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New species of the month: a Peruvian frog

Recently, a new species of frog from the genus Phrynopus was described. The twelve individuals used to describe Phrynopus inti were collected in six localities in and around the Pui Pui protected forest.

It joins 26 other species in the same genus, and has a similar niche to other small species of Phrynopus. Like most species in this genus, both males and females lack an eardrum. Males of this species do not have nuptial pads.

If the new species is to continue to thrive, its habitat needs to continue to be managed.

The original paper can be found here.

 

 

 

 

 

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Hope is the thing with baleen: lessons from a museum specimen

The first talk in the Life and Environment seminar series was by Dr Natalie Cooper from the Natural History Museum in London.

About the stranding

Over 100 years ago, a blue whale stranded in Wexford. She was found by a fisherman called Edward Wickham, and later bought by the Natural History Museum. She was  More information on the stranding can be found here.

The Museum staff later called her Hope, and in 2015 she replaced Dippy the dinosaur in Hintze Hall. Previously, her skeleton was in the Mammals Hall for 81 years.

Dr Natalie Cooper started working with Hope in 2015. Since then, it has been discovered that Hope stranded when she was 15 years old, and may have had a calf towards the end of her life. The team discovered this using stable isotope analysis.

Hope the blue whale in Hintze Hall

Photo description: Hope on display in Hintze Hall. ©Natural History Museum

What is stable isotope analysis, and what has it revealed about Hope? 

A few people suggested that Natalie use stable isotope analysis in order to find out more about Hope’s life.

The analysis has involved examining the proportions of carbon-12 (C-12) and carbon-13 (C-13) in Hope’s baleen plates. These plates grow constantly throughout a whale’s life, and are mode of keratin.

The data from Hope’s baleen starts when she was 7 years old. When she was young, there was a high proportion of carbon-13. This suggests that she was in warm waters. As she moved north to winter feeding grounds, the proportion of C-13 decreased. In her later years, the proportion of C-13 increased and showed little variation. This suggests that Hope was possibly pregnant and lactating during that time.

Thoughts on the talk, and how it might affect my career plans

I found Natalie’s talk very engaging, and her enthusiasm for the subject was clear. She explained carbon dating well, which can be a hard thing to achieve.

Having volunteered at the Natural History Museum in London and with cetaceans before, I was interested to see how to combine the two. Museum-based careers appeal to me as they seem to have a good mix of research, fieldwork, working indoors and public engagement.

 

Captive and Field Herpetology

This is based on a recent talk by Ben Owens at Bangor University Herpetological Society.

About the journal

During a recent trip which spanned six months and saw Ben Owens herping in 9 countries, the idea of the Captive and Field Herpetology journal was formed. As its name suggests, the journal is based around herpetological husbandry, natural history notes and captive and field observations.

A few months later (albeit later on than Ben expected) the first issue of Captive and Field Herpetology was published online. It covers a range of topics from Asian water monitor behaviour to breeding helmeted basilisk, and can be found here.

About the expeditions

Ben then went on to explain the expeditions that Captive and Field Herpetology runs. Alongside the online journal, the herpetofauna-based expeditions to a variety of places. For example, the next trip in November will go to India. They seem ideal for people wanting to gain experience in herpetology.

Personal thoughts

I found Ben’s recent talk very engaging. His passion for herpetology was clear.

It was interesting to learn more about how the journal was established, and about how labour-intensive the process was. Before this talk, I had given little consideration towards working in a scientific journal. However, I now realise that this is an area that interests me career-wise. Perhaps when I have some experience in the world of scientific publishing, I will follow in Ben’s footsteps and start a scientific journal.

Organising a wildlife-based expedition is something that I have recently been looking into. Captive and Field Herpetology’s expeditions are a source of inspiration for my own expedition planning.

Captive and Field Herpetology

The Captive & Field Herpetology logo. Credit: Captive & Field Herpetology.

Dispatches from a module

Welcome to 50% of one of my modules.

As part of the third year module Bio Enterprise and Employability, third year Bangor University students are set a blogging assignment. This is worth 50% of the module’s final mark.

