Ornate Burrowing Frog
Platyplectrum ornatum

One of the great things about living in the information age is how easily you can get feedback from others.   I originally identified these unseen frogs as the calls of the Striped Marsh Frog (Limnodynastes peronii) based on listening to recordings on David Stewart's wonderful frog call CD.   But in looking at range maps I started to wonder if maybe I was outside the range of L. peronii, so I posted this recording on the Facebook Australian R&A Identification group and got an answer almost immediately!   Listening to the recordings, I think I've finally got the correct ID.

The Ornate Burrowing Frog or Ornate Frog (Platyplectrum ornatum) is a stubby little frog found in a wide area the northern and eastern coasts of Australia from Central New South Wales to northernmost Western Australia.  It can apparently be found in a variety of semi-open habitats where there are sandy soils.  It spends most of its life burrowed beneath the sand only emerging during wet periods.




One night while recording frogs in a cane field area near Miallo, Queensland, I recorded this a loud frog call I didn't know.  It was a loud "knocking" sound heard over the background calls of the Australian Rocket Frogs (Litoria nasuta).   Most descriptions of this call refer to it as a metallic "unk".


Ornate Burrowing Frog Calls - Miallo, Queensland


The photo shown here was taken several years before near the town of Chillagoe, further inland from where this recording was made.

 © Chris Harrison 2014 & 2020

Eastern Central American Treefrog
Smilisca manisorum



The widespread "Mexican Treefrog" (Smilisca baudinii) is one of the best known anuran denizens of much of tropical Mexico and Central America.  It even gets up as far as the southern tip of Texas.  Even though it is widespread and very common over much of its range, it's identity as a single species is not clear.  Over the years several studies have proposed that these populations represent not a single species but a complex of multiple species.

A recent study published in the journal of MesoAmerican Herpetology has resurrected one of these species, Smilisca manisorum, that was first described in 1954 by Edward Taylor.   The population is question occurs from the eastern Caribbean lowland mesic forests from the Mosquito Coast of Honduras down through the caribbean lowlands of Costa Rica.   It is regarded as a different species from the populations on the Pacific versant of Central America.

This study separated S. manisorum from S. baudinii populations on the west coast of Central America by a series of morphological characteristics including "its consistently larger adult size, the long and flat inner metatarsal tubercle, and the increased hind limb webbing".  The paper has illustrations of these characters and the authors also collected tissues for future molecular studies.

My concern, of course, is simply did I get a new lifer!???

This Treefrog from Cano Negro, Costa Rica could fall in the area potentially inhabited by Smilisca manisorum.  Although the ranges are not completely worked out, this part of Costa Rica seems to be more affiliated with the Atlantic versant of Costa Rica than the Pacific, from which it is separated by the Guanacaste Mountains.

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Maccranie, et al. (2017) also suggest that the populations from the El Petén region of Guatemala may also represent a different species previously described as Hyla pansosana but they do not elevate that species in their publication.   That leaves me curious about the "smilisca complex" frogs I have seen in southern Campeche which is adjacent to and contiguous with that Petén habitat, but that post will have to wait until the species is elevated.

McCranie, J. R. 2017. Morphological and systematic comments on the Caribbean lowland population of Smilisca baudinii (Anura: Hylidae: Hylinae) in northeastern Honduras, with the resurrection of Hyla manisorum Taylor. Mesoamerican Herpetology 4: 513–526.

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© Chris Harrison 2020

Lifelist Update for January 2019

Spent Christmas 2018 on a holiday trip to Trinidad and Tobago.  Didn't spend much time recording frogs but I did get to add a few species to my recording lifelist.

Eastern Glass Frog (Hyalinobatrachium orientale) - new species (added in July)
Mount Tucuche Tree Frog (Flectonotus fitzgeraldi) - new species (added in May)
Smooth-skinned Ditch Frog (Leptodactylus validus) - new species
Whistling Grass Frog (Leptodactylus fuscus) - new species
Trinidad Poison Frog (Mannophryne trinitatis) - new species
Tobago Poison Frog (Mannophryne olmonae) - new species
Urich's Leaf Litter Frog (Pristimantis urichi) - new species
Rusty Treefrog (Boana boans) - new species

So, a bit of updating to the lifelist means it looks like this....


