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Chat Week 2000 Transcript
12/16/00 - Dante Fenolio
Amphibians of the Amazon Basin


JeffB - Dante how often do you get to go to the Amazon ?
Dante - I have been to the Peruvian Amazon a half dozen times, the Ecuadorian amazon for a few weeks, and the Brazilian Amazon for a few weeks.


matt2- Dante, which amphib is your personal favorite in the Amazon
Dante - I'm into microhabitat specialists, so I'd have to say that Phrynohyas resinifictrix Nyctimantis rugiceps are two of my favorites


dow-kiet - Have you ever witnessed Phyllomedusa bicolor breeding in the wild? If so, do they congregate in large #'s
Dante - I have not seen a breeding congregation, but they do gather in large numbers at the height of their breeding season, otherwise single pairs will breed over flooded forest pools.
dow-kiet - What time of year does breeding occur
Dante - That depends. They like to breed after flooded forest has already flooded, and the water is receding. That leaves several possible breeding seasons depending on where you are in the Amazon.


herpinboy - what kind of frogs are there in the amazon?
Dante - Hylids, Leptodactylids, Bufonids, Dendrobatids, etc.


TobyH- I'm gonna beat the Salamander question thing to death if you dont mind. Other than Bolitoglossa, are there other species of Salamander in South America?
Dante - The only other genus of salamander in Latin America that I am aware of is Oedipina and I am not sure if there are any representitives east of the Andes...no problem with lots of salamander questions


inlands - (son Ryan) what is the largest sized frog you see there ?
Dante - The largest frog I have seen is Leptodactylus pentidactylus...about 10 inches total length but there are a lot of large leptodactylids in Brasil that are close, like L. syphax
inlands - 10 inch wow , thats huge


Jeffcenchria - Dante, Okay everybody who knows me knows what I am gonna ask about. Rainbow Boas? what do you think about what we breeders think we know versus what you have seen in the field?
Dante - I don't mind talking rainbow boas...can you be more specific with the question?
Jeffcenchria - different numbers of subspecies and subspecies validity? ranges? etc?
Dante - As far as I know, the argument over subspecies numbers is really a matter of how an individual views taxonomy and what characters they are including or not with regard to differentiation.
Dante - The pet trade seems to have views close to the academics with regard to rainbow boas as far as I know...are there differences I have missed?


JeffB - ok Are there any interesting myths that have arisen about any of the amphibians down there?
Dante - Yes there are many. Some of my favorite involve Phyllomedusa bicolor and the alleged properties their secretions will empower the native users with. They claim telepathic abilities with animals when using "sapo" the secretion from P. bicolor


matt2- Dante, I assume there still are some areas of the Amazon not explored yet? and do you forsee new amphibs being discovered - ie..only a few or more than?
Dante - There are tremendous tracts of forest that have not had any formal examination by western science. I suspect that when all is said and done, something on the order of hundreds of new species will have been found in places like the Brasilian upper Amazon.


amazoa - Do you photograph the amphibians. If so what Kind of equipment 35mm? digital? What was your favorite shot on any of your trips? Also I guess your a Sooner Fan sure hope they beat FSU in the Orange Bowl.
Dante - Yes, I do a little photography. I like to use Minolta equipment. I use a 9xi with a 5400 HS flash unit. I place all my equipment on a bracket. I use Fuji Velvia film and usually "push" the film 1 stop for better exposure. I was happy with my first cover of the Vivarium magazine with Agalychnis annae on it but mostly, I think my photography could use improvements. Yes, I hope OU puts Florida down by a big score.


Craig - I am most interested in any conservation programs (species, et al.) due to your field work in the Amazon basin. A short plug--I am the editor and publisher of the journal AMPHIBIAN AND REPTILE CONSERVATION (www.herpetofauna.com). I would love to discuss things further away from this discussion so could you go to the ARC website and contact me afterwards. Thanks. It should be noted that a very interesting article by Raxworthy and Nussbaum (issue 2) can
Craig - any information on conservation programs regarding species, habitat...you know of.
Dante - I have been working with amphibian populations and how they respond to hydroelectric power plant flooding. I am planning a mark/recapture study to evaluate what several species of "common" amphibians to the cerrado of the Tocantins River. I have funding through a Brasilian private industry company so it looks like I'll be able to swing the study.


dow-kiet - Do you have an idea what age Phyllomedusa bicolor reaches maturity? Do you think females take longer to mature than males?
Dante - I do think females take a little longer to mature than males
Dante - I have been involved with a long-term project with the species and I think they live long lives in the wild. Possibly even 20 years or so. That being the case, I think they mature around two or three years of age...perhaps four for females


herpinboy - do you have to use the scientific name Dante
Dante - sorry, I don't. I think that the common name for P. bicolor is the giant leaf frog or the giant monkey frog
JeffB - herpinboy many of these frogs have very obscure or no common names


inlands - do you think the frogs in general there are in as much trouble as they are elsewhere ? and do you think its the fungal problem or something else?
Dante - I think frogs all over are in trouble. The real problem in places like the Amazon is the fact that what we know is so little. We don't have any idea about "normal" population dynamics or "normal" species ranges. Yes, I think deforestation is taking its toll on Amazonian amphibians


Jeffcenchria - Which Green Tracks Tour would be best for seeing the most snakes? Sorry I am not specifically on the amphib topic tonight!Coach Stoops rocks and.....GO GATORS
Dante - Any Green Tracks trip would be good in the Peruvian Amazon owing to the number of snakes found in the area. All of the guides are good at locating snakes...especially Bill Lamar.

what type of background education do you have? (i.e. major in college)
Dante - My undergraduate work was at UC Santa Cruz. I had a combined major of Biology/Environmental studies.


