Clay Toads

Matt McElroy published his research on toad coloration. He studied disruptive coloration in toads (Rhinella alata) on Barro Colorado Island in Panama using clay models (see figure below). Matt determined that the highly polymorphic colors and color patterns of Rhinella toads are functionally cryptic. What’s the consequence for the toads? Lower predation rates by birds.


McElroy, M. T. 2015. easing apart crypsis and aposematism – evidence that disruptive coloration reduces predation on a noxious toad.
Biological Journal of the Linnean SocietyDOI: 10.1111/bij.12669.

Posted in Burke, Lab | Comments Off on Clay Toads

Visiting Researcher Václav Gvoždík

Vasek in the field with a dwarf crocodile.

Vasek in the field with a dwarf crocodile.

Phrynobatrachus auritus photo by Dan Portik. The common names for the species are “eared river frog” and “golden puddle frog”

Our collaborator from the Czech Republic, Dr. Václav Gvoždík (a.k.a. Vasek) from the Institute of Vertebrate Biology at the Czech Academy of Sciences is currently visiting the lab to collect SNP data for a new African frog phylogeography project. The project is focused on phylogeography of the “golden puddle frog” from across Central Africa. We have nearly 150 samples to work with of this wide-ranging species, which spans many of the significant riverine barriers in the Congo Forest. Vasek has studied a number of African frogs from East, West, and Central Africa using genetic methods, and he has also done work on tree frogs from across Europe. His main research interests are evolution, speciation and phylogenetic diversification of vertebrates using molecular-genetic approaches, and analyses of phenotype and biogeographic applications. You can read more about Vasek and his research at his website, including his current project focused on Amphibian diversification across sky-island and lowland rain forests in Africa.

Posted in Lab | Comments Off on Visiting Researcher Václav Gvoždík

Titanoboa: Monster Snake


Titanoboa is at the Burke Museum!

The exhibit includes a full-size replica of the giant snake, plus fossils, photos and videos that reconstruct Earth’s earliest-known rainforest and the lost world of life in the Paleocene following the demise of dinosaurs. We also have exhibit space devoted to snakes of Washington, Leonard’s research on Thamnophis population genetics on the San Juan Islands, and we are actively tanning snake skins in the exhibit. You can even watch the snake skin tanning process on a live webcam.

Posted in Burke | Comments Off on Titanoboa: Monster Snake

Herpetology Meetings in Reno

The 2015 herpetology meetings in Reno are coming to an end tonight. The meetings were awesome! There were lots of great talks, including those by Leonard, Sima, and Matt. We even had a chance to go and catch some local herps (Crotaphytus, Gambelia, Thamnophis, Sceloporus, Aspidoscelis, and Bufo). The local hosts were fantastic – Chris “Zuma” Feldman is a rockstar. If our car hadn’t broken down in the casino parking lot we could have made it to his awesome bbq.
Thanks to Leonard Jones for helping take this photo at the casino for my title slide!


Posted in Burke, Lab | Comments Off on Herpetology Meetings in Reno

Discovery of a Critically Endangered Salamander in Mexico

Screen Shot 2015-07-11 at 7.40.32 AMGraduate student Sima Bouzid has a new article in the journal Herpetological Review on the discovery of a new population of a critically endangered salamander (Bradytriton silus) in a remote region of Chiapas, Mexico. This rare species is known from just a few other localities in Mexico and Guatemala, and for nearly 30 years it was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 2009. The discovery of a new population in Chiapas shows that the species is more widespread than previously thought, and suggests that our knowledge of where B. silus occurs almost certainly does not represent the species full range.

Bouzid, NM, Rovito SM, Sanchez-Solis JF. 2015. Discovery of the Critically Endangered Finca Chiblac Salamander (Bradytriton silus) in Northern Chiapas, Mexico. Herpetological Review, 2015, 46(2), 186–187.

Posted in Burke, Lab | Comments Off on Discovery of a Critically Endangered Salamander in Mexico