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Expedition to the Serra do Imeri: Overview


This fantastic article (in Portuguese) by Herton Escobar (who embedded with us on the expedition) provides a thorough overview of our expedition to the Serra do Imeri.

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The Hyloxalus edwardsi group


The Hyloxalus edwardsi group is a small clade of high-Andean dendrobatid frogs from the Cordillera Oriental of Colombia. The group was originally placed in Colostethus sensu lato and was subsequently transferred to Hyloxalus; however, no species of the group were included in previous phylogenetic analyses. The previously known species are critically endangered and have not been observed in nature nearly 30 years. We discovered a new species of this clade on the western flank of the Cordillera Oriental of Colombia. In this paper, we describe this population as a new species and test the phylogenetic position of the group. Our results corroborate the placement of this group within Hyloxalus, specifically as sister to H. picachos, thereby refuting the monophyly of the recently proposed H. subpunctatus clade. We also identify several new putative morphological synapomorphies of the H. edwardsi group related to the extrinsic cloacal musculature and the subarticular tubercles of the hand. Although the cloacal sheath character is still taxonomically useful, given the inherent difficulty in scoring it unambiguously on the basis of external morphology, we deprecate it for phylogenetic analysis in favor of the internal morphological characters.

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Nobel prize, ancient and historical DNA, and USP


The 2022 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine awarded earlier this month to Svante Pääbo for his discoveries concerning the genomes of extinct hominins and human evolution has drawn attention to the burgeoning field of archaeogenetics. This short article (in Portuguese) by Andre Strauss of the Museu de Arqueologia e Etnologia and Taran summarizes the importance of Pääbo's research, the advances USP is making in applying ancient DNA methods to study hominid evolution and recently extinct species, and potential applications that are being developed.

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Expedition to the Serra do Imeri


On 2 November, a group of biologists—including herpetologists, mammalogists, ornithologists, botanists, a parasitologist, and journalists—will embark on an expedition to the Serra do Imeri, a remote, previously unexplored mountain range near the Brazilian boarder with Venezuela. Supported by the Brazilian Armed Forces, we will be flown by helicopter to a landing area at ca. 2000 m where our camp will be set up. From there, we will spend 17 days collecting fauna and flora. An article (in Portuguese) detailing the expedition can be found here.

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A new genus of terraranas


Since the systematics of terraranas was overhauled in 2008, five new genera have been named. In this paper, we name a sixth genus, Serranobatrachus, that is endemic to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. This highly endemic clade is both well-supported by molecular data and diagnosed from Tachiramantis by seven morphological synapomorphies.

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Lab de Anfíbios at the Colombian Herp Congress


The Laboratório de Anfíbios was conspicuously present at the third Congreso Colombiano de Herpetologia, held between 31 July and 5 August. Taran gave two talks, a keynote on systematics and sequestration in poison frogs and talk on hDNA and the systematics of Atlantic Forest Allobates, Marvin presented the results of his recently-defended PhD thesis on the systematics of Hyloxalus, and Adriana presented some of the results from her dissertation on the timing and distribution of alkaloid sequestration in dendrobatid poison frogs. The full program can be downloaded here. Thanks to all the organizers for putting on a great event!

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Prepollex diversity and evolution in Cophomantini


In many species of anurans, males use an enlarged prepollical spine during intraspecific combat. This study, led by Paulo, examined variation in prepollex size, shape, and associated musculature in Cophomantini, a diverse clade of Neotropical treefrogs. We delimited 17 transformation series, optimized them on the most inclusive phylogenetic hypothesis of cophomantine relationships, and examine the evolution, function, behaviour, and sexual dimorphism related to the prepollical elements.

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PopGen of the American bullfrog invasion of Brazil


Congratulations to Gabriel Cohen for publishing the chapter of his MSc thesis on the population structure of the non‑native American bullfrog, Aquarana catesbeiana, in Brazil! This study, conducted in collaboration with Felipe Toledo at UNICAMP, analyzed cytochrome b sequences and microsatellites of 324 samples collected from feral and captive groups at 38 sites in seven of the nine states where feral populations occur. Both the microsatellite and cytochrome b data indicated that Brazilian bullfrogs comprise two populations corresponding to two importation events, with low genetic exchange between population groupings. Also, we found that there is no genetic divergence among feral and captive populations, suggesting continuous leaks from bullfrog farms and emphasizing the importance of preventing escapes.

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Bootstrap vs support in ML phylogenetics


Although the evidential support for a clade can be calculated directly as the likelihood ratio (LR) or log-likelihood difference (S, LLD) of the best trees with and without the clade of interest, bootstrap (BS) clade frequencies are more pervasive in ML phylogenetics and almost universally interpreted as measuring support. Although BS does not measure support directly, if BS is a reliable predictor of S, then it might be an efficient indirect method of measuring support—an attractive possibility, given the speed of many BS implementations. In our new paper in Cladistics, we studied the relationship between support S and BS, as well as the the degree to which S and BS are affected by the number of replicates during suboptimal tree searches for S and pseudoreplicates during BS estimation. Our findings show decisively that BS is not an efficient indirect method of measuring support and suggest that even quite superficial searches to calculate S provide better estimates of support.