Family Genus Number of species recorded so far
Bufonidae


Anaxyrus
10

Incilius
3

Rhinella
2



Hylidae


Acris
3

Boana
1

Dendropsophus
1

Hyla
8

Pseudacris
6

Osteopilus
1

Scinax
2

Smilisca
2

Triprion
1



Pelodryadidae

Litoria
6

Nyctimystes
1

Ranoidea
4



Microhylidae

Austrochaperina
2

Hypopachus
1

Gastrophryne
2



Myobatrachidae

Crinia
1

Limnodynastes
1

Platyplectrum
1
Craugastoridae

Craugastor
1

Pristimantis
1

Eleutherodactylidae

Diasporus
1

Eleutherodactylus
9



Centrolenidae

Hyalinobatrachium
2



Leptodactylidae

Leptodactylus
6



Ranidae

Lithobates
8



Dendrobatidae

Oophaga
1



Hemiphractidae

Flectonotus
1



Aromobatidae

Mannophryne
2



Rhinophrynidae

Rhinophrynus
1



Scaphiopodidae

Scaphiopus
2

Spea
2

Total # Families = 15

Total # Genera = 34
Total # Species = 95


© Chris Harrison 2019

Tobago Poison Frog
Mannophryne olmanae


The Tobago Poison Frog (Mannophryne olmanae) is a small ground-dwelling frog found along rocky stream beds of the island of Tobago.   It has a very small range and is only known from the northeastern corner of this small island.  It is also known by the rather quaint name of Bloody Bay Stream Frog due to the fact that is found near Bloody Bay (named for a bloody battle between English soldiers and African slaves in 1771 that turned the bay red with blood!).  Tobago Poison Frog is a little less colorful but may be more descriptive of where they are found. 😉 


Unfortunately, although I was able to hear some of these little frogs calling along the roadside one afternoon, I was not able to see the individual frogs.  So the only photo I have to share is the photo of the roadside stream/waterfall area where they were calling. 😢  They were calling from above this rocky wall out of sight and inaccessible to me.

The call of the Tobago Poison Frog is a cricket-like chirping similar to the call of it's sister species from Trinidad (Mannophryne trinitatis).  When you hear them calling in a chorus like this, it sounds a bit like a squeaky metal wheel -



Next trip to Tobago, I need to actually see one of these little guys!
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© Chris Harrison 2019

Mount Tucuche Tree Frog
Flectonotus fitzgeraldi


When I'm out traveling looking for birds and herps, I often stumble across an unusual sound I don't recognize and I will record it to try and figure out if it was a new frog or something else.  

Such was the case with this frog.  I saw this tiny treefrog I saw sitting on a leaf one night while on a night walk at the Asa Wright Nature Center.  I couldn't get any closer because it was on a leaf below me on a steep hillside off the road.   So I grabbed the only shot I could.   At the time, I figured it was one of the small treefrog species from Trinidad but they are tough to ID.  So I decided to ID it later after some research.  I came up with a tentative ID of the Lesser Treefrog (Dendropsophus minutus).  

After I posted it on iNaturalist, a local Trinidad herper corrected my ID to Mount Tucuche Tree Frog (Flectnonotus fitzgeraldi).  I was delighted to be corrected not just to have the right ID, but the fact that this was one of the Marsupial frogs in a totally new family for me the Hemiphractidae!

So a few months later, I happened to be deleting some older recordings I had made with my phone and I ran across some forgotten recordings I had made in Trinidad.  I normally don't record "important" recordings with my phone but I will grab a quick recording if I don't have my other gear.   Among the recordings on my phone was this call.....


