Hoppy World Frog Day from this Critically Endangered mountain chicken (Leptodactylus fallax), one of the most threatened frogs in the world. I decided to post this species today because I’ve previously been part of efforts to save them, so they're very close to my heart.
They’re only found on Montserrat & Dominica in the Caribbean, although they also used to be found on several other islands in the region. Until relatively recently, overhunting for food was an issue (apparently they taste like chicken, hence their common name), but their biggest threats currently are habitat destruction, volcanic eruptions & the fungal disease chytridiomycosis. The chytrid fungus had a particularly devastating impact, & their decline is one of the fastest observed to date for any animal species. In 2017, it was estimated that there were only ~132 in the wild. The good news is that the total population is higher because frogs from both islands are part of breeding programs in Europe, & novel methods are being trialled to save the species.
It’s not surprising they were hunted for food - they're one of the biggest frogs in the world, with females reaching 20+cm long & weighing up to ~1kg! It's also not surprising that they're voracious predators & will eat whatever they can fit in their mouths.
They shelter in burrows during the day, and males dig, & call from, nesting burrows during the mating season. When a pair starts mating, they spend hours building a foam nest (the female releases fluid that the male churns into foam with his hind legs) before the female lays her small clutch of eggs. Both parents guard the burrow. It takes ~45 days for the tadpoles to reach metamorphosis, & every few days, the female produces infertile eggs as food for them (maybe I should have saved this one for Mother’s Day!). Truly fabulous animals that we need to make every effort to save. But they’re not the only ones...
Globally, >30% of the almost 7,000 known anuran (frog & toad) species are threatened or near threatened, & another ~20% are data deficient (so we don’t even know enough about them to determine whether they’re threatened or not). Up next: what you can do to help save frogs 😊.
Photo by @vgr.globetrotter.
The European Blind Snake (Xerotyplops vermicularis), a fossorial lifestyle species, is with no doubts one of the most peculiar creatures we can meet on our next #wildgreece tour! ---------------------------------------------------- Lo Xerotyplops vermicularis, serpente dalle abitudini fossorie, è senza dubbio una delle creature più bizzarre che potremo incontrare durante il nostro prossimo tour ellenico!
Northwestern Salamander (Ambystoma gracile) egg masses from Clark Co. .
Despite the single adult I've found at this site in WA being torn to shreds, it looks like most of the other animals here found reproductive success this season. These large and firm jelly structures offer perfect protection while the embyros inside develop into larvae during unpredictable spring weather. The third photo shows some detail of a relationship gracile share with some other members of the genus- over time symbiotic algae will invade the jelly, creating increased oxygen levels for the embyros while the algae gains protection from the outside world.
I’ve just realised that 3 of my last 4 posts were of things with wings – definitely time for a herp! This fabulous little beast is a juvenile pobblebonk (best common name ever! 😊) or western banjo frog (Limnodynastes dorsalis). 🐸 They’re only found in SW WA, from Kalbarri south & east to Cape Arid. 🐸 The common names both come from the male breeding call – a loud ‘bonk’ (talk about asking for exactly what you want! 😲) that sounds a bit like a banjo being plucked. 🐸 They breed during winter & spring in a variety of waterbodies, including swamps & other wetlands, streams, farm dams & ponds. The tadpoles metamorphose in summer & autumn. 🐸 Males have thicker forearms than females & develop nuptial pads on their hands during the breeding season so they can hold onto females while mating. 🐸 It’s easy to ID their eggs, because they’re the only species in SW WA that creates foam nests for their eggs (the females beat the water during mating to create the foam). 🐸 Outside of the breeding season, they burrow down into sandy soils.
Pobblebonks belong to the family Myobatrachidae, as do approx. half of all Australian frog species (~120 out of ~230 species). 🐸 Myobatrachid frogs are only found in Australia, New Guinea & a few smaller nearby islands, with the majority of species occurring in Australia. 🐸 The family is referred as ground frogs because they’re all either terrestrial or aquatic – there aren’t any arboreal species (not surprising since they don’t have adhesive toe pads like tree frogs!). 🐸 It's a diverse family in terms of morphology (body form), with everything from relatively long-legged, sharp-snouted frogs that can jump really well (e.g. barred frogs of the genus Mixophyes) to what are essentially mini beach balls with stumpy little legs (e.g. Australian spadefoots of the genus Notaden). 🐸 Members of the family also exhibit a diversity of reproductive strategies with varying levels of dependence on aquatic habitats - while some species have the 'usual' aquatic eggs & larvae, others have eggs that don't require water but tadpoles that do, & yet others have eggs & larvae that are completely independent of water. 🐸 A fabulous family of frogs! 😊
Photo by @andrea_senese_photography.
