A researched examination into the critically endangered frog species, Heleophryne rosei, with specific regard to its habitat, ecology and population. In addition to the various threats this species faces and conservation actions implemented to safe–guard its remaining numbers. L.S. Maistry - 212510816
Department of Life Sciences , University of KwaZulu – Natal, Private Bag X 01, Scottsville, 3209, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa . Submitted: 19 August 2013
The focus of this assignment is a researched exploration into the existence of the critically endangered frog species, Heleophryne rosei, or as it is commonly referred to, the Table Mountain ghost frog (Minter et al 2004). Particular attention shall be paid to describing its habitat, ecology and population. Furthermore, the threats encountered by the species in addition to conservation methods implemented to safeguard its already severely declining numbers and the various implicit consequences of this , will be discussed. The class Amphibia is an extremely fascinating and diverse one and has over the centuries astounded and intrigued not only the scientific community but society at large (Attenborough 2008). Amphibians are ectothermic, biphasic, tetrapods (Auerbach 1987). Their integral role in the ecosystem and various food webs is most certainly undeniable (Campbell et al 2011). From a taxonomic standpoint, frogs are a varied group of typically short, tailless Amphibians composing the order Anura (Auerbach 1987). More specifically, the species of concern to this particular assignment, the Table Mountain ghost frog, further belongs to the family Heleophrynidae (Caldwell et al 1993). This spectacular yet highly elusive frog species , resemble other Heleophryne species in terms of their morphologies , with specific respect to their body shapes , posture , elongated limbs and large , highly webbed and adhesive fingers and toes (Channing 2001) . In contrast with other species within this family, the Table Mountain ghost frog differs in that it has an enlarged thumb-like inner metacarpal tubercle (Duellman; Trueb 1986). Also it does not possess a transverse band through the eye (Caldwell et al 1993). Further, the dorsum is green in colour with a dark maroon to purple mottling (De Villiers). Additionally, in terms of identification, the ventrum possesses a typically a pinkish-white shading, especially on the undersides of the limbs which itself has a particularly granular texture (Channing 2001). Adults range in approximate size from 50 mm for males to 63 mm for females, given in terms of snout-vent length (Poynton 1960). These morphological characteristics have enabled the Table Mountain ghost frog to fully exploit its various ecological niches in addition to best surviving and adapting to its conditions and habitat (De Villiers 1997). This species in particular, occupies a highly restricted range with a documented extent of occurrence being recorded at approximately 7-8 km² (Passmore; Carruthers 1995). It is endemic to the southern and eastern slopes of Table Mountain which is situated in the Western Cape, South Africa (Channing 2001). The Table Mountain ghost frog is known to inhabit streams and moist, forested gorges (De Villiers 1997). Through careful observation, it has been noted that some non-breeding, adult members of the species occupy caves and have been found in narrow rock crevices (Power; Rose 1929). Morphological adaptations, as afore mentioned have led to the colonisation of such habitats by this species. Their highly webbed toes, with suction-like feet enable it to climb rocky, vertical facing slopes and easily navigate fast flowing streams (Channing 2001). Whilst it’s compressed, squat body enables it to hide in small crevices. The species lives in forest and vynbos heathlands whilst breeding in gorges, valleys and ravines on Table Mountain (Minter et al 2004). As the tadpoles of this species require in excess of a year to undergo metamorphosis it has...
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