The Maya Mountain Frog: An Unexpected Discovery!

Tumeric Blossoms, Tumeric Powder, Curry Powder

The days are going by quickly at the Toucan Ridge Ecology and Education Society. From clearing trails to cleaning parasitic plants from orchard trees, I have been busy. Yesterday was rather stressful as two cabins arrived to be installed at the back end of the property. Coordinating where the cabins would be placed is easier said than done when you have to install them in a rainforest.

moving in central america

Imagining this trailer on the rugged highway coming to the property blows my mind… that would violate many regulations back home in the states. It is truly amazing what people can do in this country.

moving house 3 550

My cousin and landscaping expert, Oliver, arrived a few days ago to assist me with various projects on the property. After the work was completed for the day, Oliver and I headed out into the forest to search for frogs.

stick insect, large insects, tropics

Poor weather and feeling exhausted from work has prevented me from exploring as much as I would like to, so it was good to get back out into the forest. Wildlife sightings have still been minimal, but we have seen a few interesting species. Mostly invertebrates, like this stick insect pictured above.

Big Spider, banana spider, huge spider, pretty spider, beautiful spider

Spiders are an ever common sight. I do not know which species this is, but it is beautiful and probably has a nasty bite. This is true with most beautiful creatures.

Tarantula, Big Spider, banana spider, huge spider, pretty spider, beautiful spider

We were able to coax this Tarantula out of its home with a blade of grass. I find this spider rather adorable and I know that thought alienates me from most of society.

Mud Turtle,

This Mud Turtle was not eager to be photographed.

Pygmy Kingfisher

Pygmy Kingfisher! Kingfishers are really cool birds and it is rare to be able to get so close.

Rhinella marina - Marine Toad Huge 550

Then we found the frogs! This Marine Toad, Rhinella marina, was described by Oliver as “biggest toad I’ve seen in my life!” It actually may have been the biggest toad I have seen as well… it was enormous!

Lithobates vaillanti, Vaillant Frog 

Many Vaillant Frogs were out. This is the same species which has been breeding here on the property.

Lithobates vaillanti, Vaillant Frog, styuding frogs, herpetology

This large female Vaillant Frog did not mind being approached by Oliver.

Lithobates vaillanti, Vaillant Frog

After some time hiking up river, a pair of eyes caught my eyes on the opposite end of the bank. I expected to find another Vaillant Frog, like the juvenile pictured above.

Rana juliani, Mayan Mountain Frog, Lithobates juliani

I have never been so happy to be wrong! This is the rare and elusive Maya Mountain Frog, Lithobates juliani. I have seen this species before, but it was not on the property. It was about 2 miles away and was found much higher in elevation. What an exciting find!

Rana juliani, Mayan Mountain Frog, Lithobates julianiThis frog fascinates me. It is considered an endemic species to the Maya Mountains, meaning that it is only found in Belize. According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, it is considered Near Threatened because of habitat loss. There is a good chance this species is at risk from the nefarious chytrid fungus, but further studies need to be conducted. With future surveys, I suspect this amphibian will become listed as Vulnerable.

Note on Taxonomy: Naming a species can become an intensely heated debate within the academic world. Lithobates has replaced Rana as a genus for many species of new world frogs, but it is not excepted by the entire scientific community. I follow the opinions of those that work directly with these frogs and I follow their judgement. However, if I am wrong, please correct me! Send me your thoughts at MGStarkey@gmail.com. Thanks!

Rana juliani, Mayan Mountain Frog, Lithobates juliani, studying frogs, herpetology

We recorded data on this frog by taking measurements of various morphological structures (body length, feet, etc), captured a few photographs for identification purposes, and then quickly released it back out into the forest. This was an incredibly interesting find as the Maya Mountain Frog is not normally found below an elevation of 100m. So, this is a cause to celebrate… or an excuse to just drink some beer!

Belikin Beer, Beer, Celebrating, End of the World

With that, Happy Frogging and cheers!

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