One of the many Reptiles that we will observe during our next #wildgreece tour: the Kotschy Gecko, with distribution range extended around the eastern Mediterranean Sea. ------------------------------------------------ Uno dei tanti Rettili che potremo osservare durante il prossimo tour ellenico: il Geco di Kotschy (Mediodactylus kotschyi), sauro con areale di distribuzione esteso attorno al Mar Mediterraneo orientale.
One of my favourite skink species to see round here and one that most people in southern and eastern parts of Aus see frequently. Lampropholis guichenoti. They have a few common names but common garden skink or pale flecked garden sunskink appear to be the most popular. This was the second most abundant species throughout my study area and I counted around a thousand individuals over 9 months. Fieldwork is over but they always make me smile and I have a chat to them when I see them when I’m out walking. So cute and chubby. Booroomba Rocks walking trail, Namadgi National Park.
Geckos seem to defy gravity as they run along smooth walls and even upside-down on ceilings, but their feet are not sticky at all! How they do this has been pondered over since the time of Aristotle. The secret to their adhesiveness lies in their toe pads, which are covered in hair-like bristles called setae, each of which is branched into 100-1,000 flattened structures called spatulae.  Contact between these and an opposing surface generates enough force to allow the gecko to support many times its own weight. Geckos don’t even need to groom their feet because they are self-cleaning. Gecko feet have inspired technological advances in adhesives that have applications in nanotechnology, military uses and healthcare, including robots that can climb vertical surfaces to inspect the surfaces of military equipment for defects and adhesives that can be used to repair heart, abdominal and intestinal defects. More reasons to love these little guys! 🦎
#biomimetics#science#gecko#reptile#geckosonthings#daygecko#keephawaiiwild#hawaii#kona#thebigisland#wildlifeplanet#herpetology#herpers_digest#science#wildlifeplanet#animals#wildlife_perfection#wild_planet#AWEinspired#photowildlife#wildlife#animals  Hansen, W.R., & Autumn, K. (2005). Evidence for self-cleaning in gecko setae. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 102(2), 385.  Roche, E.T., Fabozzo, A. Lee, Y., Polygerinos, P., Friehs, I., Schuster, L., Whyte, W., Casar B., Alejandra M., Bueno, A., Lang, N., Pereira, M.J.N., Feins, E., Wasserman, S., O'Cearbhaill, E.D., Vasilyev, N.V., Mooney, D.J., Karp, J.M., Del Nido, P.J., Walsh, C.J. (2015). A light-reflecting balloon catheter for atraumatic tissue defect repair. Science Translational Medicine, 7(306), 306ra149.
A few people have been asking about my white background setup, so I thought I'd share a picture and description. -
But you still might be asking why I'm sharing my technique, well because the more we can clearly display unique or specific species characteristics, the better we can understand the animals themselves and potentially help others identify them in the field. We all need to do a better job of spreading the knowledge we can obtain from photographs! -
My Current Setup:
- Fish tank or dyi acrylic box
- White printer paper - - 3 external flashes (I use Altura) on radio triggers (I'm still trying to work out the best diffuser setup for this style)
- One flash set to each side and one below - Flashes on 1/1 power
- 100mm macro lens (I use Tokina because it's the least expensive)
- Lowest possible ISO (or decrease the flash power)
- 1/200 sec (any higher, and the triggers/flashes can't communicate with the shutter fast enough to capture the whole frame) -
It really is just a lot of trial and error until you find your sweet spot of light placement and camera settings. But make sure you have fun with it! Just don't pose the organisms longer than what's reasonable, AKA, don't be a jerk. -
Pink-tailed worm-lizards (Aprasia parapulchella) are a threatened worm-looking legless lizard that lives in ants nests under rocks in grassland areas in south eastern Aus. They’re listed as vulnerable due to land clearing for development, changed fire regimes, predation by cats, grazing, and rock removal.
Not at all easy to find and only the second one I’ve ever seen. Look at that lil tongue!! 😍😋💗
Photo by Luca Russo.
Our first Spur-thighed Tortoise (Testudo graeca).
We met this little fellow in the middle of a dirt road, at Evros Delta National Park. After posing for us for a few minutes he decided to return in the vegetation.
La nostra prima Testuggine greca (Testudo graeca).
Abbiamo incontrato questo piccolo amico nel bel mezzo di uno sterrato, presso l'Evros Delta National Park. Dopo aver posato qualche minuto per noi, ha deciso di rientrare nella vegetazione.