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Sequestration is dose-dependent in poison frogs


Alkaloid sequestration from dietary sources is dependent on both the availability of compounds in the environment and the mechanism of sequestration. This study, which was part of Adriana's PhD thesis and involved researchers from Brazil, Japan, and the US, aimed to quantify the extent to which alkaloid sequestration and modification are dependent on alkaloid availability and/or sequestration mechanism. To do this, we administered different doses of histrionicotoxin (HTX) 235A and decahydroquinoline (DHQ) to captive‐bred Adelphobates galactonotus and measured alkaloid quantity in muscle, kidney, liver, and feces. For both liver and skin, the quantity of alkaloid accumulated increased at higher doses for both alkaloids. Accumulation efficiency in the skin increased at higher doses for HTX 235A but remained constant for DHQ. In contrast, the efficiency of HTX 235A accumulation in the liver was inversely related to dose and a similar pattern was observed for DHQ. We also identified and quantified the N‐methylation of DHQ in A. galactonotus, which is a previously unknown example of alkaloid modification in poison frogs.

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Congratulations Marvin!


Today Marvin successfully defended his PhD on the systematics of Hyloxalus, a clade of 63 recognized (and many undescribed) species centered on the northern and central Andes and drifting into western Amazonia. Despite all the difficulties imposed by the pandemic, Marvin managed to expand the taxon and character sampling well beyond previous studies, and his results are a major leap forward and a solid foundation for future studies of the evolution of this fascinating and highly endangered group. Many thanks to the evaluation committee: Julián Faivovich, Fernando Marques, and Victor Dill (and also to back-up committee member Miguel Rodrigues), and congratulations to Marvin!

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hDNA cleanroom lab fully functional


After an excruciatingly long 2 years, it is time to start updating the lab website again! Way too much has happened to summarize it all here (but check out the updated Publications and Members pages), so I'll skip to the biggest recent news, which is that our new hDNA cleanroom lab is finally up and running! The last piece of equipment was installed in this new lab on 24 March 2020—precisely when USP (and Brazil) entered lockdown. In May 2021 we placed orders for reagents and other necessary consumables, but the last one didn't arrive until January 2022. That's when we were finally able to extract the first samples of lost amphibians (see Mariana Lyra all geared up in the image in the side panel!). All of the extractions worked, with no evidence of contamination, and we are now working up the data and looking forward to getting into full production over the next few months.

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Orange = blue in Adelphobates galactonotus


Poison frogs are renowned for their highly divergent, geographically restricted color morphs, and studies of Oophaga and Dendrobates have found an association between variation in color and defensive chemicals, even over short distances. To test the generality of this association, in a new article in Chemoecology, we studied the alkaloid composition and palatability of geographically separated blue and orange morphs of the splash-backed poison frog, Adelphobates galactonotus. Despite their conspicuous differences in color and separation on opposite sides of a large aquatic barrier, the two morphs did not differ in alkaloid composition or palatability, showing that both color morphs are equally chemically protected and suggesting that the color variation is not driven by predator selection.

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Outgroup sampling in phylogenetics


Outgroup sampling is one of the most fundamental steps in the design of phylogenetic studies, yet surprisingly little attention has been paid to the logical basis of outgroup comparison or the scientific criteria for selecting outgroup species in empirical studies. In a new paper in the Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research, Taran develops a theory of outgroup sampling grounded in the logic of scientific discovery, whereby background knowledge is used to select those outgroup terminals that have the greatest chance of refuting nested hypotheses of ingroup topology and character‐state transformation for inclusion in unconstrained, simultaneous phylogenetic analysis, with the size of the outgroup sample limited by successively expanding the outgroup sample until ingroup hypotheses become stable (insensitive) to increased sampling.

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Vision in classic frog and toad models


The transmittance properties of the cornea, lens and humours of vertebrates determine how much light across the visible spectrum reaches the retina, influencing sensitivity to visual stimuli. Amphibians are the only vertebrate class in which the light transmittance of these ocular media has not been thoroughly characterised, preventing large-scale comparative studies and precise quantification of visual stimuli in physiological and behavioural experiments. In a new paper in the Journal of Experimental Biology, Carola and colleagues measured the ocular media transmittance in some commonly used species of amphibians (the bufonids Bufo bufo and Rhinella ornata, and the ranids Lithobates catesbeianus and Rana temporaria) and found low transmittance of short wavelength light, with ranids having less transmissive ocular media than bufonids. Their analyses also show that these transmittance properties have a considerable impact on spectral sensitivity, highlighting the need to incorporate this type of measurement into the design of stimuli for experiments on visual function.

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Pedro wins Willi Hennig Award!


Congratulations to Pedro Dias for winning the prestigious Willi Hennig Award for the best oral presentation at the annual meeting of the Willi Hennig Society for his presentation titled "Evolution of larval characters in the dart-poison frogs Dendrobatoidea, Cope 1865 (Anura; Dendrobatidae and Aromobatidae)," which summarizes the findings of his PhD dissertation! This is well-deserved recognition for an important contribution. Next step: finish and publish the paper!

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Pedro defended his thesis on dendrobatoid tadpoles


Congratulations to Pedro for defending his PhD dissertation on larval diversity and evolution in Dendrobatoidea. In his FAPESP funded study, Pedro examined > 1200 specimens from more than 50 collections, performed fieldwork in Brazil, Colombia, and Panama, and scored more than 400 characters from larval external morphology, muscular system, chondrocranium, digestive system, and buccopharyngeal morphology. Many thanks to Pedro's evaluation committee (Julian Faivovich, Florencia Vera Candioti, Tiago Pezzuti, and Fernando Marquez; see photo at left) for their insights and suggestions.

