Richard Branson calls for action to save amphibians

Richard Branson, the founder and CEO of Virgin, now a group of around 200 different corporations, leads a pretty busy life, switching between his enterpreneural existence and his adventurous activities, like kitesurfing across the Channel and travelling around the world in a hot-air balloon. Incredibly enough he has found time to express his worries about the amphibian extinction crisis on his personal blog.

He refers to the extinction crisis that amphibians in general and frogs in particular are facing and that this by no means is an isolated incident, but a worldwide problem. He calls for involvement of the public in saving the frog stating that they are “spectacular creatures that would be a huge loss to the earth if they became extinct.”

Of course I agree with this and it is very hopeful to see that some very influential people like Richard Branson are feeling committed to the amphibian cause. He has shown his commitment before by featuring in a video of the Prince Charles’ Rainforests Project pleading for a similar cause. I hope his words will be an inspiration for people to save these beautiful yet vulnerable creatures. 

Here is his original post; to view the links I refer you to the original blogpost. (more…)

Common pesticides ‘can kill frogs within an hour’

This week the Guardian reported about a research of the University of Koblenz-Landau in Germany that has found new evidence for the devastating impact that the widespread use of pesticides might have on amphibian populations. The lead researcher Carsten Brühl knew from his research experience that frogs readily take pesticides up through their permeable skin and he wanted to test how lethal the exposure to these pesticides actually is for these amphibians. Strangely enough pesticides are not required to be tested on amphibians and so hardly any study has looked at the impact on amphibian populations. Dr. Brühl found that applying pesticides to frogs at a dose that could very well occur in the field, caused massive mortality in these creatures. Even though it is already widely known that pesticides can cause harm to amphibians these results indicate once more that governments should try to restrict the use of these pesticides.

Red-eyed tree frog: on the IUCN Red List as are many amphibians. Credit: Peter Lilja/Getty Images

Red-eyed tree frog: on the IUCN Red List as are many amphibians. Credit: Peter Lilja/Getty Images







Here follows the original article: (more…)

Artificial ‘misting system’ allows vanished toad to be released back into the wild

I am very glad to start the new year (although we are already some weeks underway) with a successful conservation story and a very interesting one as well. The Kihanisi spray toad (Nectophrynoides asperginis), a dwarf toad the size of a human thumbnail,  was discovered as recently as 1996 in a microhabitat of two hectares at the base of Kihansi Falls in Tanzania. Although the size of its habitat was very small, there were 17.000 individuals to be found living in it. Unfortunately the species only survived eight more years in the wild, due to the construction of a hydroelectric dam, that reduced the spray on the species’ microhabitat and the infamous chytridiomycosis fungus. But this is not where the story ends: due to a captive population in Bronx Zoo that produced large numbers of offspring, reintroduction became soon possible. However, the hydroelectric dam still made the original unsuitable for survival of the species. To overcome this problem conservationists built an artificial mist system in the Kihansi Gorge to re-establish the spray zone that is so critical for the survival of the species. And so, in November of last year  the Kihansi spray toad was reintroduced to its original habitat that is now maintained by a man-made spray system. A very hopeful message comes from this, that we can use our technological skills to the benefit of another species as well.

Kihansi spray toad. Credit: Rhett. A. Butler

Kihansi spray toad. Credit: Rhett. A. Butler









Here I provide you with the original text of the article from


“We will not fight to save what we do not love”

In The Netherlands we have a saying which I probably shouldn’t translate directly into English, but for the purpose of this post I will do it anyway: “ what the farmer doesn’t know, he doesn’t eat”. Basically, as you might understand already, it’s about preferring that which is closest to what you already know. Our fear for the unknown and our fear of other cultures is very visible in our society where the finger of blame is often pointed at the foreigners. But this aversion of the exotic also extends to the species we choose to conserve and the ones we perhaps don’t find interesting enough. In the book ‘Life is good’ by Jeremy Hance he discusses in the chapter ‘ What if Noah had left behind the ugly ones’ the rationale of our preference for certain species in conservation efforts. And according  to research from Berta Martin-Lopez, a Spanish scientist, the best predictor of the willingness to pay of humans for a particular species is nothing else than the size of the eyes of a creature.  And the explanation for this comes from how we are fooled by our evolutionary response to babies.

