Monday, September 9, 2013

Frogs: Mantella of Madagascar

The most beautiful of all frogs...

Insects and birds do not have the monopoly over vivid and beautiful colors in the animal world; there are multitudes of fish which rival them in splendor, but not many people know that the dim, dark world of frogs and toads can also produce a few highly colored members which deserve to join the 'beautiful species' club.

The mantella of Madagascar is one of these brilliantly colored creatures. These are small frogs typically reaching 0.79–1.2 inches, with iridescent colors with combinations of black, blue, orange, yellow, and green - which reflect the toxic nature of their skins. Several species in the genus are threatened because of habitat loss and over-collection for the international pet trade.  Anyway, this small frog, which is only naturally found in Madagascar, is one of the most attractive species of frogs in the world. 

There used to be a lot of gaps in our knowledge concerning the mantella's habits and way of life, especially when reproduction is concerned.  Many years ago, I read how some zoologist brought back a mantilla in a box with a wet sponge inside to keep the air damp enough for the small animal.  Upon opening the box he found to his surprise that there were eggs stuck to the sponge.  He kept the eggs carefully; they hatched and duly turned into tiny tadpoles which eventually changed into adult mantellas.  Since there was no male in the box at the time the eggs were laid, he concluded that this particular species copulated, and that fertilization was internal, in contrast to that of other frogs.

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---End of Post "Frogs: Mantella of Madagascar"

Additional Link: Are all amphibians poisonous to some degree?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Capybara - Giant Rodent

The giant of the rodents...

The capybara looks more like a wild pig than a rodent, but it is in fact the largest representative of this important order, to which almost half the mammals belong.  The capybara is not a threatened species, though it is hunted for its meat and hide and also for a grease from its thick fatty skin which is used in the pharmaceutical trade.  They are very abundant in South America.

Capybaras, which are more like monster guinea pigs in appearance, depend on water since they are amphibious, aquatic-like animals and live on steep banks of major watercourses in tropical latitudes.  Like other rodents they are vegetarians, and feed on water plants and woody plants - gnawing their trunks in the same way as a beaver.  They are perfectly adapted to their aquatic life, as they swim and dive freely and can stay submerged quite a long time.  If disturbed, they invariably seek refuge by diving into the water, where they hide with their body completely submerged.

They are not nocturnal animals in the true sense, but because they are hunted fairly often, they have learned to be wary of humans (I can understand that) and only come out at dawn and dusk to browse.  By day they keep to their hideouts, which may be as elaborate as a deep burrow in a steep riverbank or as rudimentary as a hollow in an impenetrable thicket.  There is keen demand for this giant rodent's meat, which is tender and tasty - going by what I have read; I've never tried it nor wanted to eat it.  Outside of man, the jaguars and crocodiles are their primary enemies via nature.

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---End of Post "Capybara - Giant Rodent"

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