Although many people choose to create a blog just for this module, I have decided to run it as a series at Barreleye Zoology.

So what will this series include?

  • Posts about the module’s sessions (Assessment Centres, Careers café, Dragons’ Den, CV Writing and Writing a Business Plan)
  • Posts about the module’s seminars 
  • Posts about relevant seminars, which may include talks from Bangor University Conservation Society, Bangor University Zoological Society and Bangor University Herpetological Society

In total, this series will be at least 10 posts long, with each post being 300-500 words long. Additionally, there will be a 1000-word long reflections post at the end of the module.

This series will be posted under the Bio Enterprise and Employability category. Normal blog posts will continue alongside this series.

I hope you enjoy this series, and that it will give you an insight into this module.

 

 

New species of the month: the Mediterranean’s smallest fish

Part of the Gobiidae, the most diverse fish family in the Mediterranean sea, Pomatoschistus nanus can measure as little as 23mm. It was first discovered by divers in Turkey, and joins 12 other species from the same genus.

Both DNA markers and morphological features were assessed to determine that P. nanus is a new species. The DNA samples were collected from fin clips, which showed the new species to be most closely related to P. bathiP. nanus has a markedly smaller body size than the other species in this genus.

Although this is a recently found species, its future may be in jeopardy as extinction risks of species in the Levantine basin increases. This discovery shows that there is still room for exploration of harder-to-reach fish in the Mediterranean.

 

The original paper can be found here.

 

The problem of chytrid fungus

The last Rabbs’ tree frog died exactly a year ago.

To mark this anniversary of the extinction of the Rabbs’ tree frog, this post will explore the origins, ecology and potential solutions to the problem of chytrid fungus. Before its extinction, wild populations of the frog were decimated by the fungus.

Chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) is thought to have originated from Africa, and spread to other regions via the pet trade. It is now found in six continents. Although B. dendrobatidis has a complex evolutionary history, it started infecting amphibians relatively recently. Therefore, it is considered to be an emerging pathogen.

Despite its devastating effects in terrestrial ecosystems, chytrid fungus may play an important role in aquatic ecosystems. For example, they are thought to decompose organic matter and be a food source for zooplankton.

Transmission of B. dendrobatidis occurs during its free-swimming flagellated zoophore stage. Each zoophore can swim at speeds of up to 2cm/day.  At this point in the life cycle of the fungus, microorganisms such as water fleas may consume it.

After its free-swimming stage, the zoophore becomes substrate dependent. This may happen after infecting a host, and is the reproductive stage of the fungus’ life cycle. Chytrid fungus can infect both adults and juveniles, and further research into its pathogenesis is needed.

Despite the gloomy outlook from the world of amphibian conservation, all is not lost. Treatments such as heat therapy and antifungal drugs are being developed, with the aim of eradicating chytrid from amphibian populations.

Research suggests that in order for treatment to be effective, multiple lines of attack will be needed.  As our knowledge of this fungus increases, our ability to lessen its devastating effects on amphibian populations may improve.

In the meantime, we can continue to admire and support the work of place like the El Valle Amphibian Conservation Centre.

 

References

Ecology of chytrid

Evolution of chytrid

Freshwater ecosystems and chytrid

Origins of chytrid

Treatment of chytrid

Water fleas and chytrid

 

 

They (probably) can’t tranquillise it

Time and time again, I see people suggesting using a tranquilliser in situations where animals (and often the people around them) are in danger. It is often suggested as an alternative to killing the animal.

However, there are a few reasons why using a tranquilliser may not be possible:

Lack of trained professionals on site. Aiming at a moving target is hard. Also, in many countries, dart guns are heavily regulated (for example, here’s a brief summary of the UK’s laws on dart guns).

People in the area. If the dart misses the target, it could prove fatal for anyone receiving the dose of tranquilliser.

Tranquillisers don’t work instantly. During the time in which the drug kicks in, the animal may become confused, angry and disorientated. This could place both the public and the animal in further danger.

These are general reasons why an animal cannot be tranquillised, and each situation in which lethal methods are used is unique. It’s always sad when an animal dies. However, sometimes it is unavoidable.