Playing dead!

Hi again, it’s Chris Ward. As part of my year in industry here in Jamaica I’m required to design and carry out my own research project. At the house where I am staying there are five cats. In these rural areas the spaying and neutering of cats is unheard of, which can result in large cat populations. This is good for the community as it helps to control the rat populations, but unfortunately it also has an effect on other forms of wildlife. Cats catch lizards and frogs on a daily basis, the occasional bird, or even bat.

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Dead or Alive? Jamaican Yellow-Bellied Frog (Eleutherodactylus pantone) (c) Chris Ward

One recent morning a cat brought in and was playing with a frog which to me certainly appeared to be dead. I took it from the cat to photograph and flipped it over a few times to get dorsal and ventral shots.  It remained limp and motionless throughout. However, when I came to put the frog down in its final resting place behind the house, to my surprise it promptly hopped off into the undergrowth!
DSC_1054[1]Death feigning is a commonly reported anti-predator strategy in anurans, but upon searching the literature I discovered that the behaviour had never previously been reported in this species. Furthermore, there have been few investigations into the influences governing death feigning behaviour so I decided to design a project to investigate it.
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The main focus of the project will be determine how frogs vary, and whether or not behaviours differ, between areas with different sized cat populations.Data collection involves running predator survey transects through study sites to provide relative abundances, collecting information on the environmental variables, and also putting in the hours to measure the frogs found during the night. The project has just begun and will continue over the next 3 months, when I’ll be happy to give you an update on the findings.
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