The Axolotl, a neotenic salamander species. Credit: Wikipedia

The Axolotl, a neotenic salamander species. Credit: Wikipedia


Private reserve safeguards newly discovered frogs in Ecuadorian cloud forest

Now I would like to draw the attention to an interview that appeared on Mongabay with Jane Lyons, the owner of a private reserve in Ecuador, Reserva Las Gralarias home to a wide array of species, including a large number of amphibian species. This year two new species of frogs have been discovered within this reserve, including one glass frog new to science, Nymphargus lasgralarias, and the tree frog Hyloscirtus criptico. The latter species had been coincidentally found around the same time at another site and has been described together with Hyloscirtus princecharlesi  in a research paper in Zootaxa. Six more frog species have been found within the small reserve that appear to be new to science, although they haven’t been formally described yet. Suffices to say that there is an impressive number of amphibians present in Las Gralarias, a reserve of Chocó cloud forest in Ecuador, characterized by a high degree of endemism. In this interview Dr. Lyons emphasizes the importance of preserving this little-known ecosystem and the interconnectedness between this ecosystem, the global water cycle and our well-being. These people with so much passion for and knowledge of nature and willing to make personal sacrifices for the cause of conservation, are to be applauded.

The Las Gralarias glass frog is the world’s newest glass frog. Credit: Jaime Garcia


Vision Stimulates Courtship Calls in the Gray Tree Frog

And now for something completely different… In this blog I have been focusing on amphibian conservation and even on conservation biology in general. However, I have spent a great deal of my studies on animal behavior and therefore it is with great pleasure that I am posting news on frog behavior. Specifically the post is about the mating behavior of the Gray tree frog (Hyla versicolor);  recent research showed that males adjust the length and the frequency of their courtship calls on basis of the visual cues they receive from the female. Basically, the closer she gets, the harder he tries.

Gray tree frog. Credit: Wikipedia

Now follows the original article from Science Daily


The Dutch amphibian crisis: the case of the Fire salamander

Partly this blog draws its inspiration from the necessity I feel to report on the dwindling amphibian numbers throughout the world. Just one look at websites dedicated to amphibians, like the one of the Amphibian Specialist Group or the Amphibian Ark and it becomes clear that urgent action is needed with many species in peril. Luckily there already are some great initiatives focused on retrieving and studying the amphibians that need it most, like the search for the lost frogs. For a person living in the Netherlands the amphibian biodiversity crisis seems to play out mostly far away in African, Asian and Latin-American countries, where there is a huge variety of amphibians, still relatively pristine nature and as well a fast growing human population that puts considerable pressure on these natural values. However, Dutch people also have to fear that one of their most enigmatic amphibians, the Fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra), is threatened with extinction in our country.  This would mean losing something far more valuable than a small percentage on our spending budget, which is the talk of the town nowadays in my country.

The Fire salamander. Copyright: Wikipedia


Climate Change May Alter Amphibian Evolution

Last week the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute published a press release on their website highlighting the findings from a research on the pantless treefrog  (Dendropsophus ebraccatus) that is shifting its reproductive mode in response to climate change in Panama. The pantless treefrog can lay eggs both in water and out of the water with different benefits for both reproductive modes; however when eggs are laid out of the water they are susceptible to drying, so daily rains are necessary. The researched showed that rainfall has become less sporadic and less predictable in the last four decades and this species is opting more for laying eggs in the water because of this. The study shows that climate change is occurring in this region with some significant effects on reliability of rainfall and storms in the wet season and an effect therefore on survival of frog embryos.  Luckily the pantless treefrog is able to switch in its reproductive mode, but other species might not be so lucky.

Pantless tree frog. Credit: Wikipedia


Drought, Climate Change Impact Salamander Survival Rates

Because in this blog I want to highlight the impact of climate change on amphibian survival I just have to repost an article on the website of Science Daily on the impact of a severe drought in the US on survival rates of the Northern Dusky Salamander. Also because I am very happy not to report only on frogs and toads but as well on salamanders.

Here follows the original article:

On the heels of one the worst U.S. droughts in more than half a century, a new study raises questions about the future of one of the most integral members of stream ecosystems throughout the Southeast — the salamander.

The Northern Dusky Salamander. Copyright: Kristen Cecala


Heart of darkness revisited: rediscovery of four frog species in Itombwe Natural Reserve

Fieldwork in the Itombwe Natural Reserve , situated in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, has led to the rediscovery of four species that were described before only by a Belgian herpetologist working in the fourties and fifties of the past century in this area. The Itombwe Plateau is an area which is characterized by a high degree of endemism and is one of the most important sites for amphibians in the whole of Africa. Beside describing the rediscovery of these four amazing frog species, the article provides insight into the very practical difficulties that field biologists and conservations face whilst working in parts of Africa that are still dominated by atrocities.