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Brazilian government attacks biodiversity


In the latest issue of Science, we publish a Letter warning of the disastrous effects the so-called New Law on Biodiversity will have on biodiversity.

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Denis defended his thesis on frog genomics


On Tuesday, Denis successfully defended his his FAPESP funded PhD dissertation titled "Comparative Genomics and the Evolution of Chemical Defense in Amphibians" through the USP Inter-institutional Graduate Program in Bioinformatics. Thanks to the members of his evaluation committee and congratulations to Denis!

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Is your mitogenome really complete?


A vital step of the de novo assembly of mitogenomes is the validation of sequence completeness, which, in the case of circular molecules like these, is assessed by testing for circularity. Many authors infer circularity through visual inspection of reads at the ends of the assembly, but the ends of assemblies often include erroneous sequences, making it difficult or impossible to detect circularity through visual inspection—even if the entire mitogenome was assembled correctly—and existing computational approaches are all deficient in one regard or another. In a new paper in Ecology and Evolution, Denis and colleagues applied a novel strategy to infer sequence circularity and complete assembly of four mitogenomes of the frog families Bufonidae (Melanophryniscus moreirae), Dendrobatidae (Hyloxalus subpunctatus and Phyllobates terribilis), and Scaphiopodidae (Scaphiopus holbrookii). To assess the quality of the inferred circularization, we used Bowtie2 alignment scores and a new per‐position sequence coverage value (which we named “connectivity”). Permutation tests with 400 iterations per specimen and 1% or 5% chance of mutation at the ends of the putative circular sequences showed that the proposed method is highly sensitive, with a single nucleotide insertion or deletion being sufficient for circularity to be rejected. False positives comprised only 2% of all observations and possessed significantly lower alignment scores.

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Allobates "toxicity": benzocaine, not skin alkaloids


A new article in Evolution by Ralph Saporito and Taran is now available online. This is a "technical comment" disputing Amézquita et al.'s (2017) conclusions that Allobates femoralis is just as toxic to the house mouse as several Amazonian dendrobatids and that its toxicity is due to the occurrence of lipophilic alkaloids in skin secretions. Prior to skin removal, frogs were euthanized by applying the anesthetic benzocaine to the buccal cavity, but orally administered benzocaine immediately accumulates in the highly vascularized skin of amphibians, making it impossible to determine if toxicity responses from either Allobates femoralis (otherwise believed to be a non-toxic Batesian mimic of sympatric species of Ameerega) or the legitimately alkaloid-containing species of Adelphobates and Ameerega they tested were due to defensive chemicals or benzocaine.

Although our "technical comment" is necessarily aimed at the published study, in fact it is an indictment of the review process, as such an elementary mistake should never have made it through. Neither the reviewers nor the associate editor noticed (or knew it mattered) that the method of euthanasia was not stated in the original paper. Instead, this information was unhesitatingly provided to us by the authors, who proved time and again in our exchanges that they are excellent, honest, transparent scientists, and their scientific reputations should be elevated by the fact that they shared information with us so openly and not be tarnished by this honest mistake. Studying amphibian chemical defense is exceptionally challenging because it necessarily draws from vastly different disciplines (ecology and chemistry, among others). In an effort to help prevent experimental errors and misinterpretations in studies of amphibian chemical defense, we conclude our article by offering several general guidelines.

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Visual Ecology Symposium at IBUSP


As part of our ongoing collaboration with researchers of the Vision group at Lund University, Sweden and the Museo de Ciencias Naturales, Argentina, Carola has organized a symposium titled Animal Visual Worlds: International Symposium on Visual Ecology, supported by the Swedish Research Foundation and the Instituto de Biociências da USP, to be held on 6–7 March 2018. UPDATE: Abstracts are available for download here

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Taran back from DC


Taran is on his way home after a quick but extremely productive trip to Washington DC during which he examined specimens (including several holotypes, like the holotype of Leucostethus fugax, at left) and discussed research with Roy McDiarmid at USNM, met with Susi Skomal, CEO of BioOne, the online publisher of the South American Journal of Herpetology, and transported samples for several projects. Thanks to everyone for making the trip such a success!

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Thanks to members of Taran's Habilitation committee


Many thanks to (from left to right in the photo) Professors Dalton de Souza Amorim, Sergio Antonio Vanin, Cristina Miyaki (President), André Victor Lucci Freitas, and Célio Fernando Baptista Haddad for taking two whole days out of their extremely busy schedules last week to serve on the committee that evaluated Taran's concurso de Livre-docência, or Habilitation, which includes publicly defending both a research thesis and overall academic performance before an academic committee (more or less equivalent to the German habilitation, the important difference being that habilitation is not required to conduct independent research and teaching). At USP, once a professor has obtained the degree he/she is promoted to Associate Professor, which is a university rank unrelated to tenure (many productive, tenured professors remain at the Professor Doutor rank for their entire career because they did not seek or obtain the Habilitation degree). The Committee unanimously approved the thesis and other exams.

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Poison frog systematics revisited


A decade after Grant et al.'s (2006) monographic study of the phylogenetic systematics of dart-poison frogs and their relatives, a new paper published in the South American Journal of Herpetology revisits this subject on the basis of a new analysis of up to 189 phenomic characters (morphology, behavior, defensive chemicals) and 15 mitochondrial and nuclear loci scored for 564 dendrobatoid and outgroup terminals, including 76 newly sequenced terminals and > 20 previously unanalyzed species.

