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Filming some Splendid Frogs

Hello frog blog readers! My name is Katie and I’m a filmmaker. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of filming at the Manchester vivarium.


The newly described Sylvia’s Leaf Frog (Cruziohyla sylviae) ©Katie Garrett

I’ve always loved reptiles and amphibians and I’ve been working with Andrew to document his recent discoveries in the Cruziohyla genus, and the naming of Sylvia’s Leaf Frog as a new species.  I’ve worked a lot in Latin America and the leaf frogs have always caught my attention. In my opinion, Manchester holds many of the worlds most stunning frog species so it was an honour to be able to get up close and spend some time with them.

I’d like to share some pictures and a little teaser video, with some footage of the incredible frogs I was able to encounter.

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Lemur Leaf Frog (Agalychnis lemur) ©Katie Garrett


Yellow-eyed Leaf Frog (Agalychnis annae) ©Katie Garrett


Painted Tree Frog (Boana picturata) ©Katie Garrett

The video will focus on Andrew’s long journey of discovery, and the historic mix-up that has occurred within the genus Cruziohyla. We want to highlight the importance of museum collections and how they can help us to better understand and protect the living world around us. Here are a few clips – stay tuned for the full documentary!

Breeding Bonanza

Although my trip to Costa Rica has come to an end, there is still much work to be done. Including some exciting conservation collaborations and projects that I will be working on over the coming months, so stay tuned for more details.

I’m also keen to share some of my other Costa Rican adventures! One event which will stay with me for a very long time indeed, was our first night at the Costa Rican Amphibian Research Centre (CRARC). We were very fortunate to coincide our visit with a full moon and lots of rainfall, which are the perfect conditions to witness the explosive breeding behaviour of the gliding leaf frog (Agalychnis spurrelli).

Heading into the forest with Brain Kubicki, we were treated to many exciting finds (More posts to follow!), but his tip to return to the ponds just before dawn produced a definite herpetological highlight. Hundreds of individuals had formed huge aggregations around two large ponds, frogs that we had spotted earlier in the evening were now in full voice and the sights and sounds were incredible. This short video below showcases some of what I saw, enjoy!


Spurrell’s Leaf Frog                                           Leaf Frogs of the CRARC 

Mysterious markings

(A) C. sylviae (B) C. calcarifer (C) C. craspedopus

Sometimes the distinction between similar species can be quite minimal, with only the identification of tiny features separating them. However, as well as having an equal genetic difference separating all three Cruziohyla species, their individual visual characteristics are readily identifiable.

Unusual ventral markings found on the true Splendid Leaf Frog, C. calcarifer (c) A. Gray

A key morphological feature that has been described for the first time as part of the review of the genus Cruziohyla and the presentation of the new species has been the identification of unusual ventral markings only seen on the true Cruziohyla calcarifer.

Many other characters separate the three different species in this group of frogs, including their skin patterns, eardrum sizes, hands and feet, and of course their call. The unusual dark markings found on the undersides of the true splendid leaf frogs,  C. calcarifer, are a very unusual feature to be found on any frog. Further investigation is currently underway to try and determine their function.


Request complimentary copy of the paper

Amphibian Species of the World

New Splendid Species Discovered

New species discovery means iconic animal could be much closer to extinction than we thought!

Sylvia Gray holds Sylvia’s Tree Frog, Cruziohyla sylviae (c) University of Manchester

One of the world’s most spectacular frogs has remained under the radar of zoologists for almost 100 years. Sylvia’s Tree Frog, Cruziohyla sylviae sp n.was originally collected in Panama in 1925 but has remained confused with the Splendid Tree Frog, Cruziohyla calcarifer, ever since.

The discovery of the new species has been the accumulation of over 20 years work specialising in this unusual group of frogs from Central and South America, both in the wild and in the live amphibian collection at Manchester Museum. I am honored to have the pleasure of naming it after my beautiful first grandchild, Sylvia Beatrice Gray.

