When I was in Costa Rica for a bird photography tour recently with Tropical Birding, I had an opportunity to visit Frog’s Heaven, a place that specializes in catching wild frogs for photography. The frogs are subsequently released back into the environment. These tiny frogs are getting harder to find, even in the optimized environments of the Frog’s Heaven preserve. Research suggests that even though amphibians are severely declining worldwide, there is no simple solution to halting or reversing these declines. Amphibians are good indicators of significant environmental changes. Amphibians, unlike people, breathe at least partly through their skin, which is constantly exposed to everything in their environment. Consequently, their bodies are much more sensitive to environmental factors such as disease, pollution, toxic chemicals, ultraviolet radiation, and habitat destruction. The worldwide occurrences of amphibian declines and deformities could be an early warning that some of our ecosystems, even seemingly pristine ones, are seriously out of balance. We were able to photograph a nice cross section of the different types of frogs which I thought I would present here.
Madagascar is home to an abundance of beautiful and unusual animals many of whom are unique to Madagascar because of its relative isolation. This is not just any isolation, Madagascar was once a part of the supercontinent Pangea but between 160–117 million years ago, it began separating, rifting southward over 1000 km away from the Africa plate. The Middle Jurassic is one of the key periods in the evolution of life on earth. Many groups, including dinosaurs and mammals, diversified during this time. The Opluridae, or Madagascan iguanas, are a family of moderately sized lizards native to Madagascar and Grande Comore islands. There are eight species in two genera, with most of the species being in Oplurus. The family includes species that live amongst rocks, some that live in trees, and two that prefer sandy habitats. All of the species lay eggs, and have teeth that resemble those of the true iguanas. A study of mitochondrial DNA sequences has dated the split between Opluridae and the New World Iguanidae (within which Opluridae are sometimes classified as the subfamily Oplurinae) at about 165 million years ago, during the Middle Jurassic.