Subscribe to MeaseyLab Blog by Email

Revisiting the Arthur Pack Desert Golf Course, Arizona

30 August 2023

Back catching Xenopus in Tucson, Arizona

In 1995, during my PhD at Bristol University, I visited Tucson Arizona to study the population of African clawed frogs at the Arthur Pack Desert Golf Course. The population is known to have dated to the late 1970's when a local academic seeded many impoundments in southern Arizona with Xenopus hoping that he could pick up breeding animals in the future for selling on. It seems that most of the introductions were failures, but at this one golf course the population took hold.

Back in 1995,  it was really hot when I visited this site, reaching 47 C on one of the days that I was there. That's still the hottest I've ever experienced.

I've long wanted to return to the site, and so I made it a priority on my North American leg of my world Xenopus tour.  

The picture above is from 1995 and is the southernmost lake on the golf course, featuring a canoe which I was allowed to use to paddle around this lake and set traps.

This is the same site now. The willow tree is gone, but you can see the same wall above the lake.

The canoe is still around and once again I was allowed to use it and paddle out to a pole in the deepest part of the northernmost lake to set some temperature loggers.

I remember the last time I sat in that canoe in 1995 a golf ball whizzed passed my ear making me very pleased that I was wearing a hard hat. 

With the help of Becca Cozad and her ARC crew: Karen & Maya, we were able to quickly run through the catch and process all the animals needed from Arizona. We were also joined by Randy Babb who bought his seine net which made really short work of bringing in a lot of tadpoles for sampling.

A special thank you to Brian Stevens and all his staff for making us so welcome at the Crooked Tree Golf Course. They really pulled all of the stops out and went out of their way to make sure that this was a successful mission. Strapping a canoe to the top of a golf cart and driving it across the course was unforgettable. We really are most indebted to them all.  

  Frogs  Lab  Xenopus

Stanford Spectator features article by Naas

28 August 2023

Terblanche & Measey featured in the Stanford Spectator

This month's copy of the Stanford Spectator features an article about the work that Naas Terblanche conducted and was published in PeerJ last June (see blog post here). The article is actually a printing of the blog post with some edits, and new images by Naas himself. Stanford is rightly proud of what their local man has produced. 

Measey, J. (2023) Stanfordian initiates study on frog communities. Stanford SpectatorSeptember 15.

  Frogs  Lab  Xenopus

The 19th Xenopus Conference in Cambridge, Maryland

25 August 2023

An amazing meeting full of Xenopus people!

It was my first time to experience the International Xenopus Conference, but I left wishing that I had been to many more. The conference abstract book is available online here, and the talks were just as diverse as the people giving them. Walking around the posters, and talking to the speakers, I quickly understood that everyone shared a passion for working with Xenopus frogs (both X. laevis and X. tropicalis), at the same time as acknowledging that this was a little unusual. 

I conducted my PhD in a department where Xenopus was used as a model organism to study neural biology. Thus I was acquainted with the other world of Xenopus users. However, I was completely unaware of the more recent scope of the work that is currently being conducted with this species. It is staggering the breadth of work being done, especially the way in which Xenopus is now being used as a model for single gene mutations in children. The speed of replicating the gene mutation suffered by a newborn child in a tadpole can really help clinicians work on finding better treatments. 

The meeting was held in a Hyatt-Regency Hotel, alongside large numbers of golfers and other holiday revelers. Certainly, I'd guess that most of these folks were unaware of the large number of frog lovers meeting in the ballroom.

Many thanks go out to the conference organizers who went above and beyond to help me attend. It was a truly great experience, and I look forward to the next one!

