Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Worm lizard produces vocal sounds

(White worm lizard, Amphisbaena alba. Photo by Renoir Auguste) || Many animals emit sounds to communicate. For example, frogs, birds, insects, and monkeys. However, with the exception of geckos, vocal sounds in reptiles is rare. A recent study has revealed that the white worm lizard (Amphisbaena alba) produces vocal sounds - the first in this species and worm lizards. The exact function of the vocal sounds still requires further examination, though it could likely be a defensive behaviour that these fossorial lizards use to communicate. This elusive lizard is found in Trinidad, and across South America. In Trinidad, it appears to be found mainly across the Northern Range. Link to the study can be found here.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

New study suggests that there are two species of green anacondas, not one

(Green Anaconda. Photo By John Murphy). A new study by Rivas and colleagues (2024) (link) has revealed that the green anaconda consists of two cryptic species that are genetically distinct. They are the the Northern Green Anaconda (Eunectes akayima s.p nov) and Southern Green Anaconda (Eunectes murinus). For those wondering what species we have in Trinidad, it is Eunectes akayima, the Northern Green Anaconda. Another updated species name for a herpetofauna found in the country. For more information, including distribution of the two species of green anacondas and morphological comparisons, full details of the study can be found here (link).

Monday, January 8, 2024

New lizard for Trinidad discovered in garden

Anolis lizards are widespread across the Caribbean and continental Americas. In Trinidad and Tobago, there is one confirmed plus one putative native species. All others are introduced species, all from other Caribbean islands. However, a recent discovery by S. George was made of a new lizard species record for the country - the grass anole (Anolis auratus). This species is native to South and Central America. The discovery was published in the local journal Living World, which can be found at the link here.

Saturday, January 6, 2024

Frog in Trinidad rediscovered after nearly thirty years

The Suriname toad (Pipa pipa) is an aquatic frog found across South America and on the island of Trinidad. The last reported documentation of the frog in Trinidad came in the 1990s. In 2023, local naturalists observed the frog in-situ in southern Trinidad. A link to the published natural history note can be found here.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Community science reveals new frog in Tobago for the first time

(Lesser dark-spotted thin-toed frog: Adenomera cf hylaedactyla. Photo by Renoir Auguste). || "Community science events like the Bioblitz and platforms like iNaturalist (iNaturalist.org) have great potential for not only educating the public about local wildlife, but increasing scientific knowledge of wildlife distribution". The following natural history note publication is another example of this, as a frog not officially reported for Tobago (but has been for Trinidad), was revealed to not only be present in Tobago, but apparently established as well, given that it was seen at four different locations, well over 10 km apart. The 2023 national Bioblitz at Buccoo Tobago inspired this discovery. We further advocate other naturalists to share photos of frogs and other wildlife across both islands, as they may turn out to be new records! Link to read the publication here. It is especially important to document frogs as they are the most threatened terrestrial vertebrate animals on Earth (link to previous blog and article here).

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Why we need to save and better protect amphibians

(Photo: Turpin's frog, Pristimantis turpinorum, mating pair, observed in Tobago. Photograph by Renoir J. Auguste). | A recent study published in the journal Nature has highlighted Ongoing declines for the world's amphibians in the face of emerging threats (link to open access paper here). It highlights 41% of the world's amphibians are threatened with extinction. "Amphibians are the vertebrate class more threatened than any other (more than mammals, birds, reptiles). Among the global threats impacting amphibians, climate change has emerged as one of the primary drivers of declines within the last two decades (2004 - 2022). The greatest concentrations of threatened amphibian species have been found to occur in (but not limited to) the Neotropics, including the Caribbean islands". From my general reading of the literature, amphibian species on islands can potentially be more vulnerable to global threats like climate change because of smaller ranges and specific microhabitat requirements. As noted in the study published in Nature, "scaled-up investment is urgently needed to help reduce current trends. In particular, increased political will and sufficient resource commitments are necessary for the conservation of amphibians". Unfortunately, from my point of view, there appears to be little resources geared towards amphibian conservation in some places, especially where they are needed the most such as in the Caribbean. This is a call to attention to all stakeholders (government, policy implementers, private companies, local community persons, ecotourists, NGOs) to commit to saving your local/native amphibians. Why? Amphibians are important to both the natural ecosystem, and to humans. Amphibians feed on a variety of insects, including ones we call pests, and are food to other animals. Amphibians are also of medical importance to people, based on research being carried out on the biochemisty of their skin. Important work and resoruces have gone towards tackling climate change issues towards human developed areas (example flooding), and on other vulnerable/important animals like bees, and hunted game mammals. However, this report clearly identifies that amphibian conservation efforts need improving. The time to act is now. Let's all work together towards protecting these amazing animals, because if the world lost all its frogs, there would be no world left for us humans.

