Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Endangered gopher frogs found at new breeding spot

Scientists: Endangered gopher frogs found at second breeding spot in Miss. after pond makeover 

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The snoring noise near a shallow pond in a Mississippi national forest was meant to make female frogs sit up and take notice, but it got biologists even more excited. The noise indicated that dusky gopher frogs — one of the world's most endangered species — had found a new breeding spot. 

The animals, also called Mississippi gopher frogs, live underground and breed only in rain-fed ponds so shallow that they dry up in summer. Three spots in Mississippi hold an estimated total of 100 to 200 frogs, but eggs and tadpoles have consistently shown up in only one, called Glen's Pond, in the DeSoto National Forest near Saucier. 

The U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and others have been working since 2000 on pond makeovers designed to please gopher frogs, which typically breed at night after heavy rain in winter or early spring. 

At a renovated pond less than a mile from Glen's Pond, Western Carolina University researcher John Tupy heard the frogs on Feb. 27. 

Since 2009, Tupy said, he's spent chilly winter and spring nights in the forest, slogging around Glen's Pond and others within reasonable hopping distance. Until then, the frogs had called only at Glen's Pond. 

"Once I finally believed that this was really happening, I was really excited," he said. "I called my wife. I called fellow researchers. And made a recording to make sure that people actually believed me." 

One of Tupy's calls was to biologist Linda LaClaire of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who is coordinating efforts to help the species recover. 

She said the move is the frogs' first natural migration and reproduction since biologists discovered them in 1988. It confirms the stability of the population in and around Glen's Pond, she said, and proves that ponds not suitable for the frogs can be modified. 

"The frogs voted with their feet," LaClaire said. 

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