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Two new glassfrog papers


Marco Rada and colleagues have published two papers naming new species of glassfrogs in the latest issue of the South American Journal of Herpetology, one on the tan-brown species and the other on Sachatamia.

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Good luck André!


Having completed his undergraduate research internship with us, André Kanasiro has left for the US to pursue his master's degree at Sam Houston State University where he will work with Dr. Juan D. Daza on the skeletal morphology of gliding gekkos. Congratulations André, and good luck with your research! We know you'll do us proud!

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Talk on editing SAJH at the São Paulo SSP meeting


Last week, Taran gave a presentation on his experiences as Editor-in-Chief of the South American Journal of Herpetology (SAJH) at the São Paulo meeting of the Society for Scholarly Publishing at the Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein. The event was recorded and can be watched in its entirety here. Taran's talk (in Portuguese) begins at approximately minute 17, but the entire event is well worth watching if you are interested in the process of scientific publishing.

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Rachel defended her thesis on hylodid relationships


On Monday, Rachel successfully defended her PhD dissertation on the phylogenetic systematics of Hylodidae, which curently includes Crossodactylus, Hylodes, and Megaelosia. Her FAPESP funded study included over 75% of the recognized species of Hylodidae, numerous undescribed species, and a large outgroup sample scored for up to 292 phenotypic characters and five mitochondrial and five nuclear genes. Thanks to the evaluation committee members Drs. Célio Haddad and Miguel Rodrigues (on Rachel's right in the photo) and Hélio da Silva and Felipe Grazziotin (on Rachel's left) for all their efforts, and congratulations to Rachel!

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Foot muscles of odontophrynid burrowing frogs


In the latest issue of Zootaxa, Blotto et al. (2017) studied the foot musculature of the fossorial family Odontophrynidae (Macrogenioglottus, Odontophrynus, and Proceratophrys) plus several hyloid outgroup taxa and other burrowing taxa from across Anura, finding novel character-states that support the monophyly of Odontophrynus, Proceratophrys, and Odontophrynus + Macrogenioglottus. The character-states observed in O. cultripes support conflicting phylogenetic positions within Odontophrynus. A comparison of some novel character-states with a diverse sample of burrowing taxa suggests that some modifications of the foot musculature might be involved in digging.

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Lizards, morphology, and Santa Marta


Sánchez-Pacheco et al. (2017) have published a phylogenetic analysis of the the most speciose genus of the Neotropical lizard family Gymnophthalmidae, the Andean genus Riama, available online early in Cladistics. Riama is found to be polyphyletic, with its species falling into three clades divided among the newly described genus Andinosaura, the resurrected genus Oreosaura, and a redefined Riama. Although morphological characters account for only 1.2% of the total evidence dataset, their inclusion resulted in taxonomically important changes to the topology and affected the support of key nodes. The phylogenetic results reveal a biogeographic link between the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the Colombian Cordillera Central, and Trinidad.

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Pedro wins Willi Hennig Founder's Award


Pedro Dias has just received notification from the President of the Willi Hennig Society, Dr. Ward Wheeler, that his proposal, "Evolution of larval characters in the dart-poison frogs Dendrobatoidea, Cope 1865 (Anura; Dendrobatidae and Aromobatidae)," has received the Founder’s Award of the Willi Hennig Society and will be fully funded at US$2500. Congratulations Pedro!

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New post-doc studies frog vision


Fresh off her groundbreaking paper (see this paper too for a review of color vision in dim light) solving the century-old mystery of the functional significance of the occurence of two spectrally different types of rods in anurans and salamanders, we are excited to welcome Dr. Carola Yovanovich to continue her research on amphibian vision through a FAPESP-funded post doctoral fellowship.

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Boris at University of Delhi, India


Boris has begun a 4-month FAPESP-funded internship in Dr. S.D. Biju's lab at the University in Delhi to incorporate Asian taxa into his research on the evolution of anuran hand and foot musculature.

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Pristimantis leptolophus and P. boulengeri groups


In the latest issue of Zootaxa, Gonzalo-Durán et al. (2017) test the monophyly and phylogenetic relationships of the Pristimantis leptolophus species group and describe its external morphology, osteology, and some myological characteristics. The revised P. leptolophus group is composed of nine named species and six unnamed species. They also recognize a new species group, the P. boulengeri group, composed of eight species, many of which were previously assigned to the P. lacrimosus species group.

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Variable responses to invasive bullfrog calls


Expanding on the approach of Both and Grant (2012), Medeiros et al. (2017) tested the effects of the acoustic invasion of the American bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus, on native frogs that have calls with and without spectral overlap with the invader's vocalizations. As expected, all species responded to L. catesbeianus vocalizations by modifying temporal call parameters, although the specific responses varied across species. Contrary to predictions, all species also modified spectral parameters in response to invasive calls, including those whose call frequencies do not overlap with bullfrog call frequencies. Further, only one species (Scinax perereca) responded by increasing the dominant frequency and decreasing spectral overlap with the bullfrog. The other species all responded by lowering their dominant frequencies during or after exposure, thereby increasing spectral overlap with the exogenous sound. A possible explanation for this unexpected finding is that that lower frequencies propagate better in the environment than higher frequencies, so this might be a generalized response to noise that serves to draw distant individuals closer where other kinds of short-range communication, like visual communication, can be employed.