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Deadly fungus detected in the Endangered Golden Tree Frog

Golden Tree Frog (Phytotriades auratus) from Trinidad. Photo by Rick Lehtinen. ||| The golden tree frog is found in Trinidad and Venezuela. It is a species restricted to mountain tops, and lives almost entirely in bromeliads on trees. This frog species is currently considered endangered by the IUCN, and is threatened by climate change and habitat degradation. However, a recent publication by Lehtinen, Borowsky, Auguste, Kosowsky and Richards-Zawacki in Herpetological Review 54(1) 2023 reports that the deadly chytrid fungal pathogen (Bd) was detected in individuals from El Tucuche in Trinidad. The chytrid fungus has been responsible for amphibian declines and extinctions across the world. This is a worrying find for the endnagered golden tree frog, and warrants urgent need for further monitoring and improved management on El Tucuche, but also on Cerro del Aripo where they are found on the island, as well as in Venezuela.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Nocturnal basking in a freshwater turtle from Trinidad

Scorpion mud turtle (Kinosternon scorpioides). Photo by Renoir Auguste. ||| A recent study was published and it assessed nocturnal basking in freshwater turtles from across the world, including surveys from Trinidad and Tobago. An incidental observation of nocturnal basking was recorded with the scorpion mud turtle in an urban area in southern Trinidad which was included in the global assessment. Further, surveys using wildlife cameras took place at Point-a-Pierre Wildfowl Trust to further evaluate whether turtles were basking at night, or only during the day. The only species caught on cameras were the non-native red-eared sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans; native to the United States), and they were only recorded basking during the day. Interestingly, globally, only tropical (but not temperate) species were observed basking at night, suggesting that environmental temperature plays a key role in this behaviour. It would be noteworthy if more observations of basking behaviour are recorded for the other freshwater turtle species in Trinidad. I encourage local herpers and herpetologists to keep an eye on the freshwater turtles near them, so we can use the information to better protect them! ||| Link to early view of study here.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Amphibians and their Conservation in Trinidad and Tobago

A new book has been published "The Conservation and Biogeography of Amphibians in the Caribbean". In it, Chapter 12 features an updated review of the "Amphibians and their conservation in Trinidad and Tobago". The book is edited by Neftali Rios-Lopez and Harold Heatwole, published by Pelagic Publishing. Summary of the book's description: An expansive and detailed review of the biology of Caribbean amphibians, considering their threats, conservation and outlook in a changing world. Amphibians are the group of vertebrates undergoing the fastest rate of extinction; it is urgent that we understand the causes of this and find means of protecting them. This landmark illustrated volume brings together the leading experts in the field. As well as offering an overview of the region as a whole, individual chapters are devoted to each island or island-group and the measures used to protect their amphibians through legislation or nature reserves. The biological background of insular biogeography, including its methods, analysis and results, is reviewed and applied specifically to the problems of Caribbean amphibians – this includes a re-examination of patterns and general ideas about the status of amphibians in the Anthropocene. The Conservation and Biogeography of Amphibians in the Caribbean offers an important baseline against which future amphibian conservation can be measured in the face of climate change, rising sea level and a burgeoning human population. The book can be bought on NHBS or Amazon. DOI: 10.53061/RCJP8789

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Another species name change for one of Trinidad's frog

(Banana tree dwelling frog, Boana platanera - formerly/most recently known as Boana xerophylla, from Trinidad. Photo by Renoir Auguste). There has once again been a change in the species name for one of Trinidad and Tobago's frogs. The species (and genus) name for this frog has gone through many changes. From Hyla crepitans - Hypsiboas crepitans - Boana crepitans - Boana xerophylla - now, it is Boana platanera for all populations north of the Orinoco Basin (including Trinidad and Tobago populations) based on updated genetic and call data (link to study here). This is no doubt a challenge to persons and organizations adapting and keeping up with the correct list of species names found here in the country. But these taxonomic changes do serve an important purpose as it sheds light on species diversity. It may not be surprising if the name chamges again, as more data comes through. But for now, the rattled-voice or emerald-eyed tree frog will be updated to be known as the Banana tree dwelling frog, Boana platanera, here, in Trinidad and Tobago.

Monday, October 3, 2022

Cloacal prolapse in a Trinidad frog

Photo of Emerald-eyed treefrog (Boana xerophylla) by Renoir Auguste. In the latest edition of the journal Herpetological Review 53(3) 2022: page 464, features a natural hsitory note documenting cloacal prolapse in a local frog found across Trinidad and Tobago. To learn more about it, see the link here. Click on Herpetological Review 53, under edition 3, natural history notes, download pdf, page 464.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Herping in Trinidad and Tobago (Part 1): Environmentally Sensitive Areas

(Aripo Savannas Environmentally Sensitive Area, Trinidad. Photo by Renoir Auguste). Currently, there are tree designated Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs) in Trinidad and Tobago: The Aripo Savannas, Matura, and Nariva Swamp. Each comprises a variety of hbitats, from savanna grassland, to wet forests, coastal beaches, and marsh swamps. Because of this, there are a high diversity of amphibians and reptiles. Example of some of the herpetofauna found in these ESAs can be found here and here. For local and international persons interested in seeing native herpetofauna, these three areas are highly recommended. Whether you want to see nesting leatherback turtles, venomous snakes, or a range of frog species, Trinidad's three ESAs are the places to visit. All three do require permits to enter from the Forestry Division of Trinidad and Tobago. For persons not familiar, hiring a guide is strongly recommended, and needed (for Matura beach). For more information on herping in Trinidad's three ESAs, do not hesitate to contact me. Stay tuned for a follow up post where I will highlight other areas in Trinidad and Tobago where herping would be must see places to check out!
(The venomous Bothrops atrox, Fer-de-lance, observed in Matura, Trinidad. Photo by Renoir Auguste).
(Rhinoclemmys punctularia, Painted-wood turtle, observed in Aripo Savannas, Trinidad. Photo by Renoir Auguste).
(Pseudis paradoxa, paradox frog, observed in Nariva Swamp, Trinidad. Photo by Renoir Auguste).