Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalists Club Evening
One of the oldest clubs in the Caribbean, the T and T Field Naturalist Club has been sharing knowledge of the islands natural history and encouraging activities which lead to appreciation and conservation of the natural history of the island for over 100 years! The club hosts excursions and talks for members and we were lucky to be in the audience as Roger and John presented on The Amphibia of Trinidad and the Cryptic Species of Herpetofauna of Trinidad and Tobago.
Roger spoke of the ground breaking work of his mentor Julien Kenny who he worked with when he first visited the island in the 1980’s.
He also informed us of the 9 Trinidadian amphibian species registered as threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources – IUCN Red List. The majority of which are found in high abundance on these isles but are endemic to regions of Trinidad and therefore described as vulnerable though some are under little threat . Threats can include, habitat loss/degradation, the pet trade and possibly the Chytrid fungus has reached Trinidad – it has had severe damaging effects in other amphibian populations. The Golden Tree Frog, Phytotriades auratus (see photo below) for example is found only in the mountain area of El Tucuche with a population of approximately 20,000 and holds a status of Critically Endangered. P. auratus uses a giant bromeliad plant for shelter and reproduction and is not known to call.
Since Julien Kenny’s work, there have been new discoveries of frogs as some calls had previously been mistaken as insects or thought to have been regional accents of already identified species. We experienced this uncertainty the other evening out at Lopinot when some of the team heard a new call to them – we debated whither it was a frog or a bug! After lots of searching one of the members of the Field Naturalists Club found the source of the call – a Hypsiboas punctatus aka the Polka dot tree frog who changes colour from green to red as night falls.
Further research into Julien Kenny’s discoveries led to latin name changes and has caused much confusion in the field. These cryptic species have been categorised into different families after DNA analysis – Roger shared examples of this, one being the Cane toad, known commonly in Trinidad as Crapau, Bufo marinus globally, but its accurate latin name is Rhinella marinus.
Roger also spoke of the deliberate introduction of invasive species Eleutherodacttylus johnstonei (what a lovely name – rolls off the tongue well!) which astonishingly lays eggs which hatch directly into frogs! It is thought that this species may be a threat to the native direct development species, Pristimantis urichi.
The presentation highlighted the continued involvement of students of Glasgow University over the past 18 years, 53 reports have been published on Trinidad and Tobago fauna as well as 4 pHD thesis on frogs and turtles.
We hope this work will continue for many years to come – so much to discover and explore!