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Team galactonotus back from Caxiuanã


Adriana, Jhon, Marco, and Taran just returned from fieldwork in the Floresta Nacional de Caxiuanã in Pará where they went in search of Adelphobates galactonotus for Adriana's FAPESP-funded doctoral research project. The infrastructure and support at Caxiuanã are second to none, and we were able to obtain the frogs we needed, all of which are now eating well and settling into their new homes. Our thanks to Socorro and everyone else at Caxiuanã for all their help!

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Complex middle ear evolution in frogs


A new paper by Pereyra et al. (2016) published today in the open access journal Scientific Reports examines the uniquely complex evolutionary history of the middle ear in anurans. Although most anurans possess a tympanic middle ear composed minimally of a tympanic membrane, middle ear cavity, and columella (= stapes), we found that the tympanic middle ear was completely lost at least 38 times in Anura. The evolutionary history of the tympanic middle ear is exceptionally complex in bufonids (see the figure on the left), where it was lost in the most recent common ancestor, preceding a radiation of >150 earless species, was re-gained partially or completely in two minor clades and a radiation of >400 species, and was subsequently re-lost completely at least 10 times. The many losses and gains of the tympanic middle ear in anurans is unparalleled among tetrapods, making them excellent model to study the behavioral correlates of earlessness, extratympanic sound pathways, and the genetic and developmental mechanisms that underlie the morphogenesis of middle ear structures.

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Laboratório de Anfíbios at WCH8


The lab was well represented at the 8th World Congress of Herpetology (WCH8) held in Hangzhou, China. Rachel gave an oral presentation on the evolution and functional significance of vocal sac morphology in Hylodidae, Gabriel gave an oral presentation of his preliminary findings on the population genetics of invasive bullfrog populations in Brazil, and Taran gave a mini-plenary summarizing our efforts to document and explain variation in the chemical defenses of the bufonid poison frogs, Melanophryniscus. The link to the abstracts is presently broken, but the complete program for the Congress can be found here. Thanks to the organizers for a great event.

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"Recent" progress in dendrobatid systematics


Almost a decade after the first draft was submitted and 5 years since it was last updated, Grant and Frost's section titled Recent progress in the systematics of poison frogs and their relatives (Dendrobatoidea) was published in the Conservation International book "Aposematic Poison Frogs (Dendrobatidae) of the Andean Countries: Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Perú and Venezuela." After so long, the progress can hardly be described as "recent", but the chapter still provides useful background on the systematics of the clade. In addition to our section, the book provides species accounts and loads of information on the distribution and conservation of Andean poison frogs (except the poisonous species of Andean Colostethus, curiously).

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Taran at KU


Taran is visiting the incredible KU herp collection to take data on types (surrounding him in the photo on the left) and dendrobatids and survey Old World ranoids for the median lingual process. Thanks to curators Rafe Brown and Rich Glor and collection manager Luke Welton for their hospitality and help.

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Back from the field in Colombia


Taran just returned from fieldwork on Gorgona Island off the Pacific coast of Colombia with lab-alumnus Wilmar Bolívar and his students from the Universidad del Valle, who are monitoring the island's amphibians and reptiles. Taran's main objective was to study an undescribed species of Silverstoneia, shown in the photo on the left. Many thanks to park director María Ximena Zorrilla and the team at Parque Nacional Natural Gorgona for all their help.

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Denis and team win at Zika Innovation Hack-a-thon!


Our own Denis Jacob Machado teamed up with two doctoral students at University of North Carolina Charlotte, where Denis is conducting his FAPESP-funded international internship, engineers, and clinicians to compete with 14 other teams of more than 100 clinicians, designers, biologists, engineers, and public health experts at the Zika Innovation Hack-a-thon held at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston on April 2-3, 2016. Their project, called L.A.D. (Larvicide Automated Dispenser), received the award for "Most Implementable Solution," sponsored by the GE Foundation. Their device ensures optimal concentration of larvicides in domestic water supplies with minimal human intervention and maximum safety and has the potencial to help control mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika, Chikungunya, Dengue, and Malaria. Congratulations to Denis and the rest of the team! Team members in photo (from left): Denis Jacob Machado (USP/UNC Charlotte), M. Ihsan Kaadan (MGH), Kara Luo (Lexington High School), Karen Cheng (Boston University School of Medicine), Gregorio Linchangco (UNC Charlotte), Paul Chang (Cornell University), Adriano Schneider (UNC Charlotte), and Marcelo deCastro (Linpix Software LLC). UPDATE 19/04/2016: FAPESP has published a news article about this story here

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Lab members abroad


Pedro has just finished and Mariane is about to finish their 6 month FAPESP-funded internships collecting data in the amphibian collection of the Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Bogotá, Boris is nearing the end of his 4 month internship studying hand and foot musculature in the University of Kansas Amphibian Collection, and Denis has just begun a 1 yr internship in Dan Janies's lab in the University of North Carolina Charlotte's Department of Bioinformatics and Genomics. Click here (Mariane), here (Pedro), here (Boris), and here (Denis) for summaries of their projects abroad.

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A new species of red-eyed Hyloscirtus from Peru


In the latest issue of Zootaxa, Rivera-Correa et al. (2016) describe a new species of Hyloscirtus from Peru. Among other distinguishing character states, the new species is characterized by its stunning, dark red iris. In addition to describing the new species, we discuss the current state of the taxonomy of Hyloscirtus, concluding that currently, "understanding of these frogs is better advanced by focusing efforts on gathering new evidence of relationships than by rushing new names to press in the absence of synapomorphy."

