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Fire toadlets

30 January 2021

After the fire: how Rose's Mountain toadlets survive fire in the fynbos

One persistent riddle in this part of the world is how animals survive the regular fires that regularly engulf and rejuvenate the native fynbos vegetation. It's been know for a long time that the plants have evolved sophisicated techniques to use the fire to survive or repopulate areas. But most surveys after fires suggest that lots of animals perish. So how do populations survive?

The 2015 fire on the Cape peninsula allowed us the opportunity to visit our long term monitoring site for Rose's mountain toadlets, Capensibufo rosei  (see previous blog posts on this species here and here). Within 10 minutes of arriving at the winter breeding site, we spotted a toadlet hopping through the ashes. As I filmed it (see below), it suddenly disappeared into a hole. Stripping away all the vegetation allowed us to see that the toadlets use underground burrows of Cape gerbils to shelter from the harsh mediterranean summer sun. Presumably, being in these holes during a quick fire allows them to survive being burnt to a crisp. 

In a note that was published this week (Measey et al., 2021), we record what we found that day as well as a survey that was conducted by Francois Becker who was doing his MSc on these toadlets at the time (see also Becker et al., 2018). The results present a startling view of exactly how local these toadlets are found around their breeding site: all within ~200 m. This is very surprising and provides some insight into their enigmatic decline (see Cressey et al 2015). 

In addition to invaluable life-history information on this IUCN Critically Endangered species, we explain the importance of making natural history observations following extreme events. 

Read the full article here:

Measey, J., Becker, F. & Tolley, K.A. (2021) After the fire: assessing the microhabitat of Capensibufo rosei (Hewitt, 1926). Herpetology Notes14: 169-175. pdf

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