Home and away: the core gut microbiome of Xenopus laevis is modified by its environment

Authors: Measey, J., Ersin, M., Guille, M., Almojil, D., Araspin, L., Wagener, C., Boissinot, S., Watts, J.,
Robson, S.
Presenting Author Affiliation: Centre for Invasion Biology, Institute of Biodiversity, Yunnan University, China & Centre for Invasion Biology, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa

Abstract: The vertebrate gut microbiome is a community largely composed of bacterial, fungal and viral components, whose molecular component equal that of the host. The influence of the microbiome is known to be significant both on an individual basis, and also on population scales in a wide range of host organisms. The gut microbiome is known to be involved with key attributes of animal health, including assimilation of nutrients, immuno-defensive functions and host behavior. In this study, we used bacterial 16S rRNA amplicon-based sequencing for metataxonomic classification of the gut microbiome of individuals from eight populations of Xenopus laevis. These populations were selected to represent an altitudinal gradient in of the host species (0 to 3000 m asl). From the 16S rRNA community profiles, we determine the components of the core microbiome of X. laevis, and ask whether deviations from the core are associated with the environmental context in which they live. In addition, we sampled four European invasive populations and a laboratory population from the European Xenopus Resource Centre (EXRC) in the UK, to determine what aspects of the core microbiome are retained by non-native populations. This represents the first time that the microbiome of X. laevis has been assessed across such diverse conditions,
and provides data that will help understand the role played by the environment and inform monitoring of health within this model organism.

  Frogs  Lab  meetings  Xenopus

Invasive Xemopus tropicalis in Tampa FL

09 August 2023

Visiting the Tropical Aquaculture Lab in Ruskin FL

The news that there is an invasive population of Xenopus tropicalis in Florida is now well established. For a short time, workers at the Tropical Aquaculture Lab thought that they had a population of very small Xenopus laevis (Hill et al. 2017), but once the identification was rectified the remarkable invasion was a reality and quickly spreading across the region (Goodman et al. 2021). I put some special time aside in my schedule to visit the Katie Everett, Quenton Tuckett and Jeff Hill at the Tropical Aquaculture Lab.

Excitingly, Katie took me to the field to collect some X. tropicalis  from one of the ponds in the area. Although we set traps in a lot of ponds, only one of them turned up any of the frogs, but we did capture over 50!

It was a great to see this invasive species together with so many other herps in Florida. Katie and assistant Myles were very helpful when it came to emptying all of the many traps that we saturated the pond with. 

Now that I've seen an invasive population of these animals, I'm really looking forward to seeing them in their native range. I feel sure that they occur in very similar habitats in their native Gabon. Stay tuned for reports on our visit to Gabon!

Further Reading

Hill, J.E., Lawson, K.M. and Tuckett, Q.M., 2017. First record of a reproducing population of the African clawed frog Xenopus laevis Daudin, 1802 in Florida (USA). BioInvasions Record6(1).

Goodman, C.M., Jongsma, G.F., Hill, J.E., Stanley, E.L., Tuckett, Q.M., Blackburn, D.C. and Romagosa, C.M., 2021. A case of mistaken identity: Genetic and anatomical evidence reveals the cryptic invasion of Xenopus tropicalis in central Florida. Journal of Herpetology55(1), pp.62-69.

  Frogs  Lab  Xenopus

Becoming part of the Amphibian Foundation team

04 August 2023

The Amphibian Foundation is home to amazing people

One of the amazing aspects to my visit to North America has been meeting with so many people that share similar interests. A particular privilege today is becoming part of the Amphibian Foundation, based in a fantastic facility in Atlanta GA. The founder of AF, Mark Mandica, is a long-term friend who I first met while he was doing his MSc at Miami University back in 2003. Mark and I have kept in touch ever since those days, and this has seen both of us move around quite a bit. Mark, and partner Crystal, has done great things at the Amphibian Foundation and are constantly building on their success.

I was greatly honoured by their request for me to become part of their affiliated faculty, to which I have happily accepted today.

The Amphibian Foundation has an amazing outreach programme with hundreds of participants from the local area learning about respect for local amphibians and reptiles as well as their global needs. When one a five minute break from their class time activities, they all rushed out to the parking lot where they immediately started flipping rocks looking for toads. These kids are very serious about having a lot of fun in the field with amphibians!

The Amphibian Foundation also has some serious amphibian conservation ambitions. For example, their plans to help the Frosted Flatwoods Salamander, Ambystoma cingulatum, include both rehabilitating habitat and captive breeding for a headstarting programme (see here).   

I'm proud to be affiliated with this team of amazing herpetologists.

Contact me at the Amphibian Foundation:  

  Frogs  Lab  prizes  Xenopus
Creative Commons Licence
The MeaseyLab Blog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.