Back to Cape of Good Hope for more frogging

16 May 2017

Back in Cape of Good Hope for some more Xenopus trapping

As we found quite a lot of Xenopus laevis when we trapped at Bordjiesdrif in February, I decided to go back and do some more trapping there and at Buffelsfontein Visitors Centre. 

The water levels in the Cape of Good Hope continue to get lower, and I've never seen GEPs looking so empty. A night heron flew away both times we visited, suggesting that opportunistic predators are taking advantage of the animals concentrated in a small space.

It was good to find Xenopus gilli at Bordjiesdrif, but only a single female was caught.

Thanks to the SANParks interns who accompanied me. Thanks also to Marisa de Kock for continuing to support the work on  Xenopus at the Cape of Good Hope section of Table Mountain National Park.

  Frogs  Xenopus

Radio interview on platanna hybrids

13 May 2017

Interview with Tim Neary on Sappi Nature Journal 

Tim was intrigued to learn more about platanna hybridisation following the publication of Furman et al (2017) and the buzz around that. He called early on Saturday to chat about the conservation consequences of the most recent findings.

  Frogs  Xenopus

Plenary for SEEC

04 May 2017

A plenary for the SEEC day of talks: 101 ways to conserve frogs

It was a great pleasure to give my perspective on frog conservation in the Western Cape to students and staff of the Centre for Statistics in Ecology, the Environment and Conservation (SEEC)

A great day of talks from the staff and students. 

My own talk centered on only 6 of the growing number of Cape frogs:

  Frogs  News

Goodbye Jen Fill

03 May 2017

Goodbye Jen!

It's been great having Jen Fill around as a post-doc (shared with Brian van Wilgen). We will all miss her vibrant and dynamic nature in the lab. Not to mention the stories of how to work the best fires...

Pictured above, Jen Fill with Dave and Corlia Richardson

  Lab  News

Hybridisation, Competition and Predation

02 May 2017

Hybridisation, Competition and Predation: threats to one species of Xenopus from another

The Cape platanna, Xenopus gilli, is not as well-known as its larger transcontinental invading sibling species, the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis). In fact, it is restricted to a small area in the far southwest of the continent where it shares its remaining and highly disturbed habitat with its much larger sibling. The extent of the habitat disturbance is so large that the IUCN has considered this species to be threatened since the 1980s. The most recent assessment suggests that the Cape platanna is Endangered, but that instead of the decline being fuelled by habitat loss, it is now the threat from hybridisation, competition and predation by the African clawed frog. Assessments of threats on the Red List most often result from discussions by teams of experts.

Two articles recently published in PeerJ and Scientific Reports by teams from the C·I·B have now clarified the nature of these threats.

It has been known since the 1970’s that the Cape platanna hybridises with the African clawed frog, and it has long been thought that back crossing of these hybrids represent a genetic threat to the Cape platanna, so called introgression.

In the first study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, C·I·B senior researcher, John Measey, and C·I·B visiting fellow Ben Evans and his students from McMaster University, compared samples of these two species from 1994 and 2014 to determine whether there have been any changes in the level of introgression over this 20 year period. In addition, they sampled in two areas, one where management removes the African clawed frog and another where they are left. Although, hybrids of these two species have previously been found in both areas, the team failed to find any evidence of introgression. This suggests that while hybridisation is a threat to the already limited numbers of individuals which are not mating with the correct species, the threat from genetic introgression is absent.

These same two sites also formed the basis for a second study which aimed to determine the level of competition between these two species through their diet. In this study, published in the journal PeerJ, John Measey, his students and collaborators at the Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig (Germany) found that the diet from the two species almost entirely overlapped. Surprisingly, at one site the majority of the food of both these aquatic predators were the tadpoles of other amphibians. This sort of anurophagy is more common in these frogs than previously reported.

In a rather grizzly surprise, these researchers even found an example of the larger African clawed frog with a small Cape platanna in its stomach! The study clearly showed that both competition and predation are important ways in which the African clawed frog impacts on the Cape platanna.

“Finding the smoking gun in the form of an ingested Cape platanna was really impressive” said Measey, “we often speculate about these things, but it’s rare to find examples. Now that we know that the impact of predation and competition is large, we can take steps to extend the programme of removing the large African clawed frog, thereby helping to conserve the Endangered Cape platanna.




To read the papers:

Furman, B., Cauret, C., Colby, G., Measey, J. & Evans, B.J. (2017) Limited genomic consequences of hybridization between two African clawed frogs, Xenopus gilli and X. laevis (Anura: Pipidae). Scientific Reports7(1):1091

Vogt S, de Villiers FA, Ihlow F, Rödder D, Measey J. (2017) Competition and feeding ecology in two sympatric Xenopus species (Anura: Pipidae) PeerJ 5:e3130.


  Frogs  Lab  Xenopus