This recording included a series of buzzy clicks in patterns of two or three.  At the time I wasn't positive it was a frog, but it sounded too erratic to be a cricket or other orthopteran (they usually have long or consistently repetitive calls).  A few days ago, I happened to listen to a recording of a different Flectonotus species online (F. pygmaeus) and that made me think of this recording.   
Hmm, I wonder if F. fitzgeraldi sounds similar.   There were no recordings available online, but I found this paper from about the differences between the species.  The paper describes F. fitzgeraldi as having a call similar to F. pygmaeus but instead of single pulses the calls of F. fitzgeraldi are in groups of two or three.  That's exactly what this recording shows and I am pretty confident that the frog in my recording is Flectonotus fitzgeraldi!

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© Chris Harrison 2019

Tobago Glass Frog
Hyalinobatrachium orientale tobagoense

The Tobago Glass Frog (Hyalinobatrachium orientale tobagoense) is a small Centrolenid frog that is found only on the island of Tobago.  It is the endemic island subspecies of the Eastern Glass Frog (Hyalinobatrachium orientale) which is known from a few populations in far northern Venezuela.

I remember some 35 years ago, I saw my first photos of the glass frogs in the family Centrolenidae, I couldn't wait to get down into the tropical Americas and see one.  From my first trip into their range in 1989, it was a high priority to see one of these amazing flat-headed, clear-skinned frogs.  Several decades later and many trips to the neotropics later, I've seen dozens of species of Neotropical frogs, but never seen a single Centrolenid! 😢  And now, I have a recording of a second species which just kind of rubs it in that I can't see one of these critters.  But one day.....!

So, like some of my other recordings, I never saw this frog.  😢 
If you want to see photos of this frog and read more about it, I highly recommend John C. Murphy's excellent Herpetology of Trinidad blog!

The species is poorly known and so I can't find any recordings of its call.  Murphy et al. (2018) describe it as a high pitched "peep" given from vegetation overhanging streams.  This is the exact situation where I recorded this call, in fact it looked just like the habitat photo they show in their book for calling sites!

So, even through I've never heard this frog, I base my identification on:
1.  comparison to the calls of the other known species in the range.
2.  similarity to the calls of other Hyalinobatrachium I do know.
3.  the habitat description and description of the call in Murphy, et al. 2018.

So I guess it isn't 100% positively identified, but until someone provides me a recording of this species for comparison it will be my identification based on my research and experience.  That's the best I can do for now.

And one day, maybe, I'll actually get to see one of these amazing clear-skinned frogs!  But for now, this may be one of the only available recordings of it's call.

Tobago Glass Frog Call

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© Chris Harrison 2019

Murphy, et al., 2018, A Field Guide to the Amphibians & Reptiles of Trinidad & Tobago. Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalist's Club
 - this is a must have book for anyone going to explore Trinidad or Tobago!
It isn't available through Amazon as I write this, but you can order it online from the T&T Field Naturalist's Club or find it in bookstores on Trinidad (which is where I found it).

Smooth-skinned Ditch Frog
Leptodactylus validus

Leptodactylus validus
Tobago
The Smooth-skinned Ditch Frog (Leptodactylus validus) is a common frog of the grasslands and forest edges of northern South America.  It is a common frog over much of its range and is often found living commensally with man.  The first group of these that I found were living in a drainage overflow that contained a few inches of water.  There were quite a few individuals living in this square drainage tank.  They were breeding and calling from the few inches of water in this tank day and night.   Although I heard and recorded them calling here on multiple occasions, I was never able to see a calling male.  I believe, like many Leptodactylus species, they were calling from beneath the mass of tangled bamboo leaves in the tank.



Although frogs are not always associated with being good "parents", many species do show some level of parental care.  Females of several Leptodactylus species have been shown to stay with their eggs and tadpoles, presumably protecting them.   I believe I observed this in the frogs in this concreted ditch as tadpoles tended to cluster around females that were sitting still in the water.


