Matt, Majorca, and the Midwife!

Matt, my assistant, has just come back from a short break in Majorca where he went specifically to search for two particularly interesting reptiles and amphibians. Majorca doesn’t have many native species of wildlife, but apparently in 1979, whilst exploring the deep gorges of the Sierra de Tramuntana in western Majorca, scientists discovered a fossil of a species of midwife toad that was previously unknown from the island. A short time later some tadpoles of this ancient species of amphibian were found alive in a small mountain pool at the foot of the gorge. This brought about one of the biggest amphibian conservation efforts in recent history and the species, Alytes muletensis, was given official protection even before an adult specimen had ever been discovered. It was not long before conservationists who braved the deep gorges of Majorca found adults of the little toad that had evaded scientists for so long, now named the Majorcan midwife toad. After decades of conservation projects, Majorca now has 35 populations of its unique midwife toad, after several successful reintroduction. However, the presence of introduced Viperine water snakes still poses a threat to the species.  During Matt’s trip he visited several known areas where the species occurs. For the rest of this post, Matt will explain what he found on his trip:

“In one of the deepest gorges where the species is found I was only able to find tadpoles of the species, as it was not possible to progress further into the gorge without climbing gear. Thanks to local Herpetologist Samuel Pinya, I was able to visit a site on private property purchased by the Majorcan government. After a long hike we arrived at the small, artificial cistern that was filled with tadpoles of the toads. As Samuel knows the area, and all midwife toad populations in Majorca so well we uncovered 23 adult toads hiding beneath stones inside of the cistern. Each week Samuel visits this spot to measure, weigh and take further details from each specimen for his PhD thesis on the species. It was truly remarkable how this species has been able to recover from the brink of extinction, and furthermore, how it was able to evade scientists for so long.

During my week in Majorca I also visited three off shore islets which hold populations of Lilford’s wall lizard, an endemic species which is extinct on the main island of Majorca due to the introduction of predators, notably snakes, by the Romans several thousand years ago. The lizards on these islands are unbelievably tame, due to having no previous interaction with humans or predators. I was able to pay a local fisherman to take me to three different off shore islands where different subspecies of the lizard live. On one of the islands the lizards are small and black, whereas on another they are large and brown or an olive green colour. Just by sitting down on a rock, dozens of lizards come out to investigate what this new animal in their habitat might be. They are especially tame if you have anything edible with you, and will literally swarm over any piece of fruit or biscuit you might offer them!”

To watch a video of Matt showing how tame the Lizards are on Dragonera please click Here and Here

To watch a video of Matt showing Viperine snakes, which were introduced to the islands by the Romans,  and are the main threat to the Majorcan Midwife Toads, click Here

To watch a video of Samuel Pinya measuring the largest Midwife Toad ever to be found (440mm) please click Here.

Don’t forget that you can check out Matt’s own superb blog to read more of his trips to see different herps throughout Europe:   http://mwilsonherps.wordpress.com/

Advertisements

Phil your weekend…frogs or butterflies

The Manchester Museum is extremely busy at the moment, full of families with little ones enjoying themselves. The activities we are putting on  (http://www.museum.manchester.ac.uk/whatson/august/) seem to be going down extremely well, and today we have the frog session for the kids who are coming to the fully-booked screening of the film mentioned in the post below. It should be great fun.

Although I am not working this particular weekend, I just wanted to highlight a couple of things being offered by ourselves and other local Museum’s that should be well worth a visit, particularly for  families with children that are interested in nature and conservation.

The first is a special amphibian-related afternoon on Saturday (14th) at Liverpool Museum, where  there will be a number of fun frog activities in their natural history centre from 1pm – 4pm,  including badge making, mask making, drawing and colouring, frog puppets, and face painting for the kids. There will also be 3 live frog displays on show and during the day Phil Lewis will be sharing his experience with frogs in a talk to highlight the plight of amphibians and the need to support the Amphibian Ark.

For further details please contact World Museum Liverpool directly and see: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/events/wildwildworld_events.aspx#eventID385

Also on Saturday, a colleague here at Manchester Museum who is a professional entomologist (and who’s another Phil, Phil Rispin), will be running a butterfly-related afternoon in Victoria Park, Stretford, Manchester, between 1-3pm. This free event  is suitable for all ages and all equipment is being provided. All you need to do is go spot and identify butterflies in the park. Phil will be taking along museum specimens of all the species you could potentially come across for reference and will also be joined by Don Stenhouse, the Keeper of Entomology from Bolton Museum, who is top beetle expert. Don will be running a minibeast session, so even if the weather is not quite so good for butterflies there will still be plenty of insects to look for and discover. Meeting at the community building,  there will also be free refreshments kindly provided by the Friends of Victoria Park, Stretford (http://fovps.org.uk/)

Most people don’t realise that most British butterfly species are in decline, but I guess, like amphibians, their sensitivity to environmental change makes them very susceptible. To find out more about butterfly and moth conservation why not check out: http://www.butterfly-conservation.org/

Find out more about Insects through Dmitri’s Entomological Blog Here

Fantastic Frogs For Family Friendly Film Festival Fun

http://www.familyfriendlyfilmfestival.org.uk/production_details.aspx?id=148