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Paper on Chinese Xenopus published

03 May 2019

African Clawed Frogs in China

Some of you may remember that I visited China in June last year (if not, see the blog post here). Today the resulting paper with my Chinese collaborator, Supen Wang, was published in BioInvasions Records.

There are a couple of interesting points about this new invasion:

1. It's the first reported for mainland China. Not surprising perhaps as China is the source of most of the pet Xenopus laevis that are pumped around the world at the moment (that was the subject of another paper - see here). 

2. This is the first report of an albino invasive population. All of the others around the globe feature the 'wild-type' African clawed frogs that most of you will be familiar with. However, in the pet trade, it is albinos that dominate.

Here's a piece I wrote for the CIB website


A new population of African clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis) has become established on mainland China, according to a new publication by C·I·B Core Team Member, John Measey. Working with colleagues from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Measey trapped a site near the city of Kunming, Yunnan Province. The African clawed frogs they found were all albinos, the most common form in the pet trade. Previous work by Measey had shown that the vast majority of African clawed frogs moving around the world in the pet trade originate from China.

Invasive populations of African clawed frogs are known from Europe, North and South America and were previously only known from Japan in Asia. This discovery now places an invasive population on continental Asia with the potential for a much larger invasion in this area. These frogs are known to heavily impact local amphibian and invertebrate populations.

Trade in the African clawed frog started in the 1930s following their use as the first pregnancy test. The species was so easy to keep that it then became the standard laboratory amphibian all over the world, a status it continues to enjoy today. Breeding in laboratories has become so successful that animals are no longer exported from South Africa. Since the 1980s, however, this species has become very popular in the pet trade. Now hundreds of thousands of animals are shipped around the globe destined to become aquarium pets.

The researchers used molecular methods to check whether members of the invasive population carried the fungal chytrid pathogen, known for decimating amphibian populations globally. All frogs caught tested negative. However, the site is known for having a population of American bull frogs, which the team heard calling as they set out the traps. It is unknown how these two globally invasive frogs interact.

The site is on the edge of Lake Kunming, possibly allowing these frogs access to a large are in southern China”, said Measey. “We were surprised to find an established population as this area fell outside the global climate model predicting suitable areas.

Read the full article here:

Wang, S., Hong, Y. and Measey, J. 2019. An established population of African clawed frogs, Xenopus laevis(Daudin, 1802), in mainland China. BioInvasions Records (2019) Volume 8, Issue 2: 457-464. DOI 10.3391/bir.2019.8.2.29.

  Frogs  Lab  Xenopus

Killer tadpoles threaten Andaman archipelago’s native frog species

11 April 2019

Popular article on killer tadpoles

Nitya’s prize winning popular article has finally come out in The Conversation. The article, which covers the content of Nitya’s recent paper in Biological Invasions.

You may remember that at the CIB Annual Research Meeting, Nitya won the prize for the best PhD popular article. His cash prize enables him to go to an international meeting, and he's chosen to go and present at the 3rd Island Biology conference on La Réunion in July 2019. 


Note Nitya's new tag-line is as a post-doc at Stellenbosch University. Yes, Dr Nitya graduated, and you can read about that day here.

Perinchery, A. Indian bullfrogs take to invasive behaviour early in Andamans. The Hindu.

Mohanty, N. (2019) Killer tadpoles threaten Andaman archipelago’s native frog species. The Conversation.

and an article on the CIB website:

  Frogs  Lab  prizes

Nitya's big day

05 April 2019

Graduation day for Dr Nitya Prakesh Mohanty & Kirstin Stephens MSc

Graduation day is a a scarlet affair for PhD graduands at Stellenbosch University. Here is the recently hooded Dr Mohanty:

Here's what I had to read:

“Mister Vice-Chancellor”

Responding to novel invasions requires the collection of key variables. This work used the invasion of non-native Indian bullfrogs on the Andaman Islands to pioneer new methods in determining the time of colonisation, modes of dispersal and spread rates. Quantifying the impact allowed development of a model to predict potential international impact.

I request you to confer the degree on Nitya Prakesh Mohanty.

A hall full of graduands. The first two rows contain all the PhDs in scarlet. Behind them the MScs and at the back Honours and BScs. Can you see Nitya checking his phone in the front row?

Also graduating today was Kirstin Stephens MSc (cum laude) who is an honorary member of the MeaseyLab as I co-supervised her study with Jaco le Roux. Sadly, we didn't manage to get a pic with Kirstin after the big event, but here's one snapped by her mum.