Leptodactylus validus female "tending" tadpoles
Tobago
I was able to find this species calling in more "natural" surroundings of flooded grassy fields as well as from grassy ditches at the edges of a residential area of Bon Accord in Tobago.

The call of this species is a sharp whistled "pip" or "whip".  Here are a couple of individuals calling from a grassy ditch in Bon Accord, Tobago -



Here's a look at the spectrographs of a couple of those calls.  You can see how although the call is brief, it is as ascending call with an almost "percussive" consonant on the end.




This species was often heard calling during the day.    We came across a large chorus calling from this flooded grassy area right at the junction of the main road and a busy footpath leading down to a popular tourist beach. Even though it was broad daylight and quite a few people were about, these frogs were chorusing away (hidden beneath the vegetation). 





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© Chris Harrison 2019

Trinidad Poison Frog
Mannophryne trinitatis

The Trinidad Poison Frog (Mannophryne trinitatis) is a small striped frog that is found only in Trinidad.  It is common along the edges of rocky forested streams.   It is  a relatively dark, drab frog with longitudinal stripes on the body.   It is active by day and can be seen sitting along the edge of streams on the rocks.   Unfortunately, I didn't take the time to get a better photo because I was sure I would get another chance.....I didn't.



This species is active in the day and calls by the light of day as well.  Interestingly, when this frog is calling the males darken up considerably, becoming almost black.   Here is a male calling from under the edge of a large boulder.  Again, I "planned" on coming back to this spot for a better photo after the tour I was on finished. 😳



In spite of my photographic failures, I did manage to make a recording of this species calling along a forest stream.  The call is a musical two-part cricket like "ti-dink". 



As you would expect, it sounds very similar to its close relative the Tobago Poison Frog (Mannophryne olmanae).

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© Chris Harrison 2018

Rusty Treefrog
Boana boans

The Rusty Treefrog (Boana boans) is a widespread tropical treefrog from wet forests throughout the Amazonian basin.  I heard these frogs calling when we were in the Amazonian side of Ecuador, but I lost those recordings when my recorder was lost.  So I was very happy to get another chance to record them when we were in Trinidad in December 2018.

I heard many dozens of these Rusty Treefrogs calling from along the roads as we drove back to the Asa Wright Nature Center at night.  Unfortunately, they were calling quite a ways from the nature center and I couldn't get back down there to record them.  I finally did manage to record a single individual calling from beneath this creek bank one night near the nature center.  I was unable to find the frog for a photo though.😢  It was on the opposite bank somewhere....?



I think this frog's call as a barking "wark".  To my ear it is very reminiscent of North America's Barking Frog (Craugastor augusti).


So I was glad to get this species on my recording lifelist but, once again, I would like to be able to say I had actually seen one!  *sigh*
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© Chris Harrison 2018

Whistling Grass Frog
Leptodactylus fuscus



Leptodactylus fuscus
Waller Field, Trinidad
The Whistling Grass Frog (Leptodactylus fuscus) is found in savannas habitats from Panama down into South America east of the Andes.  They are a grassland species that calls from flooded grassy marsh areas.  I photographed and first recorded these frogs in Trinidad on an abandoned airfield at the edge of the Aripo Savanna protected area.

The call of the Whistling Grass Frog is, as you can imagine, an upward slurred whistle.  It is probably best described as a whistled "wheep".  It is quite a piercing call and travels some distance.  The frogs call from flooded grassy areas.

Here is a single individual calling from a flooded roadside ditch in Bon Accord, Tobago.  It was the only individual of this species I heard here in spite of the fact that there were large choruses of Leptodactylus validus calling all around.


Here's a large chorus calling from the Aripo Savanna area where I photographed the individual shown above. (The downward whistled "whee-oo" you hear among the frogs are Common Pauraques - a type of nightjar - calling from near the frog chorus) -


Looking at the spectrogram of the individual from Tobago, you can see the single upward slurred nature of the call and the sharp "whip" to the end of the call.


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© Chris Harrison 2019