This week’s cute amphibian: White-spotted slimy salamander

White spotted slimy salamander - Plethodon cylindraceus

White spotted slimy salamander (Plethodon cylindraceus) Photo: Brian Gratwicke SCBI

White-spotted slimy salamanders are large, attractive, boldly marked lungless salamanders from the Appalachian region of the United States. they range from Maryland to South Carolina and have a thick tail and secrete a sticky white substance when handled, giving them the group the reputation of being ‘slimy’ salamanders.  These terrestrial salamanders are found under large rotting logs. They have an elaborate courtship dance where the male deposits a spermatophore on the ground that is then taken up by the female, the female lays her fertilized eggs in underground cavities where she guards them.  Some authors have noted worrying declines of this species, but they are still widely distributed and can be abundant in places. They are listed as ‘least concern’ by the IUCN.

Find out more about the National Zoo’s salamander conservation program here.

Cute frog of the week: Yellow Treefrog (Dendropsophus microcephalus)

The yellow tree frog (Dendropsophus microcephalus)  Photo: Brian Gratwicke Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

The yellow tree frog (Dendropsophus microcephalus) Photo: Brian Gratwicke Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Yellow treefrogs are abundant and widely distributed in lowlands from Belize to South America. This adaptable species prefers highly disturbed agricultural areas flooded grasslands and ponds and is classified by the IUCN as least concern because their populations seem to be stable or increasing in places.

These tiny frogs call from small ponds and swamps, where males aggressively joust for the best calling sites where they emit an insect-like ‘creek-eek-eek-ekk’ sound. If you have seen this awesome little critter send you photos to i-naturalist so we can improve the known distribution map. http://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/65373-Dendropsophus-microcephalus

Apparently gold is an unlucky color for frogs

The Golden Mantella is a critically endangered frog from Madagascar Photo: Brian Gratwicke Smithsonian's National Zoo

The golden mantella is a critically endangered frog from Madagascar Photo: Brian Gratwicke Smithsonian’s National Zoo

The golden mantella, Mantella aurantiaca, is yet another of the world’s critically endangered golden colored frogs. It comes from Madagascar where it is associated with screwpine forests and has a tiny range of 10 square km. Popular in the pet trade, this species is threatened by an unsustainable demand from hobbyists and was listed on CITES appendix II listed species in 1995 to limit the trade. In 2000 all Mantella species from Madagascar were also added to the list. Appendix II permits limited trade and Madagascar has an export quota for 550 animals each year. In addition to unsustainable harvest this beautiful little creature is threatened by habitat loss, including loss of breeding habitat due to gold mining. More than 1,500 golden mantellas are now managed by 50 zoos and aquaria around the world, and an in-country conservation strategy has been developed that you can read here.

And now for my gummy-bear impersonation.

hyperolius_benguellensis

A beautiful little reed frog (Hyperolius benguellensis)

This easily overlooked, almost translucent little frog can be found in ditches and ponds in Southern Africa. The males perch like little green jewels on reeds on the water’s edge. They spar with other males on flimsy stalks for prime breeding spots and advertise their presence to females with a short almost insect-like rasping rattle. If successful at attracting a female, the amplectant pair will lay clutches of up to 200 gelatinous eggs on vegetation just below the water’s surface.

The taxonomy of this group of small, green reed frogs can be confusing, but the pale paravertebral lines in addition to the dorsolateral stripes are one characteristic trait of this species. The frog is tolerant of disturbance and can be found in agricultural areas where it can be very abundant and it is listed by the IUCN as Least Concern.

Picture courtesy Brian Gratwicke.

Who needs balloons animals?

Tungara_frog

Túngara Frog (Engystomops pustulosus)

Now that the rains have set in, it is tough to find a freshwater ditch or puddle in Panama that does not have the tell-tail ‘cuieeeeeee-chuck’ calls of male túngara frogs hoping to attract a mate. If you live in Panama, follow this distinctive call to its source and you are likely to find an otherwise unremarkable, warty little creature putting on the performance of his life. This tiny brown comedian turns his whole body into an inflatable pool-toy on the water, exuding air from his swollen body into a huge gular pouch and back again.

Frogs that can avoid the attention of voracious frog-eating bats drawn to their calls pair with females and whip up the egg mass into a stiff white foam nest, using their hind legs like egg-beaters. The foam protects developing embryos from dehydration, sunlight and pathogens until they hatch after around 4 days. Check out this video about Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Scientist Rachel Page, who studies these little creatures and the bats that snack on them.

