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In Memory

It was with shock and great sadness that I learn’t a friend of mine passed away last week. He was buried yesterday. Ged Casserley was a very special person, very well liked by all who came into contact with him and someone I had the privilege to know.

His great interest in nature, his imagination, humour, and passion for achieving whatever he undertook resonated. I will remember Ged for the great excitement and interest he had for unusual creatures – from giant spiders to frogs with metallic eyes, from within caves in Barbados to faeries in his home studio. He would send me random emails with photographs of just amazing animals with such excitement it was impossible not to smile when I got the message in my inbox that said ‘Greetings from Saddleworth!’, and then be in awe when looking at what Ged had sent – usually with a message written in excitement for what he was sharing and also with such complimentary kind words in recognition of my work at the time.

I first met Ged not long after I first started at Manchester Museum and we instantly became friends. His enthusiasm was truly infectious. Ged was a great traditional artist, digital artist, musician, and herpetologist. He produced all the fabulous backgrounds to our public exhibits and the personal animals he provided to us include the beautiful green tree python we now have on public display.

Ged had a special place in his heart for Manchester Museum’s Vivarium. His positiveness, great encouragement and praise for all we are trying to achieve in the Vivarium has helped me greatly at times. He used to make me smile widely and I just loved his passion for the all things he was interested in. Ged was a gentleman, and a gentle man. He would graciously tip his head when saying ‘Bye bye now’, and sign off with ‘Til later..

Ged will be missed by all who knew him, for his kind unassuming manner, his great sense of humour, his unbounded enthusiasm for animals, art, and fantasy, and for just being him.

Til later Ged

Faeries

Saatchi Art

Connery in Saddleworth

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Flagged-Down in Vienna

Staurois latopalmatus

Staurois latopalmatus (c) George Madani

You don’t need to be a world-class gymnast, dancer or yogi to successfully articulate your intentions with your feet, you just need to be a species of foot-flagging frog!

This past weekend I was extremely fortunate to reconnect with my Bornean research roots and arrange a meeting with Dr. Doris Preininger, Scientific Associate at the astoundingly beautiful Schonbrunn Tiergarten Zoo.

I was taken into the Bornean gallery, which gave the very successful illusion that I had stepped out of the warm Viennese sun directly into the hothouse jungle.  Here, Dr. Preininger introduced me to her Bornean foot-flagging cohort, Staurois parvus and S. gutatta. I was thrilled to see the success Dr. Preininger has had with her foot-flagging frog breeding program, and the resulting tiny froglets symbolizing this success! These frogs communicate with one other over the roar of noisy streams and waterfalls found in their natural habitats using hind foot gestures, or flagging. Species of foot-flagging frogs are where Dr. Preininger has focused her work, and it was a pleasure to see the incredible gallery, and exhibits displaying all manner of native Bornean wildlife as well as these remarkable frog species.

 

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Unfortunately due to my excitement and the steamy conditions of the artificial jungle, I was unable to take any clear photos of the frogs themselves, so for these don’t hesitate to visit the links below to satisfy your curiosity!

Foot-Flagging Frogs      Frogs & Friends at Schonbrunn      Frogs of Borneo

Filming some Splendid Frogs

Hello frog blog readers! My name is Katie and I’m a filmmaker. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of filming at the Manchester vivarium.

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The newly described Sylvia’s Leaf Frog (Cruziohyla sylviae) ©Katie Garrett

I’ve always loved reptiles and amphibians and I’ve been working with Andrew to document his recent discoveries in the Cruziohyla genus, and the naming of Sylvia’s Leaf Frog as a new species.  I’ve worked a lot in Latin America and the leaf frogs have always caught my attention. In my opinion, Manchester holds many of the worlds most stunning frog species so it was an honour to be able to get up close and spend some time with them.

I’d like to share some pictures and a little teaser video, with some footage of the incredible frogs I was able to encounter.

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Lemur Leaf Frog (Agalychnis lemur) ©Katie Garrett

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Yellow-eyed Leaf Frog (Agalychnis annae) ©Katie Garrett

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Painted Tree Frog (Boana picturata) ©Katie Garrett

The video will focus on Andrew’s long journey of discovery, and the historic mix-up that has occurred within the genus Cruziohyla. We want to highlight the importance of museum collections and how they can help us to better understand and protect the living world around us. Here are a few clips – stay tuned for the full documentary!

Breeding Bonanza

Although my trip to Costa Rica has come to an end, there is still much work to be done. Including some exciting conservation collaborations and projects that I will be working on over the coming months, so stay tuned for more details.

