After a long field and experimental season, the Garcia Lab is settling into our respective offices for the rainy winter...and so are the frogs. We decided to keep a small group of each of the species we collected over the summer for outreach. They were all collected as eggs for an aquatic mesocosm experiment that I ran this summer and have since emerged as terrestrial juveniles. What better way to communicate to the public about amphibian conservation than to have their pleading faces staring right at you. So, yesterday (conveniently the day before IACUC inspection) we set up terrariums for the orphans and I promptly took some videos of their acclimation. Turns out, toads love to tease each other and chorus frogs have big appetites...
If you are interested in presenting please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org by 9/24/15
2015 Ecological Society of America Conference (Baltimore, MD Aug 9-14, 2015)
The future of species distribution models: synthesizing across ecological disciplines and spatial scales in the face of climate change
Over the last century, ecologists have faced the challenge of describing and interpreting the dynamic processes that structure ecosystems from the smallest microbiota to entire biomes. Different subfields of ecology have contributed substantially to this task, with some ecologists documenting species interactions in local communities with great detail, and others studying large-scale biogeographic patterns. Despite studying relevant and interrelated processes, ecologists struggle to integrate and synthesize this knowledge across spatial scales. In the next 100 years, this synthesis becomes even more urgent as we aim to accurately predict the effects of global climate change on ecological systems. Attempts to tackle this issue have begun, with the development of a suite of niche models (e.g. bioclimatic envelope models, habitat suitability models, etc.) used to correlate species environmental requirements with their large-scale geographic distribution. However, these correlative models ignore important ecological knowledge about species natural history gained over decades of experiments and observational studies, the results of which show that biotic interactions can structure species distributions, and contribute to species persistence. This problematic deficiency has been noted and widely debated for the past decade. Arguably, the discussion should shift from whether or not biotic interactions are relevant to structuring species distributions, to at what scale do these patterns manifest and how do we integrate our understanding of processes acting at different spatial scales.
The fundamental challenge to addressing the role of biotic interactions is that it requires bridging theoretical, process-based models of species interaction networks with spatially explicit, correlative models of species geographic distributions. Further, available information to build these models ranges from individual-based, biophysical effects of climate change, to global occurrence records. Thus, bridging the gap between these two disciplines requires a synthesis of current methods and a conceptualization of how these methods can be integrated and applied, or what new methods are needed to better inform predictions of species’ response to climate change. We have invited speakers from a diversity of ecological disciplines in hope of sparking a discussion about the future of multi-species distribution models from both a conceptual and applied perspective. We specifically ask speakers to address what they think are the most pressing challenges to incorporating biotic interactions into spatially-explicit models and to improving the accuracy of predictions about the effects of climate change on ecological communities.
Defining the Garcia Lab has become increasingly difficult, but one thing that certainly unites us is our childlike excitement over searching for amphibians. The newest addition to the Garcia Lab, Danielle Nelson, is conducting bioacoustics research on Pacific chorus frogs (Pseudacris regilla). Last night we went out to William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge with her crew so she could record chorusing males. Not only did we come across some of the most adorable frogs and newts, but I got a reminder that trying to find specific individuals calling is like searching for a needle in a haystack.
We were also particularly excited to get our new waders in, although Evan's were rather large and I probably could've just hitched a ride in his. It's too bad I work in high elevation wetlands because my neoprene waders didn't come with the camouflage option...
Not only does this species of Darwin's frog (Rhinoderma darwinii) have a really unique morphology, but it also has two very unusual behaviors.
Males exhibit a mouth-brooding behavior wherein the tadpoles develop inside the male's vocal sac. They are direct developers, which means there is no free-living larval stage. Prior to hatching, the male gulps the eggs into his vocal sac where they remain past hatching and develop inside the vocal sac for upwards of 70 days! At the end of metamorphosis the froglets emerge and begin life among the leaf litter. This frog also has the unusual defensive strategy of playing dead when threatened; it rolls over on its back and remains motionless. If it is near a stream when frightened, it may jump into the stream and float in the water on its back!
Darwin's frogs were originally described by Darwin himself during the voyage of the HMS Beagle in Chile. They are currently distributed throughout Chile and Argentina, but have experienced significant population declines as a result of habitat loss, largely due to conversion of native forests to tree plantations.
Awesome series of videos by Arkive
For more information, check out Amphibiaweb!
Pelobatidae has only one extant Genus, Pelobates, which includes the four species of European spadefoot toads. The endangered Moroccan spadefoot toad (Pelobates varaldii), also known as Varaldi's spadefoot toad, has a fragmented distribution throughout northwestern Morocco. This species is highly threatened by a litany of habitat loss, invasive species, and agricultural pollution. Spadefoot toads have hardened protrusions on their feet which aid in digging and facilitate t are known for their burrowing abilities, this species in particular prefers sandy soil. They .
For more information check out Amphibiaweb!
