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Perfromance of Guttural Toads

23 September 2022

Performance of native and alien guttural toads

You may remember that some time back, there were many trips to exotic places by the toad team (see here and here). Although there have already been a number of papers that have come out from these trips (Baxter-Gilbert et al., 2020; Baxter-Gilbert et al., 2021; Baxter-Gilbert et al., 2022) - here is the final one of this series led by former MeaseyLab post-doc James Baxter-Gilbert (James is now employed at Mt Allison University - see here).  

In this manuscript, we based our question around the pathway that the toads had taken to invasion. Starting out in rural KZN, the toads have invaded the city of Durban before being moved (as urban toads) to Mauritius in 1922 (yes - 100 years ago!). There they were released in cane fields, quickly moving into urban areas and from there into the natural forests of the island. Toads were moved from urban Mauritius in 1925 to Reunion. Once again, they moved through the urban environment before entering the natural forests. Hence, we asked whether advantages gained in the urban environment could have helped these toads in their invasion pathway.

For most of the traits that we studied, we found no indication of help coming from the toads having passed through an urban filter before their invasion. However, the climbing performance trait did have results that suggested that urban areas, with their many barriers, could have preadapted toads so that when they invaded the islands they were able to do better at climbing - eventually moving up the trees!

Read more about this study here:

Baxter-Gilbert, J.H., Riley, J.L., Wagener, C., Baider, C., Florens, F.B.V., Kowalski, P., Campbell, M., & Measey, J.(2022) Island hopping through urban filters: anthropogenic habitats and colonized landscapes alter morphological and performance traits of an invasive amphibian. Animals 12(19), 2549; pdf

Interview about 'How to Publish'

13 September 2022

Another interview with Daniel Shea from Scholarly Communication 

You may remember that back in April 2020, I put up a blog post about an interview I conducted with Daniel Shea for his Scholarly Communication podcast (see here). I found that interview very demanding as Daniel had done a great job of reading the entire book and had some very challenging questions. So I felt that I had to be better prepared for this second interview, this time about the newly published 'How to publish in Biological Sciences'. 

Once again, Daniel surprised me with his insightful and probing questions. I'm not going to write too much here about the interview, but why not take a listen and see what you think?

Thanks to Daniel for making this such an enlightening and challenging interview. 

Remember that you can read the book for free at

Measey J (2022) How to publish in Biological Sciences: a guide for the uninitiated. CRC Press, Boca Raton.  ISBN: 9781032116419                            

  Lab  Writing

Having fun at the 21st European Congress of Herpetology

08 September 2022

Great to see Xenopus people meeting at the 21st European Congress of Herpetology

This year's European Congress of Herpetology is being held in Belgrade, and there were lots of Xenopus talks!

From left to right: Felix Deiß, Anastasia Regnet, Dennis Rödder, Nicholas Wei Cheng Tan, Natasha Kruger and Philipp Ginal

Among these were Dr Natasha Kruger presenting work from her PhD on a Xenopusreciprocal exchange experiment with tadpoles:

Kruger, N., Secondi, J., du Preez, L., Herrel, A. & Measey, J. (2022) Is there no place like home? Response of African Clawed frog tadpoles to novel environments

 and Philipp Ginal talking about his recent work on modelling the difference between adult and tadpole time in Europe:

Ginal, P., N. Kruger, L. Araspin, M. Mokhatla, J. Secondi, A. Herrel, J. Measey & D. Rödder (2022) More time for aliens? Performance shifts lead to increased activity time budgets propelling invasion success. 

I'm happy to say that both papers are in press, and you can read them here (even if you didn't see the presentations!).

  Lab  meetings  Xenopus

Reciprocal exchange of tadpoles

23 August 2022

Tadpoles in a reciprocal exchange experiment

I have long admired my botanist friends who are able to pick up their study organisms and move them to any climate they like and see how they grow. The effect of climate on animals (including frogs) has been well established, but very few researchers have taken the opportunity to use reciprocal exchange experiments (keeping one population at home while moving the other to a new environment, and vice versa) to investigate the effects of climate on tadpoles. The study design is particularly appealing as for two populations you get results both in their home and away climates. This allows you to compare directly how they have fared in both situations - although I admit that the four way comparisons take time to get used to. South Africa is very unusual in that it has two completely different climates that mean that African clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis)  from the southwest breed in the winter (winter rainfall), while those in the northeast breed in the summer (summer rainfall). 

Dr Natasha Kruger conducted this experiment as a part of her PhD studies at the CIB in Stellenbosch University and (jointly) in the University of Lyon I. The results, published today,  are really interesting.

In the figure above, you can see the number of tadpoles that metamorphose in each of the treatments. The graph in the top left shows that when winter animals (blue line) are moved to the summer rainfall zone , their timing of climax is very similar to that of animals that originate there (red line). However, the bottom left graph shows that in the reciprocal venue, tadpoles from the summer rainfall zone climaxed much earlier. But they did so at a cost. In the figure below (bottom left), you can see that survival of these summer tadpoles in the winter rainfall zone was the lowest.

Read the paper to get more insights on how this reciprocal exchange experiment allowed Natasha to determine that the causes for the differences are both plastic and adaptive.

Kruger, N., Secondi, J., du Preez, L., Herrel, A. & Measey, J. (in press) Phenotypic variation in Xenopus laevis tadpoles from contrasting climatic regimes is the result of adaptation and plasticity. Oecologia 

  Frogs  Lab  Xenopus

Asian Spiny toads at home in Vietnam

20 August 2022

Getting data from Asian Spiny toads in Vietnam

Back in January this year, MeaseyLab postdoc, Andrea Melotto, finally made it to Madagascar to collect data from an invasive population of Asian Spiny toads, Duttaphrynus melanostictus.  In Madagascar, Andrea performed a standard set of morphological, performance and behavioural traits with toads from the invasion core and expanding invasion front. Now Andrea has made it to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, thought to be the site from where the Malagasy toads originated. There, Andrea is working with Dr. Dao Tran from University of Science-Ho Chi Minh City. 

The toads are abundant in and around the city, and are a regular sight sitting on the lily pads of water features. 

Andrea measures a recent capture while Thu enters data on the laptop.

Khoi enters data on the laptop for the second trial while Thu chases a toad down the racetrack and Phi videos the session. 

Measuring behaviour at night means working under red lights and using CCTV to record how the toads interact with their environments.

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