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Reptile and Amphibian Groups can be found all over the UK and these passionate enthusiasts do all kinds of things for their favourite scaley/slimey friends. Check out these slides from our local group – Avon Reptile and Amphibian Group – ARAG for short!

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There are a number of amphibians and reptiles which do turn up which are actually non native to the UK. There are a large number of pets which are kept up and down the country such as corn snakes, salamanders, tree frogs and other exotic animals which may escape into people’s gardens from time to time.

There has been a long history of  animals introductions into the UK and some amphibian and reptile species have now established here. Here are a few of the most successful species:

European water frogs

The  most successful non native amphibian in the UK has to be the European Water Frog. It can be confusing  as there is around 14 different species found across Europe. The three main types are the pool frog, marsh frog and the hybrid between these species which is known as the edible frog.

The marsh frog is the largest frog species found in Europe and gets its name from the area of Kent where it was originally introduced – Romney Marsh. All the water frogs have a very distinctive call and you can hear these calls on Amphibian & Reptile Conservation’s Alien encounter website – www.alienencounters.org.uk 

The water frogs are still spreading in UK either by their own steam or indeed by people power. The main thing is to not take home any spawn, tadpoles or frogs for the garden pond from areas where these animals are known to live. We cannot prevent the spread of these animals as the climate changes but we should try to prevent further introductions. In order to do this we need to know where these animals are currently living so if you hear a noisy frog in the summer do let us know through the #RecordPool.

Find out more on Surrey Amphibian & Reptile Group’s Water Frog Page

Midwife toad

Another interesting species is the midwife toad which has a curious life cycle in that the male toads looks after a string of eggs over the spring until they are ready to hatch. He then drops into a suitable water body to allow for the tadpoles to develop into new toadlets.  This species has had a stronghold over the last century in and around Bedfordshire and new populations have been found in other parts of the country. It’s alternative name is the bell toad which relates to its breeding call which is very much like a computer game going off. It should be easy to identify this toad through it’s call as it is often very difficult to spot or find as it tends to hide away from ponds underneath stones and other garden debris.

Alpine newt

A rather exotic looking newt species – on the account that male’s colouration is a vivid blue with a bright orange belly. Looking pretty cool with a black and white chequered crest, it is easy to see why people like to keep them as pets. The female newt is similar to a young great crested newt with a bright orange belly and green or blue marbling on its body. The species is still sold through pet shops and aquatic centres so it can pop up pretty much anyway in the UK. It is of concern as it is a carrier or known risk factor for the deadly Chytrid fungus.

North American Bullfrog

They say everything is bigger in the States and this is a pretty big species from across the pond: the North American Bullfrog. Banned from importation into Europe in the late 1990’s we have become complacent regarding the risk of this species remaining in the UK. In the 1990’s a population was found in fish ponds near to the Kent/Sussex Border. The population was removed from this site over the next ten years.and it was thought that there were no longer any Bullfrogs in the UK.

This changed in around 2006 when a population was located in South West Essex. Several hundred adult frogs were found and removed from golf courses and fishing ponds over a large area of Essex countryside. In 2010 a third population was found in the south of England on private land. Efforts are being undertaken to remove this population and to survey further sites for this massive frog species.

It is surprising that this frog can exist undetected within these sites for over ten years. People hear them every year and put up with the sound of a mooing cow or a whole field of cows in some cases. Other neighbours thought it was a pumping system and therefore did not worry about the noise.

Now that’s a big frog

We hope that there are no more populations hiding out there but just one female bullfrog can lay over 10 times more spawn that our native common frog – 20,000 eggs!

So far the recent populations have not been tested positive for the deadly chytrid fungus that has been decimating amphibian populations worldwide, but these populations do have Rana virus which impacts on our native frogs. Not to mention these frogs can gulf down an adult common frog very easily.

Wall Lizard

By far the most successful reptile introduction is the European or Common Wall lizard. This beautiful lizard species is found unsurprisingly around walls and other features created by humans. It is found on coastal sites in Southern England and exists in 30 to 40 colonies around the country. This information has been collated by Steve Langham from Surrey Amphibian & Reptile Group using the online forum Reptiles and Amphibians of the UK (RAUK)

You can see all the reports/records of known, possible and extinct populations of this lizard in the UK. It is considered to be a native species on the island of Jersey in the Channel Islands.  If you spot an agile lizard on stone walls located near one of the sites listed on the Wall Lizard Project you can submit a sighting card through the #RecordPool to help confirm add more information to the project website.

Recording, recording, recording

The main thing is to not capture any animal which you suspect to be a non native but please do report the location, numbers seen and the date to the online recording system the #RecordPool to help track the movements and discover new populations of non native amphibians and reptiles in the UK

NB:The data collated through the Record Pool (native as well as non natives) will be forwarded onto local recorders and shared with the Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Trust for the sole purpose of conserving our amphibians and reptiles in the UK. if you would like to become more involved with the #RecordPool then please do email info@arguk.org for more details and you can also help with the online recording of amphibians and reptiles in the UK

Amphibian and Reptile Groups of the UK

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