COSTA RICAN AMPHIBIAN HIGHLIGHTS CONTINUED…
Quite unlike the brazenly showy nature of the poison dart frogs featured on the previous page, many of the frog species we encountered rely heavily on their ability to camouflage in the leaf litter in order to prevent being spotted by predators. I spend much of my time in schools etc. showing children great examples of camouflage from within my own animal collection so it was brilliant to see some more examples first hand!
There is a single frog in the picture above and each of the following three pictures, all of them are central to the pictures which sadly makes them much easier to spot than they would be to a predatory animal scouring the ground surface looking for a meal!
These are a few of my other favourite frogs from the trip, all of them were absolutely beautiful!
As well as all of these amazing frogs we also met many cane toads aka marine toads (Rhinella marina) during our travels. This huge toad species has skin which is highly toxic to other animals and is native to much of Central and South America, where it feeds on large invertebrates and small to medium-sized rodents. It is however best known for the huge ecological issues it has caused in countries where it is not native, with Australia being the best known of these.
Cane toads were deliberately introduced to a few areas of Queensland in the 1930s in an attempt to control the populations of a couple of beetle species which were proving severely detrimental to sugar cane crops, but unfortunately (as with so many animal introductions intentional or otherwise) things did not quite go to plan. They have themselves had a severely detrimental effect on Australian ecosystems and are responsible for massive declines in the populations of many native species that die eating them as well as the poisoning of pets and humans.
They also cause the depletion of Australia’s native fauna which are preyed on by cane toads and reduced prey populations for native insectivores, such as many lizard species. It is a well-documented and ongoing ecological disaster in Australia but seeing them in their native habitat was actually a fantastic experience!
Another wonderful amphibian we encountered, one of Nick’s finds this time, was this absolutely beautiful striated salamander aka Cukra climbing salamander (Bolitoglossa striatula). I had never even heard of this species before but it really was absolutely beautiful, this picture most definitely does not do it justice at all!
True to its name it was found climbing in the low foliage in the rainforest in the grounds of Selva Verde Lodge, something I was very surprised by as I have always thought of salamanders as living on the ground and/or in water!
One final amphibian we encountered was a purple caecilian (Gymnopis multiplicata), a truly weird and wonderful creature. I had only ever seen caecilians in books and on TV documentaries so it was brilliant to see one in the flesh, the only sad thing was that this one was already dead when Nick found it on the forest floor.
Caecilians look superficially like giant earthworms but they are in fact legless burrowing amphibians with a strong skull and a pointed snout used to force their way through soil or mud. They have tiny eyes which are covered with skin to protect them whilst underground and they are truly bizarre creatures!