in my hands. So cute. I placed them in a safe place in the garden and put another piece of flagstone over them for safe keeping.

I am always amazed at the critters I find, even in the soil, when I am gardening. One day I found a toad, buried deep in the soil. I caused him serious injury, and have never forgotten him. To this day, I don’t dig in my garden until the soil has warmed enough for these guys to come out of hibernation.

I have also met a few snakes and a turtle that have taken up residence in my yard. I have a toad that visits my backyard annually. With the weather warming, I am keeping my eyes peeled for him.

Making sure these creatures are safe is important to me. So I try to not use any pesticides in my yard. I was having problems with slugs on my hosta one year, until I surrounded the plants with sand. Apparently slugs don’t like to crawl through sand. No problems after that!

Overuse of pesticides kill frogs, fish and insects that live in your watershed. And farther down the river it can poison those tasty shrimp, clams and crabs. Knowing exactly what insect problem you have will help you select several effective treatments. Several alternatives include manual removal, physical barriers, attracting beneficial insects, and diversified planting. For more alternative pest control methods, please click here.

We can all do our part to help frogs, toads and other amphibians in our backyard and by supporting the Panamanian Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project.

Cindy Hoffman, Defenders of Wildlife

Do not disturb.

Sachatamia (Sachatamia punctulata)

Sachatamia (Sachatamia punctulata)

Cute Frog of the Week: April 9, 2012

Or, at least, do not disturb the sachatamia’s (Sachatamia punctulata) habitat. That’s because this Colombian frog is picky about where it lays its eggs: only in gallery forest on leaves that overhang water. Once they hatch, the tadpoles drop from that perch into the water to finish growing up. This means that habitat loss and fragmentation, particularly due to agriculture, are an important threat to this frog. Currently, none of its habitat is protected. It is also vulnerable to small white flies that lay their eggs within sachatamia eggs.

Photo by Victor Fabio Luna-Mora via Arkive.

Every week the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project posts a new photo of a cute frog from anywhere in the world with an interesting, fun and unique story to tell. Be sure to check back every Monday for the latest addition.

Send us your own cute frogs by uploading your photos here: http://www.flickr.com/groups/cutefrogoftheweek/

Maybe hoppin’ and glidin’.

Fringe-limbed tree frog (Ecnomiohyla fimbrimembra)

Fringe-limbed tree frog (Ecnomiohyla fimbrimembra)

Cute Frog of the Week: April 2, 2012

The fringe-limbed tree frog is an extremely rare find, and therefore not much is known about this elusive species. These frogs live high in the canopy and are often overlooked. For this reason, it is difficult to conduct proper population counts, though they are considered endangered.

The prominent feature of these frogs is the dermal fringes between their fingers and toes. Scientists believe that this webbing can act like a parachute or glider wings when the frogs extend their fingers and toes outward, which would allow them to do just that— hop and glide from tree limb to tree limb. However, though this behavior has been observed in other related species, these particular guys have never been seen doing so. The frogs also have sticky disks at the tips of their fingers.

Based on individuals that have been found, this species’ coloration can range from lavender-brown, yellowish-white, brownish-tan, to green.

Native to Costa Rica and Panama, these frogs are nocturnal and from what researchers currently know, prefer living in humid premontane and lower montane forests. Being that these frogs spend most of their lives in the upper canopy, breeding, egg-laying and juvenile development occurs in tree-holes.

The main threats to these frogs are general habitat loss due to deforestation primarily for development and livestock ranching.

Photo by Andreas Hertz via ARKive.

Every week the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project posts a new photo of a cute frog from anywhere in the world with an interesting, fun and unique story to tell. Be sure to check back every Monday for the latest addition.

Send us your own cute frogs by uploading your photos here: http://www.flickr.com/groups/cutefrogoftheweek/