Sunday, January 2, 2022
Thursday, November 4, 2021
Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Tuesday, July 13, 2021
|Drawf marsupial frog (Flectonotus fitzgeraldi) female with eggs on back. Photo by Renoir Auguste|
The dwarf marsupial frog is a small frog found in Trinidad, Tobago and Venezuela. It is a forest specialist species usually found in vegetation with closed canopy and near streams. They are called Marsupial frogs because the females carry their eggs in a pouch on their back, like the marsupials from Australia (that have the pouch by their belly).
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2004 regarded the dwarf marsupial frog as endangered. That status remained unchanged for 16 years. However, a team of researchers from Trinidad, Venezuela, UK, EU, & US compiled biological data done on the species in its respective range which provided important information for its conservation. Based on the surveys, the frog was found to be widely distributed across Trinidad, northeast Tobago and northeastern Venezuela. As such, the group, lead by professor Roger Downie from Glasgow University suggested that the conservation status be downgraded from Endangered to Least Concern.
This is an important milestone for this species based on the updated information provided by this study. However, further studies on number of individuals in its range are needed to continuously monitor the species, as it can potentially revert to its more threatened status because of climate change, habitat alteration and diseases because of its very specific habitat requirements.
Smith, J., Jowers, M.J., Auguste, R.J., Hoskisson, P., Beyts, C., Muir, G., Greener, M.S., Thornham, D., Byrne, I., Lehtinen, R., Eyre, M., Rutherford, M.G., Murphy, J.C., De Freitas, M., Rivas G.A., and Downie, J.R. 2021. The distribution and conservation status of the dwarf marsupial frog (Flectonotus fitzgeraldi) in Trinidad, Tobago and Venezuela. Amphibian and Reptile Conservation 15(1): 36-56.
Link to paper here: http://amphibian-reptile-conservation.org/pdfs/Volume/Vol_15_no_1/ARC_15_1_[General_Section]_36-56_e273.pdf
Wednesday, June 23, 2021
Saturday, May 8, 2021
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Tuesday, December 29, 2020
|Mourning gecko (Lepidodactylus lugubris). Photo by Adam Fifi|
Among exotic reptiles, lizards are the most abundant group introduced to new regions, and even to different countries. One particular group of lizards seem to drift far away from their native countries - Geckoes! No doubt, human facilitation through movement of goods and people have aided in the distribution of animals, including lizards.
Trinidad and Tobago has had at least a half a dozen lizards introduced to the country. Most of these have been Anolis lizards (at least 6 species). However geckoes are about halfway behind with at least 3 new species to the country. One of these is the mourning gecko (Lepidodactylus lugubris). The gecko was first reported on the citizen science application iNaturalist, and have subsequently been found by others across the country. This short natural history note documents their distribution in the scientific literature for the first time, and commends the efforts of persons that took photos and uploaded to iNaturalist.
If you don't use or are familiar with iNaturalist, it is highly recommended. Who knows, maybe you may photograph an animal in the country and it turns out to be a new record for the country!
Auguste, R.J., Fifi, A. 2020. Additional record of the invasive mourning gecko Lepidodactylus lugubris (Duméril and Bibron, 1836) from Trinidad and Tobago, with comments on citizen science observations. Herpetology Notes 13: 1111-1112 (link to pdf of paper here)
|Black-headed snake (Tantilla melanocephala). Photo by Renoir Auguste|
Previous studies have shown that some widespread species are in fact cryptic species - or species that resemble each other superficially, but are actually two or more different species. This aspect can have serious implications towards conservation of species, as each species has their own unique traits. Thus, studies examining the cryptic diversity in species is important for conservation management.
The black-headed snake (Tantilla melanocephala) is a widespread snake found across Central, and South America. It is also found on Trinidad and Tobago and southern Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean. A recent study examined the genetic materials and morphology of specimens from T&T and compared them to northern South American individuals. It was found that the populations on T&T are related to those on Venezuela - which is a common trait among many other species. Further studies are needed, but this one sets a landmark foundation to examine other individuals from across its range.
Jowers, M.J., Rivas, G.A., Jadin, R.C., Braswell, A.L., Auguste, R.J., Borzée, A., and Murphy, J.C. 2020. Unravelling the species diversity of a cryptozoic snake, Tantilla melanocephala, in its northern distribution with emphasis to the colonization of the Lesser Antilles. Amphibian and Reptile Conservation 14(3): 206-217 (pdf here)
Thursday, December 10, 2020
|Tobago Glass Frog (Hyalinobatrachium orientale tobagoense). Photo by Renoir Auguste|
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is a widely, credited source of species' conservation status across the world. Thousands of species have been assessed, many more (hundreds of) thousands are yet to. Trinidad and Tobago (currently) has 35 recognized species of amphibians, all Anurans or frogs and toads. All 35 species have been assessed on IUCN and their updated conservation status came out in the 2020 version 3 update. Local and international experts were consulted to provide information to assess each species.
From the new update, 30/35 (85%) species are listed as Least Concern, or not currently threatened with immediate extinction. One species is listed as Endangered, three as Vulnerable, and one Data Deficient.
The Endangered species is the golden tree frog (Phytotriades auratus). This species was previously listed as a Trinidad endemic frog and Critically Endangered, but the IUCN Amphibian SSC Group believes that its discovery in Venezuela warrants a lower threat level because of its wider distribution, despite its very restricted microhabitat.
The three Vulnerable species are all Tobago endemics: The Tobago stream frog (Mannophryne olmonae), Charlotteville litter frog (Pristimantis charlottevillensis), and Tobago glass frog (featured in photo above). The Vulnerable threat level was assigned given their restricted area of occupancy.
The one frog listed as Data Deficient, is the Tobago endemic Turpin's litter frog (Pristimantis turpinorum). Since its formal description in 2001, very little information is known about its biology, likely because of its very secretive habits, with too few specimens observed. This species is a prime example where research is needed to help provide much needed information about updating its conservation status, and prohibiting its potential extinction.
|Turpin's litter frog (Pristimantis turpinorum). Photo by Renoir Auguste|
More work needs to be done, but at least provisional efforts have contributed to us knowing more about these important animals, some of which can be found nowhere else in the world.
Links to some of the species' IUCN status:https://www.iucnredlist.org/
Monday, December 7, 2020
|Green iguana (Iguana iguana). Photo by Renoir Auguste|
The green iguana (Iguana iguana) is widely distributed (ubiquitous) across Trinidad and Tobago. It can be found in forests as well as in urban gardens and parks. In Trinidad and Tobago they are hunted for their meat. Although the green iguana is perhaps very abundance currently, there have been no targeted efforts to document its distribution and abundance locally. This perhaps may be because of different reasons, with lack of funding being one of them.
During the restrictions enforced by safety precautions for managing covid-19 spread, a call was made in April 2020 by the Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalists' Club Herpetology Group Leader to Club members and members of the public across urban areas in Trinidad to document green iguanas from their backyard. Persons were reached out mainly using social media. During the very short period, over a hundred iguanas were reported from across urban areas in Trinidad which was published in the international journal Reptiles and Amphibians. This rapid assessment illustrates how citizen science can contribute to ecological data in a short time frame with limited expenses. Hopefully, the data can be used to better manage exploited green iguanas in urban areas in Trinidad, and provide a baseline for future studies on the exploited reptile.
Auguste, R.J. 2020. Using citizen science to rapidly determine the distribution of exploited green iguanas (Iguana iguana) across urban Trinidad and Tobago. Reptiles & Amphibians 27(3): 419-421.
Link to paper here:https://journals.ku.edu/reptilesandamphibians/article/view/14859