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Amphibian Ambassadors

On the 27th October, Professor Amanda Bamford of the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, and I were invited special guests at a meeting in London of all the UK ambassadors of South and Central America. The meeting of the Group of Ambassadors of Latin America (GRULA) included a prestigious luncheon at the Intercontinental Hotel on Park Lane and a presentation by myself and Professor Bamford highlighting the outcomes that have materialised from the excellent relationship the University and Costa Rica have developed.


His Excellency Mr J. Enrique Castillo Barrantes, Prof. Amanda Bamford, and myself.

The special invitation follows years of important amphibian conservation work being carried out here at Manchester Museum as well as that in partnership with other collaborators, such as Bristol Zoo, Salford University, and Nordens Ark in Sweden. Also new link have been made through the more recent creation of a student field course in Costa Rica and a holistic environmental education initiative that has been developed.

The meeting, hosted by the Ambassador of Costa Rica, His Excellency Mr J. Enrique Castillo Barrantes, provided an excellent opportunity for us to show the University of Manchester’s commitment to developing effective international collaborations and potential in supporting teaching, research and world wide cooperation. His Excellency wholeheartedly thanked us saying ‘It was a great day for Costa Rica and its embassy in London. I am so proud that we can show the University of Manchester’s and Costa Rica’s commitment to science and environment protection’.

It really was a privilege to be invited as special guests to the meeting, a very special experience and one I will never forget. The opportunity to represent Manchester University and highlight the work we are able to do in respect of our collaborations with Costa Rica, and to also meet all the Ambassadors of Latin America, was such an honor. We greatly appreciate the relationship that we continue to build in support of all our joint Costa Rican efforts and hope our input at the meeting will facilitate many more opportunities for international collaboration and the development of academic links.

Professor Bamford says it was a unique occasion to present our work in Costa Rica; highlighting our collaborations with local schools, both in Costa Rica and Manchester. Importantly, we were able to showcase the University of Manchester students’ key role in developing many of the education resources used in our community environmental programmes.

Since the meeting several new developments have already started presenting themselves for the university, including the possibility of new student placement opportunities and research collaborations in other parts of Latin America.

Fit For The Crown


Male Anotheca spinosa © Matthew O’Donnell

One exciting species that we have been lucky enough to work with over the last couple of years is Anotheca spinosa a hylid frog found throughout Central America. Better known by its common name, the Coronated Tree frog is a rare species, little understood and understudied due to its cryptic nature.

These frogs spend the majority of their lives in and around tree hollows, they breed in these private ponds and even rear their tadpoles on a diet of unfertilised eggs. This means that they are infrequently observed in the wild and not a great deal is known about their behaviour.

One of the main reasons that we keep unusual species here in the Vivarium is to develop a greater understanding of their natural history, the more we know about these unique species the better equipped we will be to conserve them.

Myself and Adam recently published a previously unrecorded behaviour, observed in this species for the first time at Manchester Museum. We witnessed males using the bony crowns on their heads to combat each other, attempting to leaver each other out of the water filled tree hollow that they breed in.

Combative behaviour such as wrestling is witnessed in many species of amphibians especially in males competing against each other for the chance to breed. However the use of this species bony crown is something you would associate more with rutting stags rather than a tree frog!

For a more detailed account of our observations please follow this link, the note can be found in the most recent publication from Mesoamerican Herpetology and is free to access. You can also watch this combative behaviour in the short video clip below.


Combat behavior in captive male Coronated Treefrogs, Anotheca spinosa

The Coronated Tree Frog, Anotheca spinosa