Tag Archives: amphibian

Biodiversity challenge – Mallorcan midwife toad

Midwife crisis

No strings attached,
She said.
Now see how
Sticky shackles
Cramp his style
More than a tad.
Her long-term plan
Already hatched;
Not so, his heavy load.
Her fate, the open road,
No fixed abode,
A rolling toad;
Her mate, a little flat.

© Tim Knight and timknightwriter, 2015

Species profile: Mallorcan midwife toad

IUCN Red List Category: Vulnerable

Found only on the island of that name, the Mallorcan midwife toad was believed to have gone extinct 2000 years ago until several populations were discovered in remote mountain brooks in 1980. Like others in its genus, this toad has an unusual breeding strategy in that the females fight over the males, and the males carry the developing eggs, wrapped around their ankles in strings, until the tadpoles emerge. This declining species is down to around 500 breeding pairs and faces numerous threats to its survival. These include introduced predators like the viperine snake, and habitat loss resulting from pressure on water resources due to the growing numbers of tourists visiting the island.

Biodiversity challenge – Cave squeaker

1962: Bittersweet sixteen

Amphibian freak
Playing hide and seek
On a mountain peak
In Mozambique.
Cave-dwelling clique
Oozing frog mystique,
On a losing streak
Up troglodyte creek.
Signal weak,
Prognosis bleak.
No audible squeak,
Just a silent shriek.

© Tim Knight and timknightwriter, 2014.

Species profile: Cave squeaker

IUCN Red List Category: Critically Endangered

The only record of the cave squeaker is from 1962, when 16 frogs were collected from caves and sinkholes high in the Chimanimani Mountains on the border between Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Virtually nothing is known about the behaviour of this mysterious and elusive species or how it has adapted to its cave habitat. Other squeaker frog species undergo a complete metamorphosis from embryo to froglet without leaving the eggs, which are laid out of water in a damp location. In over 50 years of searching, scientists have failed to find a single cave squeaker, but the frog is small, inconspicuous and clearly very rare, so some hope of relocating it still remains. As a montane species, its long-term survival could be jeopardised by climate change.

Biodiversity challenge – Axolotl

Gills allowed (The Mexican who never grew up)

Spill the beans, amphibian Pedro Pan,
Can you resolve the mystery
Of your preternatural history?
Prince of perpetual adolescence;
Unfathomable underwater thwarter
Of senescence.
Does the essence
Of eternal youth
Come in a bottle
Labelled ‘axolotl’.
Gospel truth
Or propaganda,
Señor salamander?

© Tim Knight and timknightwriter, 2014

Species profile: Axolotl

IUCN Red List Category: Critically Endangered

The bizarre-looking axolotl, which was worshipped by the Aztecs as the physical embodiment of Xolotl, god of lightning and death, is native to the ancient system of deep-water channels and lakes around which Mexico’s capital has expanded. Axolotls are renowned for retaining juvenile characteristics into adulthood, a phenomenon known as neoteny. Unlike most other amphibians, axolotls lead entirely aquatic lives. They reproduce while still in the larval form, and never lose their external gills. Their ability to regrow limbs and organs has recently attracted a great deal of attention from the scientific community. Extinction in the wild is a very real possibility unless the last remaining water bodies to which axolotls are confined can be safeguarded against the deleterious effects of urban expansion. More info