Monday, February 4, 2008

Nothing average about Bermuda's amphibians.

First of all, there are no amphibians native to Bermuda. The sole endemic terrestrial vertebrate is a reptile, the Bermuda Rock Lizard or Skink, Plestiodon longirostris. A few amphibians have been introduced (at least three), however, and at least two persist and are a familiar part of the fauna. One is very small -- The Johnstone's Whistling Frog.

That little brown blob on the table cloth is one. Eleutherodactylus johnstonei was introduced to Bermuda about 1880. It is native to Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Costa Rica, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Montserrat, Netherlands Antilles, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (AmphibiaWeb). The name comes from the frog's high-pitched calls, which sound like whistles or bells, and do little to soothe insomnia and chronic tinnitus.

A second species, Eleuthrodactylus gossei, also from somewhere in the Caribbean, was introduced in about 1900. It is a much rarer species, if not gone from Bermuda.

And then there is the other end of the size range:

Bufo marinus, the Marine or Cane Toad, wants in, and doesn't take "no" for an answer.

Marine Toads were introduced to Bermuda in about 1885. They are native to Central America and northern South America, and are famous for their rampage through northern and eastern Australia. A large female, such as the one in the picture, will spill over the edges of a large soup bowl. I know this, because I kept one as a pet for a while, and it spent 95 percent of its time sitting in its water bowl, which was the largest soup bowl I could find. They eat almost anything that moves, thus are a serious threat to small native fauna. If you haven't seen Cane Toads: An Unnatural History, it is worth a look.

"I'm not leaving...."

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