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Media coverage for GAA2

10 October 2023

GAA2 provides a whole lot of international and regional interest from the media

As might be expected from a global update published in Nature, results from the the GAA2 have produced a lot of media interest both nationally and internationally. Here are some of the ones from southern Africa.

Stellenbosch researcher contributes to critical global study on amphibians (

SU researcher part of global study on extinction of amphibians (

I was also interviewed by eNCA on the results of the paper. Watch the full coverage below:

The eNCA, a TV broadcasting company that covers the African continent, has previously taken an interest in the work of the MeaseyLab when they interviewed Nitya Mohanty. You can watch the interview in full on YouTube. You can see the blog post here.

  Frogs  Lab

Results from GAA2 are out

04 October 2023

Results from GAA2 suggest a continuing global amphibian decline 

In 2004, the first IUCN global assessment of amphibians revealed that they are the most threatened vertebrates on the planet. Published today is the paper summarising the second global assessment of the conservation status of amphibians (GAA2). IUCN red list Assessments took place of 8011 species of amphibians from all continents (except Antarctica). 

Readers of this blog will be familiar with the assessments that took place in southern Africa that were the subject of workshops in December 2009 andNovember 2015(which also resulted ina bookanda paperon the subsequent conservation strategy, see also blog postshere).

Sadly, the GAA2 still shows a continuing decline in the global conservation status of amphibians, with 41.0% of them falling into threatened categories of Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered. This is greater than the threatened categories for mammals (26.5%), reptiles (21.4%) and birds (12.9%).

While habitat destruction and change are still the greatest threat to the majority of threatened amphibians (impacting 93%), climate change and disease are now growing in their importance and impacting more species than in the first assessment. In particular, central and eastern Africa are new hotspots for disease, primarily implicating the chytrid fungus.

There is also good news suggesting that amphibians can benefit from concerted conservation efforts. These include dedicated conservation areas, removal of invasive species and reintroduction programmes.  

If you want to read more about GAA2, then please look at the open access paper: 

Luedtke, J.A. et al. (2023) Ongoing declines for the world’s amphibians in the face of emerging threats. Nature

Over the years, MeaseyLab members have worked on a large number of threatened amphibians in southern Africa (see Further Reading, below). Here are just a few of them:

Rough moss frog, Arthroleptella rugosa(Critically Endangered)

IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group & South African Frog Re-assessment Group (SA-FRoG). 2016. Arthroleptella rugosaThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T174664A77162276. Accessed on 04 October 2023.

The microfrog, Microbatrachella capensis(Critically Endangered)

IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group & South African Frog Re-assessment Group (SA-FRoG). 2017.Microbatrachella capensis.The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species2017: e.T13318A77158116. Accessed on 03 October 2023.

Rose's dwarf toadlet, Capensibufo rosei(Critically Endangered)

IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group & South African Frog Re-assessment Group (SA-FRoG). 2017.Capensibufo rosei.The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species2017: e.T112716154A47759127. Accessed on 03 October 2023.

Cape clawed frog, Xenopus gilli(Endangered)

IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group & South African Frog Re-assessment Group (SA-FRoG). 2017.Xenopus gilli.The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species2017: e.T23124A77164368. Accessed on 03 October 2023.

Western leopard toad, Sclerophrys pantherinus(Endangered)

IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group & South African Frog Re-assessment Group (SA-FRoG). 2016.Sclerophrys pantherina.The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species2016: e.T54723A77159333. Accessed on 03 October 2023.

Further Reading:

Angus, O., Turner, A.A. & Measey, J. (2023) In a Rough Spot: Declines in Arthroleptella rugosa calling densities are explained by invasive pine trees. Austral Ecology48(3): 498-512.

