Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Frog Friend for Life

Six months ago I would have never given a second thought to a little green-brown amphibian hopping by or croaking in a nearby stream; now, after many night walks, day trips, and a week at San Gerardo Biological Station in El Bosque Eterno de los Niños, these creatures have become some of my favorite animals.
            At San Gerardo we learned about amphibian taxonomy, frog calls, and the global amphibian die-off in the 80’s and 90’s. I remember going out into the swamp at La Selva one night and hearing so many calls and layers of sound, yet being unable to identify any of the sources, and now I know that these were choruses of frog calls, often triggered by a few leaders within each species. I spent a week learning about aposematic coloration in lepidopteran larvae for my independent project, and now I know that aposematic signals can also take form as calls and promote Mullerian/Batesian mimicry through sound pathways. I knew that both female and male Oophaga pumilio participated in caring for their young, but I didn’t know that there were once gastric brooding frogs that would swallow eggs and eventually throw up babies. Frogs have come up with amazing adaptations that differ vastly from species to species. These creatures that rarely crossed my mind before now blow my mind again and again as I learn more about them. I thus found myself strangely empathetic to their plight during our discussion about the sudden, global amphibian decline. When coming up with ideas of what caused the species drop-off, people threw out some funny ones, such as “alien abduction”, which generated some much-needed laughter. But our topic was so dark that I found the welcomed laughter was almost harsh and a little jarring, and I was slightly taken aback by my reaction, surprised by how I cared.
            Images of the wide, captivating eyes of the critically endangered yellow-green Agalychnis lemur came to mind and I felt impassioned to determine what caused their death. My attitude towards amphibians is just one of many things that have been transformed for me during this program. After seeing/learning about over thirty species of fantastic frogs and toads, I’ve gained a deeper-seated desire to protect them. After seeing gorgeous wet, dry, pre-montane, Páramo forests, I’ve learned to despise deforestation. After my week at the San Geraldo station, I realized that I’ve changed want to try my best to practice conservation, wherever my future leads.
Jeanne Shi
Duke University

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