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Assembly strategies and 5 new mitogenomes


Early view of the article "Mitogenome assembly from genomic multiplex libraries: comparison of strategies and novel mitogenomes for five species of frogs" is available from Molecular Ecology Resources. In this study, we optimized an in silico strategy to efficiently reconstruct high-quality mitochondrial genomes directly from genomic reads and tested it using sequences from five species of frogs: Hylodes meridionalis (Hylodidae), Hyloxalus yasuni (Dendrobatidae), Pristimantis fenestratus (Craugastoridae), and Melanophryniscus simplex and Rhinella sp. (Bufonidae). Our results show that few raw reads can be sufficient to generate high-quality scaffolds, making any Illumina machine run using genomic multiplex libraries a potential source of data for organelle assemblies as by-catch.

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Older poison frogs have more alkaloids


The main results of Adriana's Master's thesis were published today in the open access journal Frontiers in Zoology. For the first time for any poison frog, we tested the relationship between chemical defenses and individual age in the red belly toad Melanophryniscus moreirae, a poison frog from the Serra da Mantiqueira plateau in southeastern Brazil. Using skeletochronology to infer individual ages and gas chromatography–mass spectrometry and vapor phase Fourier-transform infrared spectral analysis to identify defensive chemicals, we found that alkaloid richness was positively related to age, but not size, whereas the quantities of sequestered alkaloids and bufotenine were positively related to size, but not age. In addition to shedding new light on the causes and consequences of variation in poison frog chemical defenses, this study also provides the first information for any species of Melanophryniscus on age at maturity, longevity, potential reproductive lifespan, age structure, and the relationship between age and size in males and females.

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YBYRÁ facilitates comparison of cladograms


Our PhD student, Denis Jacob Machado, has just being published in BMC Bioinformatics! The program, available here, integrates software solutions for data analysis in phylogenetics. It comprises tools for (1) topological distance calculation based on the number of shared splits or clades, (2) sensitivity analysis and automatic generation of sensitivity plots (“Navajo rugs”) and (3) clade diagnoses based on different categories of synapomorphies (using TNT). YBYRÁ also provides (4) a framework to facilitate the search for potential rogue taxa based on how much they affect average matching split distances (using MSdist).

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Adriana's thesis defense


Yesterday, Adriana Jeckel successfully defended her Master's thesis, titled "Chemical Defense in Melanophryniscus moreirae: Does alkaloid diversity increase with age?" Thanks to Glauco Machado, IB-USP, Ecologia (far left in the image shown here) and, next to him, Daniel Pimenta, Instituto Butantan, Laboratório de Bioquímica e Biofísica, for their in-depth, critical assessments of the thesis, and congratulations to Adriana for completing her degree!

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Dietary alkaloids and bufotenine in a poison frog


A new paper by Jeckel et al. (2015) in the Journal of Chemical Ecology reports the co-occurrence of large quantities of dietary alkaloids and the biosynthesized indolealkylamine bufotenine in the bufonid poison frog Melanophryniscus moreirae. GC/MS analysis of 55 individuals of M. moreirae revealed 37 dietary alkaloids and the biosynthesized indolealkylamine bufotenine. On average, pumiliotoxin 267C, bufotenine, and allopumilitoxin 323B collectively represent ca. 90% of the defensive chemicals present in an individual. The quantity of defensive chemicals differed between sexes, with males possessing significantly less dietary alkaloid and bufotenine than females. Most of the dietary alkaloids have structures with branched-chains, indicating they are likely derived from oribatid mites. The ratio of bufotenine:alkaloid quantity decreased with increasing quantities of dietary alkaloids, suggesting that M. moreirae might regulate bufotenine synthesis in relation to sequestration of dietary alkaloids.

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Amphibian vision symposium, Lund University


Taran has arrived at Lund University, Sweden, to take part in the Amphibian Visual Ecology Symposium 16–17/04/2015, organized by the Lund Vision Group. While there, he will also meet with collaborators Almut Kelber, Carola Yovanovich, and Julián Faivovich to discuss work on their Vetenskapsrådet (Swedish Research Council)-funded project "Red & green rods: Swedish–South American collaboration on visual ecology of amphibians."

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New technician: Carolina Rossi


Earlier this year, Juliana Jordão left for an internship in Population Genomics at the Berlin Center for Genomics in Biodiversity Diversity and Carol came on board as our FAPESP-funded molecular lab technician.

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New technician: Ana Paula Brandão


Ana joined us earlier this year with a CNPq Bolsa de Desenvolvimento Tecnológico Industrial do CNPq - Nível C to database the >140,000-specimen MZUSP Amphibian Collection.

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Two new species of Anomaloglossus from Roraima


Fouquet et al. (2015) described two new species of Anomaloglossus. Here is the abstract from the paper: "We describe two new species of Anomaloglossus from Roraima State, Brazil, that are likely endemic to single mountains currently isolated among lowland forest and savanna ecosystems. The first species, Anomaloglossus tepequem sp. nov. was collected in 1986 and 1992 along a single stream at >500 m elevation on a tepui-like mountain named Tepequém, but was not detected during recent investigations. It is mainly diagnosed from other Anomaloglossus species by its well developed foot webbing, immaculate cream abdomen colouration and small body size (males: 18.2–20.1 mm, females: 21.7–24.5). The second species, Anomaloglossus apiau sp. nov. was found along several streams between 500 and 1400 m elevation on Serra do Apiaú, and is mainly diagnosed from congeners by its weakly webbed feet, males with swollen third finger and ventrolateral stripe formed by white dots, and its advertisement call; a long trill (up to almost 40 s) consisting of pairs of very short pulses. The discovery of these two apparently microendemic species suggests that additional Anomaloglossus species remain to be described in the Guiana Shield. Both species should be considered critically endangered given their seemingly reduced range size, association with highland habitat, and the anthropogenic pressure they currently face."

