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miércoles, 15 de junio de 2011

Gate-crashing frog orgies, strange bellies and a case of mistaken identity

The most amazing event occurred here a couple of nights ago. It has all been very quiet on the frog front recently due to a major drop in the temperature. However on Wednesday and Thursday we had two massive storms – the biggest I’ve seen since being here! Then as the rain subsided on Thursday night a strange humming sound started from the other side of the lake. At first I couldn’t tell if it was actually a sound and was beginning to think my tititus finally caught up with me, when other people started to notice it and I realised it must be real. When Karina rang to say it was frogs and definitely worth a look, I didn’t need to be told twice. Pulling on my wellies I ran out of the door.

The sound was coming from a vernal pool near the Atlantic forest about 1km away from the house and the noise was deafening! The frogs were Odontophrynus americanus and they were EVERYWHERE – I had to tread really carefully to avoid stepping on them. The interesting thing about these frogs is that they spend almost all their lives buried underground, then once a year, when conditions are perfect, they emerge in their hundreds and sing their little hearts out for one or two nights, mate, and then disappear back to where they came from. What a privilege to be here when the time was right!

Although it was the most spectacular, the frog orgie wasn’t the only interesting thing that’s been happening in the herp world here. Thanks to our wonderful volunteers I now have 3, very long, permanent pitfall traps and despite it being the middle of winter I am still catching some new and interesting frogs and lizards. One frog which has had us scratching our heads is a tiny species of the Leptodactylus genus. We think we know what it is, however it has some strange markings on its belly which may be nothing but may on the other hand be very significant. Check back here in a couple of weeks for an update on our mystery belly!

We have also been working very hard to try and catch some of the lizards that live in the trees by our house and office. Until a couple of weeks ago we thought we knew what they were but new information has come in and we are now having another look at our specimens as we are 99% confident they are a new species to science!!! This is incredibly exciting but it does mean we need to catch more to be sure and that means that some how we have to get them out of the tree!

Aside from all of the exciting finds, we have all be working really hard in preparation for hosting a grant meeting. This is an opportunity for a variety of stakeholders and interested parties to get together and discuss ideas for the next 12 months and to devise a plan for us all to work to here. This meeting has also been an opportunity for Robert Owen and Paul Smith to come and spend a few days at Laguna Blanca. Robert is our consultant and an expert on small mammals, and Paul is our scientific co-ordinator. Although we work quite closely by email, this is the first time I have met Robert and I’ve not seen Paul since he brought us to Laguna Blanca almost 3 months ago. It’s been great to have them here to pick their brains and use as a sound board for new ideas.

And finally, I know you are all on the edge of your seats waiting to hear how my caterpillars are coming along. Well I won’t keep you in suspense any longer; I am delighted to report… there’s no change! They are all still snuggled up in their little cocoons waiting for the right time to come out and reveal their true identity. Maybe next time I’ll have some news!

Adios amigos hasta luego


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