Sunday, January 18, 2009


I am currently working on a new exhibit about amphibians. I have to suggest suitable live specimens, provide them, house them appropriately in the exhibit and provide copy for their labeling. An extra little twist last week was to provide some good photographs that our marketing department could use to publicize the exhibit. Not the usual thing for me but you have to understand neither our exhibits department or our marketing department are too keen on getting up close and personal with any of the critters in my care. Frogs and toads are not about posing to have their pictures taken and tend to jump about, so the marketing crew essentially whimped out and asked us to do it! Which is fine, I wouldn't want to do their job either so I don't have a problem with it.
My colleague Vincent, otherwise known as 'the bug man' is very good about lending a hand with things with backbones if I ask him. He is an extremely talented photographer who could easily make a career in photography if he ever fell out of love with invertebrates! He also has an enormous camera with dozens on buttons on it, and, most impressive of all, he knows how to use it! So he was an obvious choice as photographer for this shoot. The snag being of course that he had to have bright lights and still subjects to get decent photos, neither thing is particularly enjoyable for a frog or toad. Some people will 'slow things down' by putting the critter into a fridge for a while before photographing. I wasn't about to do that. So I was responsible for catching the wayward models and repositioning them when they hopped off! I think you will agree, Vincent did a fantastic job.

The Cuban Tree Frog Osteopilus septentrionalis was the most obliging of the models and struck the pose without too much coaxing.
This native to Cuba and neighboring Caribbean islands has become established in Southern States of North America. It is an invasive species and is now the largest species of Tree Frog in North America. Consuming native frogs and lizards and posing a threat to the biodiversity of the areas into which it spreads. It hitchhikes on vehicles or relocated soil and plants. The native green and squirrel tree frogs are rapidly disappearing due to its presence. This species of frog has a large appetite, it will eat insects, other frogs (even frogs of their own species), snakes, lizards, and young birds. They vary in colour from dark green to pale grey and will change colour depending on their environment. These noisy frogs have a call that sounds like the bark of a small dog! They have expanded pads on the ends of their toes that allow them to climb trees, shrubs, windows, and buildings. The presence of toe pads can help distinguish tree frogs from other frogs such as toads and aquatic frogs like bullfrogs. Cuban Tree Frogs have exceptionally large toe pads.

This is a baby Ornate Horned Frog Ceratophrys ornate who won everyone's hearts from the day he arrived! I am not sure whether people will still be so fond of him when he reaches full size.
This is one of several species of Horned Frog native to tropical and montane rain forests of Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. Due to their disproportionately large mouth and voracious appetite they are commonly referred to as Pac-man Frogs. Their upper eyelid is pulled up into a little point over the eye, forming the appearance of ‘horns’ from which they got their name. They move about very little, preferring to lie in ambush. They will swallow prey up to their own body size, they feed on frogs, lizards, snakes, rodents, birds or large insects or your fingers if you get too close! All of the horned frogs have enormous mouths and are highly predatory, even the tadpoles are highly carnivorous. This species of Horned Frog can grow up to five inches across.

I know - it's not a frog! But the name of the exhibit is Amazing Amphibians so that's OK! This is a Tiger Salamander Ambystoma tigrinum His name is Fat Boy and he is quite used to the spotlight as he has been used for publicity a number of times and been on TV.
The Tiger Salamander is the State Amphibian of Illinois, they are the largest land-dwelling salamander in the world. They emerge from their burrows at night to feed on worms, insects, frogs, and even other salamanders. Salamanders deposit their eggs in pools and ponds where they hatch into an aquatic larval form with large, external gills. Eventually the larva will lose its gills and emerge from the water, taking on the adult form. Some larva never metamorphosize into the adult form, they become sexually mature while in their larval form, this is called neoteny. The occurrence of neotenous forms is particularly common where terrestrial conditions are bad. These salamanders are relatively long lived reaching 12 to 15 years of age and in some cases even older.

This Cane Toad Bufo marinus was the most badly behaved of the models, maybe we should call it Naomi Cambell? He hopped around all over the place and every time I picked him up to reposition him he chattered at me furiously.
Also known as the Giant Neotropical Toad or Marine Toad, this is a large, terrestrial true toad native to Central and South America. Its reproductive success is partly because of opportunistic feeding: it has a diet, unusually, of both dead and living matter. Adults average 4 to 6 inches in length. Prinsen a toad kept as a pet in Sweden, is listed by the Guinness Book of Records as the largest recorded specimen weighing in at 5.8 lb with a length of 15 inches from snout to vent. The cane toad has numerous glands, when threatened, the Cane Toad secretes a milky-white fluid known as bufotoxin from these glands. Bufotoxin contains components that are toxic to many animals and the tadpoles are highly toxic to most animals if ingested. Because of its voracious appetite, the Cane Toad has been introduced to many regions of the Pacific and the Caribbean islands as a method of agricultural pest control, notably failing in the case of Australia in 1935, and derives its common name from its use against the Greyback Cane Beetle pests of sugar plantations.

Who gets your vote as Americas next Top Model?

Photo Credits - Vincent O


Louise said...

I think they are cuter than some of America's top models! Good work!

Anonymous said...

I love them all..I especially like the crabby looking one as I think it most resembles me..LOL...

gtyyup said...

Wonderful post...I'll have to go with the Tiger Salamander...he actually looks like he's smiling!

gel(Emerald Eyes) said...

no vote because I'm still learning.
Your frog and amphibian photos are a sight to behold. Fascinating. I learn a bunch when coming here. Brings back memories of when I contemplated being a biology major. (Yes, this artist(me) has a science background.)

Celeste said...

Louise - I agree :)

Ramblingwoods - The crabby one is funny!

Gttyup - Thats what we always think too! He definitely looks as if he is smiling.

Gel - Glad that you find my posts interesting. It is amazing how many different things there are to learn on different peoples blogs.