Vision in nocturnal amphibians


Dr. Carola Yovanovich of Lund University in Sweden will give a talk on vision in nocturnal amphibians at 1 pm on Wednesday, 25/02/2015, in the Department of Zoology's Auditório Geral. Here is the abstract for her presentation: “The existence of different spectral kinds of rod photoreceptors in the amphibian retina has long raised the question of whether these animals use color at night, when vision is rod-based, for any kind of visually driven behavior. In this talk I will discuss some behavioral experiments that are being used to investigate the limits for color vision in frogs and toads using two different model species. I will also introduce a comparative approach that we will use to elucidate the presence and potential relevance of this ability across the amphibian phylogenetic tree.”

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Horned frog phylogeny published


A detailed study of the systematics of the horned frogs (Ceratophryidae) was published by de Faivovich et al. in the December issue of the South American Journal of Herpetology. In addition to performing a thorough phylogenetic analysis using 8200 bp of nuclear and mitochondrial DNA, the authors study the evolution of polyploidy and cocoon formation and larval development duration associated with surviving in semiarid environments, and also review the ceratophryid fossil record that could be relevant as calibration points in molecular divergence estimations.

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Tadpole of Sphaenorhynchus caramaschii described


Araujo-Vieira and colleagues describe the tadpole of Sphaenorhynchus caramaschii and discuss variation in several larval characteristics in other species of Sphaenorhynchus, including the morphology and position of the nostrils, length of the spiracle, and size of the marginal papillae on the oral disc.

Oportunidade de estágio - bolsa TT3 FAPESP


Estamos procurando biólogos formados com alguma experiência em laboratório de biologia molecular para preenchimento de uma vaga de estágio técnico com bolsa TT3 FAPESP. Escreva-nos se estiver interessad@!

Massive participation of our lab at the 4CCZ/ XCLH


Most members of the Laboratório de Anfíbios have attended the 4 Congreso Colombiano de Zoologia/ X Congreso Latinoamericano de zoologia. We congratulate the following members (former and current) for their great work: Adriana Jeckel, Boris Blotto, Camila Medeiros, Denis Machado, Gabriel Cohen, Marco García, Mariane Targino, Mauricio Rivera-Correa, Pedro Dias and Rafael Henrique.

Butch Brodie to speak at USP


Butch will give a talk about his research on a salamander/snake arms race at 1 pm on Tuesday, 04/11/2014, in the Department of Zoology's Auditório Geral. Here is the abstract for his presentation: “Tetrodotoxin (TTX) is a potent neurotoxin that acts on voltage gated sodium channels; it is found in a wide array of organisms, including some amphibians. The presence of TTX renders organisms generally inedible to predators. We have studied the coevolution of the newt, Taricha granulosa and a garter snake, Thamnophis sirtalis; the presence of TTX in the newt and the presence of resistance to TTX in the snake seemingly have led to an escalating arms race. This arms race has resulted in elevated TTX levels in the newt and elevated resistance levels in the snake. We have discovered that other snakes faced with amphibian prey having TTX have adapted by altering the sodium channels in a way similar to garter snakes. Recently we have discovered that caddisfly larvae are resistant to TTX and feed on newt eggs. This will require rethinking what we 'know' about snake-newt coevolution.”

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Bullfrog crew in Turvo


This month Rafael, joined by Gabriel and Ana Paula, began fieldwork at Parque Estadual do Turvo to study the movement of invasive bullfrogs using radio telemetry.

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New paper on Melanophryniscus macrogranulosus


Based on 30 field expeditions from 2005–2013, Caorsi et al. report new data on the natural history, geographic distribution, color pattern, habitat use, and reproductive and defensive behavior of Melanophryniscus macrogranulosus.

Butch is here!


Edmund "Butch" Brodie Jr. of Utah State University arrived today on a FAPESP-funded visit to pursue our work on amphibian chemical defense. The date has not yet been set for his talk at USP, but on Thursday, 24 October at 2 pm Butch will give a talk at UNESP Rio Claro in the series Seminários Charles Darwin de Ecologia & Evolução in the Anfiteatro "Celina Foresti" do Depto. de Ecologia.

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Adriana in the news


As part of its Dia dos Professores coverage, yesterday the Porto Alegre newspaper Zero Hora ran a story on the academic tradition of Adriana's family (not mentioned in the article: Adriana's father, Emílio Jeckel, is also a university professor).

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Leptodactylus monograph published


A monograph on the systematics of Leptodactylus was published by de Sá et al. in Issue 9(Special Issue 1) of the South American Journal of Herpetology. The monograph includes a phylogenetic analysis using molecular and morphological evidence, an assessment of the impact of morphological characters on the total evidence results, and taxonomic accounts of all species of the genus.

