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Variety of Life Big Saturday

This Saturday (22nd May) is International Biodiversity Day: http://www.biodiversity-day.info/ and to celebrate, we are having a wonderful  Big Saturday event focusing on the amazing variety of life. The day will be bursting with activities for all ages.

Matt, Adam, Alicia and I will be in our discovery Centre from 11-4  with a host of our favourite reptiles, amphibians, and spiders for everyone to see. It would be great to meet you if you would like to come along and say hello and see some of our animals. Also, in the afternoon, I will giving two interactive talks between 1.30 and 2.30 on the diversity of reptiles and amphibians where I will be using a wide range of unusual animals from our Vivarium collection, including unusual snakes, lizards and frogs. During each talk you will be able to get up close to the animals and learn all about the many ways they have adapted to survive. All the talks and all the events we are putting on are completely free, so you just need to come along early and book on the day.

For further details, please see: http://www.museum.manchester.ac.uk/whatson/may/

If you can’t make it on Saturday, you can always still make a pledge International Year of Biodiversity or perhaps arrange to come visit us one afternoon during the week. On weekdays we also now have a special handling table in the Vivarium between 3 and 4 in the afternoon (pictured). The featured animals change on a daily basis and it is proving very popular with all our visitors. One of us is always on hand to answer any questions and, together with one of the voluteers from the Museum’s Volunteer Scheme, you can safely get close to some of our coolest  creatures.

Amazing frogs – one found, and one you can help save..

In the media today is featured an amazing new species of frog –  a long-nosed tree frog. What an amazing little frog this is! Don’t you think it’s so cool that many new species are still being discovered. For those who have not already heard about it, check out the Telegraph’s story: Scientists discover frog with inflatable nose  

However, me thinks that this is just half the story to be told. It really is such a pity that some of the other amazing frogs we already know about are not featured more heavily in the media. One such frog is Archey’s Frog (pictured).  Archey’s frog, from New Zealand, is almost indistinguishable from the fossilised remains of frogs that lived 150 million years ago, which has led to it being described as a “living fossil”. One of the world’s most primitive frogs, it has bizarre features such as tail-wagging muscles (despite having no tail to wag) and no eardrums. It therefore does not communicate by sound, but is instead is thought to employ scent. The male guards the eggs in moist nests (see photo below) and the tailed froglets that hatch out crawl onto the father’s back where they remain for several weeks whilst they develop (see bottom picture).

Unfortunately, the New Zealand Government is now asking for public submissions about their proposal to remove some of  the conservation land where this Critically Endangered frog still survives – to open it up for mining (coal, gold iron ore and rare minerals:(  The areas to be mined include several long-term frog monitoring sites where the frog populations have been continually monitored for over 40 years – representing the best data on frog populations anywhere in the world.

These Critically Endangered frogs (losing  88% of their population since 1996) are just about managing to survive on the very brink of extinction. However, without the help of people interested in their survival they will surely disappear if their habitat is depleted. If this happens we will not only lose the frogs, but also a piece of evolutionary history.

If you would like to find out more about how these amazing little frogs will be affected (including maps of distribution and proposed areas to be mined) please click here:http://www.nzfrogs.org/

For more information about the mining in Coromandel, where the frogs live, please click here: http://www.forestandbird.org.nz/saving-our-environment/threats-and-impacts-/mining-/mining-coromandel

If you care about these wonderful frogs please make a submission to the New Zealand Government by clicking here ….. http://www.forestandbird.org.nz/mining

Greece is the word

At the moment, Matt, one of my assitants, is on a herping trip in Greece. He’s been having a fantastic time and has come across many of the reptile and amphibian species he had really hoped to see, including  over 20 Ottoman vipers (Montivipera xanthina). In recent days he has been on Lemnos island where he has been observing Eastern spadefoot toads (Pelobates syriacus) at night. These toads use their back feet to dig into the soft substrate where they live. Below is cool video clip of one of the toads Matt filmed digging. For further clips and the latest update don’t forget to check out our ‘LIVE‘ section at the top of this page and for more info on Matt’s amazing trip, please check out his blog: http://mwilsonherps.wordpress.com/

Southern comfort

Just back into work after having had a short visit down south last week to see a good friend of mine. He lives in Kent, and the break , which was spent mainly walking in the beautiful countryside near Canterbury and pub lunching in the spring sun, was very relaxing.  One day we saw a beautiful female adder basking across a path and other highlights included seeing a stoat up close, different birds of prey, and some unusual frogs. We spent one morning on Romney Marsh, a large expanse of drained flatland that was once treacherous marshland. It has a bit of a strange feel to the place, almost as if those hung and drawn smugglers from bygone ages still haunt the place. However, it is home to some wonderful wildlife including populations of Marsh Frogs (Rana ridibunda). Apparently, a handful of specimens were first released in the south east in 1935 and within a few years they had spread. Today, they don’t seem to have spread much farther than Romney Marsh and also don’t seem to be in any direct competition with any native species there, which is a very good thing. They are stunning frogs though, spending most of their day calling and basking along the water’s edge ready to dive beneath the surface at the slightest disturbance. This makes them extremely difficult to observe and photograph, so I was particularly pleased to get the photo opposite of a male basking at the surface.

My friend and I also got to share lots of frog talk , as he is also very interested in amphibians and keeps and breeds White’s Treefrogs very successfully. He has a private collection which he has maintained in optimum conditions for many years and all his frogs are so tame that they all feed straight from his hand. It’s so funny to see them all perk up, come to the front of each vivarium, and turn their heads to follow all his movements when he walks in the room. One particularly old female (pictured) who lives a very comfortable life appears to have a permanent grin! 🙂

Apart from the way he keeps his animals, the other thing that never fails to impress me is his attitude to helping native species. Even though he only has quite a small garden he has really made the most of it. In my last post I mentioned about how to build a pond and how it supports local amphibians. Well, you don’t need lots of space to do this, and my friend has made a very small corner of his lawn into a shallow water holding area with the use of an old pond liner. He has aquatic grasses growing in it, and, although the water depth is less that 6 inches, it has frogs, toads and newts all breeding in there. Superb to see. He has even sealed of the bottom of some large planters and filled them with water and a few water lilies and grasses, and even these have tadpoles in there. Just goes to show what you can do with a bit of imagination to enhance your garden for attracting aquatic creatures.