Congratulations to you both!

Mohanty, N.P. 2019. The invasive Indian bullfrog Hoplobatrachus tigerinus on the Andaman Islands: Evaluating drivers of distribution, density, and trophic impact of an early stage invader. PhD Thesis. Stellenbosch University

Stephens, K. 2019. Impacts of invasive birds: assessing the incidence and extent of hybridization between invasive Mallard Ducks (Anas platyrhynchos) and native Yellow-billed Ducks (Anas undulata) in South Africa. MSc Thesis. Stellenbosch University

  Frogs  Lab

Prolific Nitya knocks out another

03 April 2019

No Survival! Nitya finds that native tadpoles don't last more than a week

In a new study published today by Nitya Mohanty & colleague, an enclosure experiment shows how native amphibians from the biodiverse Andaman Islands don't stand a chance in the presence of the Indian Bullfrog. Mohanty used paddling pools as enclosures for freshly laid amphibian eggs in the wet season of these paradise islands. After the first week, Nitya noticed that nearly all of the native tadpoles that had been placed in pools with invasive Indian Bullfrogs had been eaten. He already knew that Indian Bullfrogs had carnivorous tadpoles, but he didn't expect them to be this voracious. Even in pools with only Indian Bullfrog tadpoles, the numbers quickly reduced so that only a few were left. 

After many weeks of endless rain, lots of measurements and tadpole watching, Nitya's results showed that in the absence of Indian Bullfrogs, the local tadpoles did fine, all metamorphosing with minimal problems. However, when Indian Bullfrog tadpoles were present, there was simply no survival.

Above you can see Nitya by his pools in the stunning grounds of the marvellous Andaman & Nicobar Environmental Team (ANET) in Wandoor, South Andaman (click here for a map). 

You can read all about Nitya's study in this excellent new paper:

And when he's not busy watching tadpoles, you can always find Nitya sucking on a nut...

Read the latest research at:

Mohanty, N.P. & Measey, J. (in press) No survival of native larval frogs in the presence of invasive Indian bullfrog Hoplobatrachus tigerinus tadpoles Biological Invasions  DOI: 10.1007%2Fs10530-019-01985-z pdf


5 years working at the CIB

31 March 2019

Celebrating 5 years of working at the CIB

It was on the 1st April 2014 that I started working at Stellenbosch University in the Centre for Invasion Biology hub. At the time, I knew that it was a great opportunity to work in one of the foremost research centres of South Africa. Now I know that it’s the best place to work on biological invasions the world over, and I here I’m going to share with you 5 reasons why the CIB is the best place that I’ve ever worked:

  1. A fab team

The Centre for Invasion Biology has the most amazing Core Team of invasion biologists all over South Africa. I’ve collaborated with quite a few of them, and it’s always a pleasure. The team encompasses those who are specialised in ecology, restoration, conservation, mathematics and social science. Together they make up the invasion scientists needed to tackle invasions anywhere. They cover a wide array of taxonomic groups, remain flexible to studying a whole lot more, and are keen to collaborate and interact with each other.

  1. A wider group of associates and alumni

The CIB has an amazing global extended network that is really important to provide context and perspective to work done in South Africa. These people contribute to some of the more ambitious projects on global invasions for which the CIB has now become world renowned. Annual workshops and meetings, inclusions on ideas and initiatives. Our associates are an exceptional ‘go to’ group, and we appreciate their input on many of our projects.

  1. Our students and post-docs

We wouldn’t be much without our excellent and hard-working students and post-docs. Working at a Centre of Excellence is no place for slackers, and our students become global leaders in invasion science. We try our best to put them at the centre of everything that we do, but we expect a lot from them, and it’s amazing how well they deliver.

  1. Our administrative and technical team

Too often, I hear other researchers moaning about the ever increasing administrative burden that universities, museums and institutes place upon researchers who are already working over any reasonable capacity. In the CIB hub, we are buffered from this by our wonderful administrative and technical staff. In particular, it’s important to mention Christy Momberg who always goes the extra mile for my students and visiting researchers. Our administrative and technical staff really are responsible for a great deal of the success of the CIB. We certainly couldn’t do it without them.

  1. The ever growing and fascinating problem of invasive species

Let’s not forget the plants and animals that inspire us. They are amazing and constantly fill us with surprises. South Africa is home to the most amazing diversity, and to top that has a bewildering array of invasions that keep us busy every day.

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