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Congratulations Jennica!

16 May 2019

Congratulations Jennica!

Jennica Poongavanan just received her marks back from her MSc dissertation, to find that she's passed with a distinction!

You may remember that Jennica was working on the data from Marike's aSCR project. Marike defended her MSc in March last year (see blog post here). But Jennica carried on working to place all of that data into a model that could predict the presence of the Peninsula Moss Frog, Arthroleptella lightfooti

Jennica's thesis was supervised by Res Altwegg, and co-supervised by Ian Durbach and myself.

Poongavanan, J. (2019) Modelling the range-wide density patterns of the Arthroleptella lightfooti using acoustic monitoring data. MSc thesis. University of Cape Town. 

  aSCR  Frogs  Lab

Off to France again

03 May 2019

Natasha is back in France

Yes, it's time again for Natasha to move from Summer in the southern hemisphere to summer in France. One of the plus sides to doing a PhD is that you get to travel, and Natasha has certainly done that. 

John sends Natasha off to Paris

It wasn't an easy start to the French season. Natasha was off walking those oh so hard streets of Paris all day Friday hoping that the French admin would provide a password for her to pick up her stipend. Finally the code came through and she was able to pick up her bursary from Campus France - not an easy task on a Friday afternoon and it did take a 20 minute international call to underline the importance of students needing money to survive the weekend.

So what will Natasha be doing in France? 

Apart from the odd visit to a museum (actually the MNHN to spend a week with Anthony Herrel), Natasha will be analysing and writing up all of the data that she's collected over the past 2.5 years. It's a big task, so we're all eagerly waiting to hear what she's managed to find out about Xenopus laevis tadpoles.

Interested in doing a PhD? See some advice on this subject from this YouTuber:

  Lab  Xenopus

Paper on Chinese Xenopus published

03 May 2019

African Clawed Frogs in China

Some of you may remember that I visited China in June last year (if not, see the blog post here). Today the resulting paper with my Chinese collaborator, Supen Wang, was published in BioInvasions Records.

There are a couple of interesting points about this new invasion:

1. It's the first reported for mainland China. Not surprising perhaps as China is the source of most of the pet Xenopus laevis that are pumped around the world at the moment (that was the subject of another paper - see here). 

2. This is the first report of an albino invasive population. All of the others around the globe feature the 'wild-type' African clawed frogs that most of you will be familiar with. However, in the pet trade, it is albinos that dominate.

Here's a piece I wrote for the CIB website


A new population of African clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis) has become established on mainland China, according to a new publication by C·I·B Core Team Member, John Measey. Working with colleagues from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Measey trapped a site near the city of Kunming, Yunnan Province. The African clawed frogs they found were all albinos, the most common form in the pet trade. Previous work by Measey had shown that the vast majority of African clawed frogs moving around the world in the pet trade originate from China.

Invasive populations of African clawed frogs are known from Europe, North and South America and were previously only known from Japan in Asia. This discovery now places an invasive population on continental Asia with the potential for a much larger invasion in this area. These frogs are known to heavily impact local amphibian and invertebrate populations.

Trade in the African clawed frog started in the 1930s following their use as the first pregnancy test. The species was so easy to keep that it then became the standard laboratory amphibian all over the world, a status it continues to enjoy today. Breeding in laboratories has become so successful that animals are no longer exported from South Africa. Since the 1980s, however, this species has become very popular in the pet trade. Now hundreds of thousands of animals are shipped around the globe destined to become aquarium pets.

The researchers used molecular methods to check whether members of the invasive population carried the fungal chytrid pathogen, known for decimating amphibian populations globally. All frogs caught tested negative. However, the site is known for having a population of American bull frogs, which the team heard calling as they set out the traps. It is unknown how these two globally invasive frogs interact.

The site is on the edge of Lake Kunming, possibly allowing these frogs access to a large are in southern China”, said Measey. “We were surprised to find an established population as this area fell outside the global climate model predicting suitable areas.

Read the full article here:

Wang, S., Hong, Y. and Measey, J. 2019. An established population of African clawed frogs, Xenopus laevis(Daudin, 1802), in mainland China. BioInvasions Records (2019) Volume 8, Issue 2: 457-464. DOI 10.3391/bir.2019.8.2.29.

  Frogs  Lab  Xenopus

Killer tadpoles threaten Andaman archipelago’s native frog species

11 April 2019

Popular article on killer tadpoles

Nitya’s prize winning popular article has finally come out in The Conversation. The article, which covers the content of Nitya’s recent paper in Biological Invasions.

You may remember that at the CIB Annual Research Meeting, Nitya won the prize for the best PhD popular article. His cash prize enables him to go to an international meeting, and he's chosen to go and present at the 3rd Island Biology conference on La Réunion in July 2019. 


Note Nitya's new tag-line is as a post-doc at Stellenbosch University. Yes, Dr Nitya graduated, and you can read about that day here.

Perinchery, A. Indian bullfrogs take to invasive behaviour early in Andamans. The Hindu.

Mohanty, N. (2019) Killer tadpoles threaten Andaman archipelago’s native frog species. The Conversation.

and an article on the CIB website:

  Frogs  Lab  prizes

Nitya's big day

05 April 2019

Graduation day for Dr Nitya Prakesh Mohanty & Kirstin Stephens MSc

Graduation day is a a scarlet affair for PhD graduands at Stellenbosch University. Here is the recently hooded Dr Mohanty:

Here's what I had to read:

“Mister Vice-Chancellor”

Responding to novel invasions requires the collection of key variables. This work used the invasion of non-native Indian bullfrogs on the Andaman Islands to pioneer new methods in determining the time of colonisation, modes of dispersal and spread rates. Quantifying the impact allowed development of a model to predict potential international impact.

I request you to confer the degree on Nitya Prakesh Mohanty.

A hall full of graduands. The first two rows contain all the PhDs in scarlet. Behind them the MScs and at the back Honours and BScs. Can you see Nitya checking his phone in the front row?

Also graduating today was Kirstin Stephens MSc (cum laude) who is an honorary member of the MeaseyLab as I co-supervised her study with Jaco le Roux. Sadly, we didn't manage to get a pic with Kirstin after the big event, but here's one snapped by her mum.

Congratulations to you both!

Mohanty, N.P. 2019. The invasive Indian bullfrog Hoplobatrachus tigerinus on the Andaman Islands: Evaluating drivers of distribution, density, and trophic impact of an early stage invader. PhD Thesis. Stellenbosch University

Stephens, K. 2019. Impacts of invasive birds: assessing the incidence and extent of hybridization between invasive Mallard Ducks (Anas platyrhynchos) and native Yellow-billed Ducks (Anas undulata) in South Africa. MSc Thesis. Stellenbosch University

  Frogs  Lab
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