Ralph at UNESP Rio Claro


Ralph Saporito's talk at UNESP Rio Claro will be given in the series Seminários Charles Darwin de Ecologia & Evolução on 01/10/2014 (Wednesday) at 2 pm in the Anfiteatro "Celina Foresti" do Depto. de Ecologia.

Ralph is here!


Ralph Saporito from John Carrol University arrived today on a FAPESP-funded visit to further our research on amphibian chemical defense. Here is a recent sample of his research. Come to his talk in the Department of Zoology's Auditório Geral at 1 pm on Thursday, 26/09/2014. UPDATE: Ralph's talk has been moved to the Auditório Geral of the BOTANY Department (not Zoology), and the correct date is 25/09/2014 (Thursday). If you miss this one, Ralph will also give a talk at UNESP Rio Claro on 01/10/2014. Stay tuned for more details.UPDATE 2: Ralph's talk at UNESP Rio Claro will be given in the series Seminários Charles Darwin de Ecologia & Evolução on 01/10/2014 (Wednesday) at 2 pm in the Anfiteatro "Celina Foresti" do Depto. de Ecologia.

Welcome Gabriel!


Gabriel J. Cohen has joined the lab as a FAPESP-funded technician. In addition to helping make the lab run smoothly, Gabriel will work closely with Rafael Henrique on his Masters project tracking the movement of invasive bullfrogs.

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SAJH 9(2) published


Issue 9(2) of the South American Journal of Herpetology is available online at BioOne. This issue includes articles on frog and snake ecology, a new species of snake (Ninia), lizard population genetics, and tadpole morphology and taxonomy.

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Congratulations PROFESSOR Victor Dill!


Effective today, Victor has officially joined the Departamento de Ciências Biológicas of the Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz (UESC) in Ilheus, Bahia, as Professor Adjunto, Nível “A”. With an astonishingly diverse amphibian fauna in his back yard (not to mention the beaches!), this is a dream job for an amphibian systematist. Congratulations Victor!

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Brazil surpasses 1000 species of amphibians


In a new paper published in Herpetologia Brasileira, Segalla and colleagues report the occurrence of 1026 species of amphibians in Brazil. (Update: Anomaloglossus was inadvertently placed in Allobatinae instead of Anomaloglossinae, where it should be. Also, click here to see the contents of previous issues of HB, and join the SBH to keep up to date!)

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Adri, Boris, Rafa


Adriana returned from her 6 mo internship at JCU, Boris made it around the sun one more time, and Rafael (de Sá, not Henrique) is finishing his Fulbright and getting ready to go home.

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Correction to Padial, Grant, & Frost 2014


Immediately after Padial et al. (2014) was published we (= Frost) noted that Ceuthomantinae had priority over Pristiminatinae. We immediately submitted the correction to Zootaxa, also getting them to republish the misprinted figure, and on 27/07/2014 Darrel added a comment on the error in his ASW changes blog. Yesterday the correction was published in Zootaxa. While unfortunate, if this is the most significant error in the paper, we're in fine shape.

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Rafael starts his Master's


After working for a year as one of our FAPESP-funded technicians, Rafael Henrique has quit his job to pursue his CNPq-funded master's degree. His research will study the movement of invasive bullfrogs using radio telemetry.

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Welcome Jhon!


Jhon Jairo Sarria has started his FAPESP-funded PhD on the phylogenetic relationships of Craugastoridae. Mariane is midway through her PhD on Pristimantis, allowing Jhon to focus on the remainder of the family.

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New monograph on direct-developing frogs


With more than 1000 species, the clade of New World direct-developing frogs comprises around 33% of all New World frog species and nearly 17% of named anuran species worldwide. In our new paper Molecular systematics of terraranas (Anura: Brachycephaloidea) with an assessment of the effects of alignment and optimality criteria, we tested previous phylogenetic hypotheses for the group by combining DNA sequences of 22 genes from 431 ingroup and 25 outgroup terminals and performing a tree-alignment analysis under the parsimony optimality criterion in the program POY.

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Welcome back Rafael!


With support from the Fulbright Foundation, Dr. Rafael de Sá of the University of Richmond, USA, arrived for the second portion of his visit. Rafael will be visiting until mid-August.

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Rachel starts internship at USNM


Rachel Montesinos has started her FAPESP-funded internship in the Division of Amphibians and Reptiles at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History to work on her PhD research. Click here for an overview of the project.

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New bullfrog invasion paper now online


In this study, we examined the relationship between invasive bullfrogs and native amphibian species richness in the Atlantic Forest of southern Brazil. We found a weak positive relationship between bullfrog abundance and species richness in invaded areas. The path model revealed that this is an indirect relationship mediated by community composition gradients. Our results indicate that bullfrogs are more abundant in certain amphibian communities, which can be species-rich. Local factors describing habitat heterogeneity were the main predictors of amphibian species richness and composition and bullfrog abundance. Our results reinforce the important role of habitats in determining both native species diversity and potential invasibility.

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A new species of toad with a strange ear


We describe a new species of the Rhinella acrolopha group (previously Rhamphophryne) from mid-elevations (1800–2500 m) of the Cordillera Occidental of Colombia. The most striking characteristic of this species is its middle ear, which lacks a tympanic membrane and annulus but possesses a short stapes that articulates with the palatoquadrate and squamosal in a manner similar to the middle ear of many salamanders.

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Adriana starts internship at JCU


Adriana Jeckel has started her FAPESP-funded internship in Ralph Saporito's lab at John Carroll University to work on part of her masters thesis research. Click here for a summary of the project.