Surveying Amphibians in South West Georgia USA

For the past week I have been working alongside Mark Mandica and his team at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, which boasts an impressive collection of neotropical frogs much like our own in Manchester.

Temporary Amphibian breeding site in South Georgia, USA (c) Adam Bland

Temporary Amphibian breeding site in South Georgia, USA (c) Adam Bland

You don’t have to be in the tropics to find areas with amazing reptile and amphibian diversity, as I have found this week whilst assisting with field surveys of native species in south Georgia, which the Atlanta Botanical Gardens is heavily involved in. We recently travelled to the far South West of Georgia to a protected area that is home to many reptiles and amphibians.

This is one of the sites where the Gopher frog (Rana capito), one of Georgia’s most endangered amphibians, has been introduced using frogs raised at the botanical gardens.

Searching tortoise burrows for the endangered Gopher frog (Rana capito) using a specialised camera (c) Adam Bland

Searching tortoise burrows for the endangered Gopher frog (Rana capito) using a specialised camera (c) Adam Bland

Gopher frogs get their name because they spend the day hiding within the sandy burrows of the gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus). They emerge very early on in the year to breed in temporary breeding sites. This field study was aiming to record any early activity in the species.

The entire population of Gopher frogs at this site consists of introduced frogs which have only recently been recorded reproducing here.  Although we did not find any gopher frogs or their eggs on this trip, the technique used to search for them is incredibly fun!  We spent time during the day searching Gopher Tortoise burrows using a specialised camera that can reach deep into the burrows, which often resulted in confused tortoises looking back at us through the screen!

Spawn of the leopard frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus)

Spawn of the leopard frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus)

The temporary breeding sites used by the gopher frogs are also used by many other species which breed early on in the year. This is because by the time summer arrives, the temporary ponds here usually dry up.  Breeding early, even when its very cold means they all get a good head start, and in the water on the morning of the survey we found fresh spawn produced by leopard frogs (Lithobates sphenocephalus).

 

Banded Water Snake (Nerodia fasciata) South Georgia USA (c) Adam Bland

Banded Water Snake (Nerodia fasciata) South Georgia USA (c) Adam Bland

The edges of the pond that we surveyed teemed with tadpoles of at least three species of amphibian, and adult frogs could be heard calling throughout the entire day – and wheres there’s frogs, there’s frog eaters! We were also lucky to find a large banded water snake (Nerodia fasciata) curled up in a patch of sunlight on the forest floor.

This has definitely been one of the most amazing areas to search for amphibians, the diversity has been incredible and I haven’t even touched on the salamanders that we spent the rest of the day searching for!

Atlanta Botanical Gardens                    Salamanders in Atlanta

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One Response

  1. That was a great trip!

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