Sir David Attenborough with Sylvia’s Tree Frog at Manchester Museum (c) Andrew Gray


The discovery highlights that the original Splendid Tree Frog, first collected in 1902, remains much rarer than anyone ever realised. It is remarkable that such a distinctive new species has remained undetected for such a long time, but more importantly this work highlights that an assessment of the conservation needs for each species of Cruziohyla is also urgently required to ensure these amazing creatures are still around in another 100 years.


Request complimentary copy of the paper

Amphibian Species of the World

New lizards on display

Many of our visitors will know that the primary focus of the Vivarium collection supports our work with rare and endangered Central and South American frog species. However we also have a number of unusual reptile species on exhibit, which all have their own uniquely captivating appearances and behaviours.

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Indian Grass Lizard, Takydromus sexlineatus

Recent visitors to the Vivarium will have noticed an exciting change in our gallery, with the unveiling of our new Indian Grass Lizard (Takydromus sexlineatus) exhibit. These lizards, which are native to areas across Asia including  India, China, Thailand and Indonesia, have slightly prehensile tails which can grow up to three times the size of their body length.


New Tea plantation and Indian grass lizard exhibit at Manchester Museum

They naturally occur in grasslands and have also adapted to live in agricultural areas, such as tea plantations. We were recently lucky enough to acquire our group from Chester Zoo, and our new exhibit, which replicates a corner of an Assam tea plantation,  is home from home for them. It features as our newest link to the upcoming South Asia Gallery, our stunning new development which will open in Manchester Museum in 2020.

Young Cone-headed Lizard, Takydromus sexlineatus, hatching behind the scenes at Manchester Museum (C) Katherine Majewski

This past spring a number of Vivarium visitors were lucky enough to witness one of our other lizard species, our Cone-headed Lizards (Laemanctus longipes), laying eggs within our large Amazonian exhibit. They were amazed at the sight. The eggs were taken out by us and incubated behind the scenes for safe keeping and this month we were thrilled to welcome a group of young cone-headed lizards into the world, and into our vivarium collection.


Find out more about Manchester Museum’s exciting new South Asia Gallery

Beautiful badgers

Brock bottom

Loving La Selva


Looking good in wellies! This years staff and students © Alex Villegas

Over the last week, the University of Manchester field course has been based out of La Selva Biological Station, Heredia province. This world-renowned site for biological study has hosted researchers and students for over 50 years. It is a great experience for our students to be able to sample the atmosphere of one of the most productive field sites in the tropics, sharing tables with top researchers from around the world, and even watching some of the unfolding world cup with them!



Misfit leaf frog (Agalychnis saltator) © Matthew O’Donnell

Our week at Macaw lodge equipped everyone with the necessary skills to carry out their individual research project. I had my hands full with 8 students to supervise, but I can happily say they were great. It was very exciting to see the presentations and see just how well they all did. Projects ranged from poison frog abundance and environmental parameters, to measuring and comparing tree frogs from different habitats.

The diversity of amphibians and reptiles at La Selva is staggering, whilst we didn’t quite have as much rain as expected, we were still able to find a large range of species in abundance, enabling everyones work to run smoothly.


Me and Alex after a hard weeks work! © Alex Villegas

This week was also a great opportunity to work closely with my colleagues on the field course, Professor Amanda Bamford (Course leader), Alex Villegas (Swarovski Optik), Dmitri Logunov (Curator of Arthropods), and Frankie Elsner-Gearing (Demonstrator). From beta testing new University of Manchester software, to assisting with documenting orchid bees! I would like to extend my thanks to each of them, as their help and assistance was of great value to me during my 2 weeks on the field course. I would also like to thank, Andrew Gray, who’s trust and advice was invaluable for my participation, it was a great honour to represent Manchester Museum and the University, one I hope to repeat in the future.

A special mention must also go to the students, who were without exception a pleasure to work with. They were hardworking, professional and conducted themselves excellently across the whole two weeks. I would like to wish them every success for the future.

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