I’m also keen to share some of my other Costa Rican adventures! One event which will stay with me for a very long time indeed, was our first night at the Costa Rican Amphibian Research Centre (CRARC). We were very fortunate to coincide our visit with a full moon and lots of rainfall, which are the perfect conditions to witness the explosive breeding behaviour of the gliding leaf frog (Agalychnis spurrelli).

Heading into the forest with Brain Kubicki, we were treated to many exciting finds (More posts to follow!), but his tip to return to the ponds just before dawn produced a definite herpetological highlight. Hundreds of individuals had formed huge aggregations around two large ponds, frogs that we had spotted earlier in the evening were now in full voice and the sights and sounds were incredible. This short video below showcases some of what I saw, enjoy!

 

Spurrell’s Leaf Frog                                           Leaf Frogs of the CRARC 

Mysterious markings

(A) C. sylviae (B) C. calcarifer (C) C. craspedopus

Sometimes the distinction between similar species can be quite minimal, with only the identification of tiny features separating them. However, as well as having an equal genetic difference separating all three Cruziohyla species, their individual visual characteristics are readily identifiable.

Unusual ventral markings found on the true Splendid Leaf Frog, C. calcarifer (c) A. Gray

A key morphological feature that has been described for the first time as part of the review of the genus Cruziohyla and the presentation of the new species has been the identification of unusual ventral markings only seen on the true Cruziohyla calcarifer.

Many other characters separate the three different species in this group of frogs, including their skin patterns, eardrum sizes, hands and feet, and of course their call. The unusual dark markings found on the undersides of the true splendid leaf frogs,  C. calcarifer, are a very unusual feature to be found on any frog. Further investigation is currently underway to try and determine their function.

https://biotaxa.org/Zootaxa/article/view/zootaxa.4450.4.1

Request complimentary copy of the paper

Amphibian Species of the World

New Splendid Species Discovered

New species discovery means iconic animal could be much closer to extinction than we thought!

Sylvia Gray holds Sylvia’s Tree Frog, Cruziohyla sylviae (c) University of Manchester

One of the world’s most spectacular frogs has remained under the radar of zoologists for almost 100 years. Sylvia’s Tree Frog, Cruziohyla sylviae sp n.was originally collected in Panama in 1925 but has remained confused with the Splendid Tree Frog, Cruziohyla calcarifer, ever since.

The discovery of the new species has been the accumulation of over 20 years work specialising in this unusual group of frogs from Central and South America, both in the wild and in the live amphibian collection at Manchester Museum. I am honored to have the pleasure of naming it after my beautiful first grandchild, Sylvia Beatrice Gray.

Sir David Attenborough with Sylvia’s Tree Frog at Manchester Museum (c) Andrew Gray

 

The discovery highlights that the original Splendid Tree Frog, first collected in 1902, remains much rarer than anyone ever realised. It is remarkable that such a distinctive new species has remained undetected for such a long time, but more importantly this work highlights that an assessment of the conservation needs for each species of Cruziohyla is also urgently required to ensure these amazing creatures are still around in another 100 years.

https://biotaxa.org/Zootaxa/article/view/zootaxa.4450.4.1

Request complimentary copy of the paper

Amphibian Species of the World

New lizards on display

Many of our visitors will know that the primary focus of the Vivarium collection supports our work with rare and endangered Central and South American frog species. However we also have a number of unusual reptile species on exhibit, which all have their own uniquely captivating appearances and behaviours.

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Indian Grass Lizard, Takydromus sexlineatus

Recent visitors to the Vivarium will have noticed an exciting change in our gallery, with the unveiling of our new Indian Grass Lizard (Takydromus sexlineatus) exhibit. These lizards, which are native to areas across Asia including  India, China, Thailand and Indonesia, have slightly prehensile tails which can grow up to three times the size of their body length.

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New Tea plantation and Indian grass lizard exhibit at Manchester Museum

They naturally occur in grasslands and have also adapted to live in agricultural areas, such as tea plantations. We were recently lucky enough to acquire our group from Chester Zoo, and our new exhibit, which replicates a corner of an Assam tea plantation,  is home from home for them. It features as our newest link to the upcoming South Asia Gallery, our stunning new development which will open in Manchester Museum in 2020.

Young Cone-headed Lizard, Takydromus sexlineatus, hatching behind the scenes at Manchester Museum (C) Katherine Majewski

This past spring a number of Vivarium visitors were lucky enough to witness one of our other lizard species, our Cone-headed Lizards (Laemanctus longipes), laying eggs within our large Amazonian exhibit. They were amazed at the sight. The eggs were taken out by us and incubated behind the scenes for safe keeping and this month we were thrilled to welcome a group of young cone-headed lizards into the world, and into our vivarium collection.

 

Find out more about Manchester Museum’s exciting new South Asia Gallery