Tungara frogs are thankfully still thriving in the wild and are listed by the IUCN as least concern.

Photo courtesy of Brian Gratwicke. Send us your own cute frogs by uploading your photos on flickr here.

Ready For My Close Up

White-Lipped Frog- Leptodactylus albilabris Photo Credit: Billy Santiago

White-Lipped Frog- Leptodactylus albilabris

The white- lipped frog is a semi-aquatic frog found in streams, marshes, irrigated fields and gutters. It is native to the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and U.S. and British Virgin Islands. Due to its appearance in Spanish speaking areas, the frog is better known by its local Spanish name, Ranita De Labio Blanco. The frog’s name derives from its distinctive white upper lip, while the remainder of the skin typically includes shades of greenish-yellow, green, brown and black with varying spots and stripes. It has a medium size body with long limbs and un-webbed toes. While this species is currently wide spread in the U.S. Virgin Islands, it seems to be declining in the British Virgin Islands. In total, this species is fairly common and adaptable to different environmental changes. Due to these factors, the IUCN has listed the white-lipped frog as Least Concern on the Red List of Threatened Species.

Photo: courtesy Billy Santiago via Cute frog of the Week Photo Pool

Stuck on you

Pickersgill’s reed frog- Hyperolius pickersgilli

Pickersgill’s reed frog- Hyperolius pickersgilli

The Pickersgill’s reed frog is native to South Africa, from the wetlands of the KwaZulu-Natal Province. It is a small frog with a unique color changing trait that marks its growth and development. The Pickersgill’s reed frog juveniles are light to dark brown coloring and a dorsolateral stripe. As they mature, the skin becomes bright green, yellow and white. Confined to a small area of residence, the Pickersgill’s reed frog is encountering many threats to its current habitat. Urbanization, habitat fragmentation, afforestation and pollution are among only some of the problems contributing to the decrease of this species. Due to this loss, it is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species.

Photo Credit: Richard Boycott

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/

A Disappearing Act

Hewitt’s Ghost Frog- Heleophryne hewitti

Hewitt’s Ghost Frog (Heleophryne hewitti)

The Hewitt’s ghost frog is a medium-sized frog found in fast-flowing mountain rivers and streams in Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. As undetectable as a ghost, this frog’s flat body allows it to hide in confined spaces during the day, such as holes and rock cracks, and emerge during the night. It has long legs, big eyes, vertical pupils, and dark spots covering its entire body. Although the Hewitt’s ghost frog is a poor jumper, it is a skilled swimmer in strong currents and has abnormally large toes to cling to rocks by the water’s edge. Because of this frog’s mysterious nature, the extent of occurrence is considerably low. This fact, along with its small range and loss of habitat, has listed the Hewitt’s ghost frog as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Photo Credit: Richard Boycott

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/

Frogs, not fruit

Natal Banana Frog (Afrixalus spinifrons)

Natal Banana Frog (Afrixalus spinifrons)

The Natal banana frog originates from coastal KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. This frog is easily recognizable for its light and dark dorsal bands extending along the head and back, a rather constant design within the species, and rounded snout with black asperities. The Natal banana frog is often associated with low vegetation in shrubland and dry forest, but breed in wetland and temporary pools. It prefers emergent, long-leafed vegetation above water to build its egg nests. Recent loss of wetlands due to urban and recreational development, afforestation, agriculture expansion, pesticides and overgrazing livestock has resulted in a decline of the frog’s habitat and population. The IUCN has listed the Natal banana frog as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Photo Credit: Richard Boycott

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/

Fingers and Toes

Long-toed tree frog (Leptopelis xenodactylus)-- Richard Boycott

Long-toed tree frog- Leptopelis xenodactylus

The long-toed tree frog earned its name from its abnormally long fingers and toes with reduced webbing. A rather large leptopelis, the long-toed tree frog sports a rough, green dorsum and a creamy white underside. Found in south-eastern South Africa, in the southern KwaZulu-Natal Province highlands, this frog makes its home in grasslands and marshes, keeping away from trees. Due to their small range and the declining quality of their habitat, this frog’s population is decreasing in South Africa and sightings are rare. These threats have caused the long-toed tree frog to be listed as Endangered by the IUCN.

Photo Credit: Richard Boycott

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/