Bombina is one of the most primitive Genera of amphibian species belonging to the family Bombinatoridae, which includes the fire-bellied toads. The Oriental fire-bellied toad, Bombina orientalis, is semi-aquatic frog species found in Korea, northeastern China and adjacent parts of Russia. They display their bright colors via an unken reflex as a warning to predators that they are highly toxic. Here are some examples of other species that exhibit the unken reflex...
The world's smallest known vertebrate, Paedophryne amauensis, is a frog species in the family Microhylidae discovered in the rain forests of Papua New Guinea by Chris Austin, curator of herpetology at LSU’s Museum of Natural Science. True to their name, they are certainly micro.
This "fly-sized beast" is only a hair smaller than the previous record holder -- a southeast Asian fish species Paedocypris progenetica, whose females measure about 7.9 millimeters.
From Newser.com: "At 0.27 inches long, Paedophryne amauensis is the smallest frog ever discovered and, by some measures, is the world's smallest vertebrate. The only smaller creature with a backbone is the male of a species of anglerfish, but they spend their lives fused to much larger females."
Wallace's flying frog (Rhacophorus nigropalmatus), was first collected along the Malay Peninsula by Alfred Russell Wallace, the famed back-up singer to Charles Darwin. The "father of biogeography", Wallace was considered to be one of the preeminent explorers and evolutionary thinkers of the 19th Century. Over the course of 8 years, Wallace undertook about 70 different expeditions throughout the Malay archipelago, collecting more than 125,660 specimens (at least 1,000 new to science), including those of R. nigropalmatus.
He continued his mindfulness on the causes of evolution throughout his expedition. He wrote and published an essay titled “On the Law which has Regulated the Introduction of New Species” (1855), which elucidated his belief in evolution and the relation between biogeography and evolutionary change. This paper was seen by Charles Lyell and Darwin, but Darwin took relatively little notice.
While suffering from a severe attack of malaria, Wallace unexpectedly connected the ideas of Thomas Malthus to evolutionary change. Thomas Malthus wrote on the limits to population growth that might ensure long-term organic change. This became the concept of “survival of the fittest”, in which those organisms that are best adapted to their local surroundings are seen to have a better chance of survival, and thus passing on their traits to progeny. Excited over his discovery, he put it into essay form and sent it to Charles Darwin (“On the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely from the Original Type”). His correspondence with Darwin over the past few years had maintained a shared interest in, what they deemed, “the species question”.
Little did Wallace know, Darwin had been entertaining similar ideas from his essay for upwards of 20 years, and now a threat to his superiority on the subject loomed. Darwin contacted Charles Lyell for advice and they agreed to present Wallace’s Essay, along with some unpublished fragments of Darwin’s writings, to the next meeting of the Linnaean Society on July 1, 1858 – without obtaining Wallace’s permission first!
Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published just 18 months later, ensuring the world’s introduction to the concept of natural selection through his eyes. Although Wallace remained in the highest ranks of scientific dialogue, from that point on (at least in the public eye) Darwin would overshadow Wallace in all things associated with selection theory.
BBC Video with a guy that sounds a lot like David Attenborough demonstrating the parachuting behavior of Wallace's flying frog. At 1:00 you can see it take flight!
Photo © Jodi J. Rowley/Australian Museum
Don't let their large eyes fool you, the Yin-Yang frog (Leptobrachium leucops) measures only 1.5 inches long! Discovered in 2011, this species is found in the upper elevations of the Langbian Plateau in southern Vietnam.
Stuart et al (2011) Zootaxa 2804: 25–40
Article: "Singing frog and 'walking' catfish among 126 new species discovered in Mekong basin – in pictures"
In honor of the resubmission of my Master's manuscript, today's amphibian o' the day is none other than the Long-toed salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum). My research stemmed off of some really interesting, yet anecdotal, natural history observations of this species.
But first, let's recap -- Because of extensive work by the Blaustein Lab on UV-B radiation and amphibians' physiological defenses (e.g. photolyase enzyme), we know that this species is both extremely sensitive to UV-B yet has minimal physiological defenses to curtail it's affects. That's where I came in! If this was true, how on earth does this species exist at some of the highest elevations, and consequently highest UV-B radiation levels, in the Cascade Mountains? My spidey-senses were tingling.
So I conducted a two part field study that compared oviposition behavior during the summer (high elevation) and winter (low elevation) breeding seasons to quantify the aforementioned anecdotal evidence that long-toed salamanders lay their eggs beneath UV-B protective substrates at high elevations. Additionally, I updated some of the lab methods from Blaustein et al.'s work from the 90's on photolyase activity in amphibians and, much to my dismay, donned a lab coat to see if there were population differences across elevations. What I found....which you should read about in my paper soon!...is that the extensive behavioral modifications of this species have essentially negated the need for an increased physiological response to UV-B.
Here's a picture I took of the eggs attached to the underside of a rock at one of the high elevation breeding sites.