Guyana Frog Travelogue

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Last time I posted, I promised stories from my trip to Guyana in July 2007. I was on a quest for some of the country’s exotic (and toxic!) frogs with collaborator Bruce Means, Executive Director of the Coastal Plains Institute and an adjunct professor at Florida State University.

Tropical rainforest covers more than 80 percent—80 percent—of the English-speaking country of Guyana, bordered by Venezuela, Brazil, Suriname, and South America’s northern coast.

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From the air, much of the country’s highlands look like this, a dense carpet of lush tropical rain forests.

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We began our trek from a small guesthouse at the base of the Wokomung Massif. Destination: Up to the summit of Mount Kopinang!

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During the hike up, we encountered colorful fungi on the forest floor, so I lay down on my belly in the mud to take this photograph.

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We also came across unbelievably red trees with so-called buttress roots, such as this one. This is an undisturbed, primary rain forest.

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After a long day of hiking and our first night camping, we paused for a drink and a dip in this ice-cold stream.

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Finally, what we had come for: New frog species! The first frog I found on arriving at the summit of Mount Kopinang was this climbing tree toad, genus Oreophyrnella. These frogs have gripping feet with two toes on each side that help them to climb, much like the feet of chameleons. I watched this pregnant female for an hour, until the chilly rain nearly caused me to go hypothermic. It gets chilly a mile high in the sky, even near the equator!

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She was pregnant, and we could actually see her eggs through the skin of her swollen belly. We also found several teeny specimens of Colesthetus cf. beebei. These frogs are part of the frog family group that includes the poison-dart frogs of the Americas.

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I’ll share more on my Guyana adventure soon! Meanwhile, if you’ve got questions about frogs or just love them like I do, let BlogWild know in a comment below!

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Photographs copyright Valerie C. Clark

Wildlife

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After earning her Ph.D. on the "Chemistry of Amphibian Skin Secretions," Dr. Valerie C. Clark founded the conservation organization i.F.r.o.g.s. (Indigenous Forest Research Organization for Global Sustainability) 501(c)(3). i.F.r.o.g.s. engages the public online to explore Earth’s biodiversity and is active on the ground in Madagascar with local people to survey biodiversity and protect and restore rain forests. Her scientific expeditions have been supported by the National Geographic Society since 2007. Her publications are available for free at frogchemistry.com.