Channing, A., Measey, G.J., De Villiers, A.L., Turner, A.A. & Tolley, K.A. (2017) Taxonomy of the Capensibufo rosei group (Anura: Bufonidae) from South Africa. Zootaxa 4232(2): 282–292 pdf

de Villiers, F.A., de Kock, M. & de Measey, G.J. (2016) Controlling the African clawed frog Xenopus laevis to conserve the Cape platanna Xenopus gilli in South Africa. Conservation Evidence 13, 17. pdf

Edwards, S, Tolley, KA & Measey, GJ (2017) Habitat characteristics influence the breeding of Rose's dwarf mountain toadlet Capensibufo rosei (Anura: Bufonidae) Herpetological Journal27: 287-298. pdf

Furman, B., Cauret, C., Colby, G., Measey, J. & Evans, B.J. (2017) Limited genomic consequences of hybridization between two African clawed frogs, Xenopus gilli and X. laevis (Anura: Pipidae). Scientific Reports 7(1):1091 pdf

Luedtke, J.A., Chanson, J., Neam, K., Hobin, L., Maciel, A.O., Catenazzi, A., Borzée, A., Hamidy, A., Aowphol, A., Jean, A., Sosa-Bartuano, Á., Fong G., A., de Silva, A., Fouquet, A., Angulo, A., Kidov, A.A., Muñoz Saravia, A., Diesmos, A.C., Tominaga, A., Shrestha, B., Gratwicke, B., Tjaturadi, B., Martínez Rivera, C.C., Vásquez Almazán, C.R., Señaris, C., Chandramouli, S.R., Strüssmann, C., Cortez Fernández, C.F., Azat, C., Hoskin, C.J., Hilton-Taylor, C., Whyte, D.L., Gower, D.J., Olson, D.H., Cisneros-Heredia, D.F., Santana, D.J., Nagombi, E., Najafi-Majd, E., Quah, E.S.H., Bolaños, F., Xie, F., Brusquetti, F., Álvarez, F.S., Andreone, F., Glaw, F., Castañeda, F.E., Kraus, F., Parra-Olea, G., Chaves, G., Medina-Rangel, G.F., González-Durán, G., Ortega-Andrade, H.M., Machado, I.F., Das, I., Dias, I.R., Urbina-Cardona, J.N., Crnobrnja-Isailović, J., Yang, J.-H., Jianping, J., Wangyal, J.T., Rowley, J.J.L., Measey, J., Vasudevan, K., Chan, K.O., Gururaja, K.V., Ovaska, K., Warr, L.C., Canseco-Márquez, L., Toledo, L.F., Díaz, L.M., Khan, M.M.H., Meegaskumbura, M., Acevedo, M.E., Napoli, M.F., Ponce, M.A., Vaira, M., Lampo, M., Yánez-Muñoz, M.H., Scherz, M.D., Rödel, M.-O., Matsui, M., Fildor, M., Kusrini, M.D., Ahmed, M.F., Rais, M., Kouamé, N.G., García, N., Gonwouo, N.L., Burrowes, P.A., Imbun, P.Y., Wagner, P., Kok, P.J.R., Joglar, R.L., Auguste, R.J., Brandão, R.A., Ibáñez, R., von May, R., Hedges, S.B., Biju, S.D., Ganesh, S.R., Wren, S., Das, S., Flechas, S.V., Ashpole, S.L., Robleto-Hernández, S.J., Loader, S.P., Incháustegui, S.J., Garg, S., Phimmachak, S., Richards, S.J., Slimani, T., Osborne-Naikatini, T., Abreu-Jardim, T.P.F., Condez, T.H., De Carvalho, T.R., Cutajar, T.P., Pierson, T.W., Nguyen, T.Q., Kaya, U., Yuan, Z., Long, B., Langhammer, P., Stuart, S.N., 2023. Ongoing declines for the world’s amphibians in the face of emerging threats. Nature 1–7.

