By Bill Morris
This week the film students completed their science profile project – an assignment to create a profile of a scientist or PhD student. This one was made by Wu Peng on the native Archey’s frog and the work being done by Bastian Egeter in the Zoology Department. Bastian is analyzing the stomach contents of rodents to determine if they are a contributing factor in the alarming decline of the species.
New Zealand’s native Leiopelma frogs are fascinating – they are an ancient lineage that existed in the time of the dinosaurs and have changed very little since then. They differ greatly from most other frogs around the world in a number of ways. Firstly, they do not hatch free-swimming tadpoles but “froglets” with tails. The adult have vestigial tail muscles, do not croak and have no eardrums. Also, they lack the ability to land gracefully when jumping; instead they “bellyflop.” Recent research suggests Leiopelma diverged from other frog species before the latter evolved the ability to reposition their hind legs mid-flight for a landing. This adaptation in more advanced frogs would have given them greater ability to escape predators.
New Zealand’s unique frogs are at great risk – already three of seven species have disappeared. Bastian, as well as Dr Phil Bishop and his team in the Zoology department are working hard to keep the remaining four species from extinction. For more on their work, have a look here.