Saturday, 24 March 2012

Very small frogs

The newspaper OGlobo recently reported a discovery in the state of Espirito Santo, the aptly named Flea Frog ("Sapo pulga"), or Brachycephalus didactylus, the worlds smallest frog. It has actually been found before near Rio, but this is the first siting elsewhere in the Mata Atlantica. Of course, just because it isn't seen, that doesn't mean it isn't there. After all, Flea frogs are a) very, very, small, b) they live hidden in leaf litter on the forest floor, c) they are camouflaged, and d) they only move around at night.

Obviously baby Flea frogs are even smaller, but not that small, females only lay one egg at a time, rather than the 1,000+ the European Common frog for example. However, like Common frogs, Flea frogs eat more or less any invertebrates they can catch, which means very small ones, like mites or springtails.

If you would like to see the original report (in Portuguese) it can be found here...

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Kelp gulls

As I've mentioned before, you won't find sea gulls on the beaches of Copacabana or Ipanema in Rio. However, go further south, down to Santa Catarina and beyond, and they do start to appear. One of the commonest is the Kelp Gull, or Larus dominicus - the "dominicus" part coming from the Dominican order of friars who also had black and white plumage. In Brazil it's known as the "Gaviota dominicana".

In fact, the Kelp gull is not just found in Brazil, but all over the southern hemisphere, from the Falkland Islands to South Africa to New Zealand and Australia. As with many successful species they are ominvores, eating almost anything, which means that like their northern cousins they flock to waste sites and rubbish tips. Also, rather nastily, they seem to have a habit of pecking into whales when they surface. Slightly more admirably, they seem to be intelligent enough to use tools, or at least use stones to smash open mussel shells. They also pick up mussels and drop them from a great height, quite a common sight on the Falklands apparently.

The one thing don't eat is kelp, or seaweed - the name probably comes from seeing them investigating weed washed up on the shore looking for molluscs or insects.