Measey, G.J. (ed.) (2011). Ensuring a Future for South Africa's Frogs: A Strategy for Conservation Research. Biodiversity Series 19. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria. pdf

Measey, J., Tarrant, J., Rebelo, A.D., Turner, A.A., Du Preez, L.H., Mokhatla, M.M., Conradie, W. (2019) Has strategic planning made a difference to amphibianconservation research in South Africa? African Biodiversity & Conservation - Bothalia   49(1), a2428. pdf

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

Tolley, K.A., De Villiers, A.L., Cherry, M.I., & Measey, G.J. 2010. Isolation and high genetic diversity in dwarf mountain toads (Capensibufo) from South Africa. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 100, 822-834. pdf

Vogt, S., de Villiers, F.A., Ihlow, F., Rödder, D. & Measey, J. (2017) Competition and feeding ecology in two sympatric Xenopus species (Anura: Pipidae). PeerJ5:e3130; DOI 10.7717/peerj.3130 pdf

  Frogs  Lab

Dan's Ghost frog tadpole study published!

18 September 2023

Dan van Blerk's study on Ghost Frog tadpoles is published

Readers of this blog will know that Dan van Blerk spent an entire summer season out in the streams of the Western Cape catching alien fish and Ghost frog tadpoles. If you've already forgotten see here and here.

Now Dan's first chapter of his MSc is published

This study shows unequivocally that invasive fishes have a negative impact on Ghost Frog tadpole abundance, something that we only knew before from anecdotal studies. Dan went to 111 sites across 26 streams finding that tadpole abundance decreases by around 18 times in the presence of invasive fish species.

The other thing that Dan uncovered is the real lack of data on the distribution of invasive fish in streams of the fynbos. This meant that they were absent from places where he thought they would be present and present in places where he thought they would be absent. 

This publication will be important in adding evidence for conservation decisions on the removal of invasive fishes from streams in the fynbos.

Van Blerk, D., Melotto, A., Pegg, J., Measey, J. (2023) Invasive fishes negatively impact ghost frog tadpole abundance. BioInvasions Records 12(4): 1121-1138. pdf

  Frogs  Lab

New insights on metamorphosis

16 September 2023

There's a frog in my tadpole

Sometimes a photograph can instantly give you a whole lot more information on a topic than you ever knew. 

This is a cropped close-up of a picture that I showed on the blog a few weeks back (see here). At the time that I took the picture, and later when I selected it for the blog post, I had completely failed to spot this metamorphosing frog in the image. I had never fully appreciated how the new frog in a metamorphosing tadpole was formed. Perhaps because of the colour of this Xenopus laevis frog from an invasive population in Tucson, Arizona, is so stark, you can clearly see through the transparent tadpole flesh the form of the frog coming through.

Note how the head of the tadpole and head of the frog appear to be completely different, yet the sensory organs (eyes, nares, etc.) are functioning on the tadpole and joined by nerves to those same sites on the frog head. Note also the way in which the fore-limbs (that always appeared to come at an odd place on the tadpole) are perfectly situated in relation to the frog head. 

Over the next week or so, the tadpole head will regress in size and the tail will start to shrink as the final stages of metamorphosis take place. Sensory organs will relocate into the frog head. 

  Frogs  Lab  Xenopus

Snake handling course

03 September 2023

A demanding way to spend your weekend

While at the Amphibian Foundation at the end of my trip to the USA, I took advantage of an offer to conduct a snake handling course (level 1) that they offer (see here). I've been in situations that have called for venomous snake handling in the past, and have always felt a little under prepared. Now with the course completed I know how to be safer when faced with a venomous snake on the ground, and a group of people that want it moved away.

Looking a little overgrown (after 2 months in the field without a haircut), I was outfitted with gaiters to prevent fangs going through my trousers. Guided by a set of expert instructors I learned how to handle heavy snakes on hooks (notice the braced position of the hooks under the forearms), and importantly how to safely get the snake into a tied bag and sealed bucket keeping it more than arms length at all times. 

Being in Atlanta, we became familiar with several of the regions most venomous snakes including the Eastern Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus - above), the Eastern Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix), Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus), and Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus  - below). 

As you can see, the snakes were all very beautiful and it was a great pleasure working with them. Carefully following each of the steps according to instructions allowed us to bag up the snakes in a very safe manor. Run by the Rattlesnake Conservancy, these courses offer experienced and professional tuition in a relaxed and friendly environment.

As you can see, I gained my certificate of competence and feel a lot more confident about how to tackle venomous snakes in future.

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