Archive for March, 2007

Froggy went a courtin’

28 March 2007

These pictures accurately represent the state of the Toad Tunnel as of 1/16/2005
photo from

...I don’t see frogs or toads around Davis much, although the ubiquitous herons and egrets presumably see a few more than I do. Of course, even though I don’t often see them I know they are here. The first calm night after a spring rainstorm roils in the sex-crazed calls of thousands of Pacific Treefrog (Pseudacris regilla). Other members of this ‘chorus frog’ genus fill the same pandemonious role across other parts North America.

Davis’ infamous ‘toad tunnel’, lauded in a children’s book and lambasted by the Daily Show, probably serves mostly treefrogs, if anyone. Though both Bufo and Spea (that’s toads, sensu-stricto and sensu-spado, if we can call a spade a spade) are liable to be around here somewhere.

The tunnel was an effort to mitigate frog-cakes resulting from the construction of a highly trafficked overpass. Reportedly, the amphibians first eschewed the tunnel, then fried themselves on the lights installed to light their way, and finally emerged into the waiting gullet of savvy anurovorous avians waiting on the other side.

Never Give Up, copper and steel by Paul Hubler (1997).

Sadly, the frogs I’m most likely to encounter in Davis are bad old American Bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana). The presence of these alien invaders is usually announced by a telltale plop as I walk through the UCD arboretum. They pose a far more serious threat to native amphibians, through competition and predation, than 100,000,000 Firestones.

Frog diversity generally increases as you head out of the Central Valley and into the Coast Ranges or Sierra foothills or up into the Klamath.  A handful of endemic toads are sprinkled throughout the mountains across the state.  The hills are also the domain of Mark Twain’s celebrated jumping frog, the Red-legged Frog (Rana draytonii).  The folks of Angel’s Camp still have an annual frog jumping contest, but the Red-legged Frog is probably more cursed than celebrated these days, at least among developers hoping to squeeze a thousand home subdivision into a charming mountain valley.


Vintage Postcard from Angel’s Camp.

The true amphibian masters of the mountains don’t jump, and don’t sing but they can wriggle like heck and we’ll meet them next.

Can cause death in most vertebrates

27 March 2007

Including humans, if eaten in sufficent quantity’.
California Newt (Taricha torosa) Photo by Jessica Oster.

Others have bemoaned the paucity of their local herpetofaunae (for example here, and here). California is a large, varied state and boasts roughly 160 reptile and amphibian species1. In suburban Davis, I can hope to see maybe four or six different types of herps (excluding Connie and Blizzard). But a recent trip up to the Coast Ranges reminded me of California’s largely hidden bounty of slimy and scaly tetrapods.

Turtles aren’t really terribly diverse anywhere but seem to get along most places. Of the twelve species in California, four are introduced, five are marine, and two are restricted to the southeast desert. In Davis, I’m most likely to see non-native Sliders (Trachemys scripta) or whatever other pet species have been dumped in the UCD arboretum.

Northern California has but one native turtle species, the Western Pond Turtle (Actinemys marmorata). We were happy to stumble upon two doing their best clast impression in the bottom of a creek.

Above image links to turtle capture video

with weak Steve Irwin(rip) retread. Sorry.

Frogs and toads come up next highest on the list with twenty-five species. Of these, the Pacific Treefrog (Pseudacris regilla) is one of the most widely distributed and probably most frequently encountered anuran in the state. Nearly every campground restroom boasts at least one resident ‘tree’ frog.

Sure enough, the turtle pond had a treefrog hanging around, in this case doing her best impersonation of a rockfrog.

to come: newts, lizards and snakes. oh my.

1 – This and almost all other facts and figures from the incredibly expansive

Stone Cold Dis

26 March 2007

Photo of Keith Parkins by Keith Parkins 2006.

Hey, the Neurophilosopher has compiled a list of natural history weblogs. Notice any glaring omissions. Like, um, somewhere near the middle of this list?

Bah, well it’s a good list anyway packed with a lot of personal favorites and some new gems. Any of which might be the next Gilbert White or whatever.


Bridging a Gap pt. 2

20 March 2007


Yanoconodon sips from the pool of 10,000 spirits.

Yanoconodon was a modest Mesozoic mammal, shunning the flashy lifestyles of the late Jurassic(?) glider Volaticotherium or the paramammalian faux beaver Castorocauda. She stuck to a more respectable station, scurrying among the underbrush, shearing up earthworms with her utilitarian triconodont teeth.




But just adjacent to those worm-slicer teeth, her transitional jaw cheekily foreshadows the whole great microossicle revolution. Then, deep in her abdomen she brashly blurs the line between reptile thorax and mammal lumbar, sporting ribs where they don’t belong. Snap. Mosaic evolution rides again.


Pharyngula’s account is blogothoritative.


Original abstract: Luo et al. 2006

Rejectile Triptic

16 March 2007

Bridging a Gap pt. Uno

16 March 2007


Insert motivational truism here:


To all in the Davis CA vicinity:

Sunwise Co-op (my home) is having an Open-house/Naomh Pádraig memorial fest beginning mid-morning and (hopefully) extending past mid-night. Please come!


Docile Bee