TobyH- Sorry, I missed you answer on my last question...but, what is the biggest species of salamander in South America??
Dante - There is an undescribed species of Bolitoglossa from the Rio Mazan that is probably five inches total length. As far as I am aware, the largest of the Bolitoglossa are in upper Central America. Species like Bolitoglossa subpalmata.
Dante - The common name for the genus Bolitoglossa are the "flat-footed" salamanders


JeffB - Dante have you ever had any "health" problems associated with your travels down there? I imagine your exposed to a variety of vectors
Dante - So far I have been VERY lucky. I take all of the preventative shots, etc. I can but I think most of it amounts to luck. One of my lab mates got Dengue fever this year


matt2- Do you forsee the Brazilian gov. easing restrictions of no exporting herps ie could there be hopes for herp regulated farms and/or permits issued to take?
Dante - Yes, there is a big move to allow limited and controlled herp exports. I am involved with a project intended to run a pilot program doing exactly that in the near future.
Dante - I am advising for Brasilian "Fish and Game" IBAMA


amazoa - Have you witnessed any interesting feedings in the amazon? Possibly Boas vs Parrots or Monkeys? Anacondas vs Caimens etc.
Dante - Unfortunately, I have not seen any of the larger constrictors feed in the wild. There were a group of Green Tracks clients that got to watch a large anaconda eat a paca (large rodent) a few months back though


Craig - How many different types of trips does Green Tracks take to the Amazon basin (from a previous question...any Green Tracks trip, etc.)? Such as... is there more than one trip to Amazonia and which area do you most frequent and/or find the most interesting?
Dante - There are several kinds of trips
Dante - Boat trips allow for clients to see a lot of habitat and a lot of different river tributary systems.
Dante - Lodge trips allow people to investigate tracts of forest in detail and can be very interesting.
Dante - There are trips that are mixes of both that are really nice and usually last at least two weeks, There are also extentions to places like Machu Pichu that allow for cultural additions to any trip


dow-kiet - What's your feeling on UV requirements for captive Phyllomedusa bicolor? Do you think that the new UV heatlights on the herp market would prove to be beneficial?
Dante - I really don't think that UV requirements are a big part to keeping these frogs long-term in captivity. I will admit that if there were species that might need it, they would be canopy dwelling frogs and that species does spend a good portion of the year up high.
Dante - I have kept larger Phyllomedusines for years without special attention to UV requirements and have not had problems that I am aware of.


herpinboy - what do you now about pixie frogs
Dante - I have kept a few of them and one individual attained quite a large size...is there something specific you'd like to know?
Dante - The largest individual I have seen is about 11 inches total length. There are primary literature reports of individuals choking to death on chickens and large rodents so this is definitely one of the biggest of the frogs.
herpinboy - how long does that take
Dante - I suspect to reach a really large size, it might take a couple of years...males are larger than females


Sulcatta- what is the best kind of poison dart frog to have as a pet?how high do they jump
Dante - If you have not kept them before, I'd advise starting with something like Dendrobates auratus (green and black poison frog). They are larger and easy to keep. They can't jump more than a foot in height with the average jump probably a lot less than that


TobyH- Another Salamander question.....why arn't more South American sals exported into the US?...I think they are great
Dante - I agree, they are really interesting. I think that they aren't imported very often for two reasons. First, they aren't that easy to find except for a couple of species. Secondly, most of the countries where they exist do not allow exportation.
Dante - The big mystery regarding the Bolitoglossine salamanders is the fact that they are numerous in the Andes and in the upper Amazon but there have not been any species found in the central Amazon. Marty Crump talks about this in her new book.


JeffB - What do you feed dart frogs in captivity?
Dante - I like to feed poison frogs the most diverse diet possible. I like to include termites, fruit flies, crickets, flower beetles and any other small insect I can get my hands on
Dante - I also gut load crickets with squash and other veggies to try to add to the nutritional content of the insects


matt2- Dante, do you allow rsponsible herpers to assist you in the field there, ie for photos, personal research etc? .
Dante - I really have not been in a position to actually bring assistants with me to the field. For the past three years most of my field work has been in Brasil and the university there provides me with field hands. I would not be opposed to bringing herpers to help in certain situations.


amazoa - What interesting facts have you discovered about the Dendrobatidae? What is missing in a captive diet that causes them to not secrete the potent nerve toxin?
Dante - I have worked recently with Epipedobates flavopictus in Brazil. They have some really interesting natural history oddities like changing color every now and again to jet black (from their normally colorful stripes and spots on a black background)
Dante - The ants in the diet of poison frogs probably provides some of the base components to their toxins
Dante - specific species of ants probably allow for the production of specific alkaloid toxins. There have been over 200 identified alkaloid poison frog toxins!


dow-kiet - What types of prey items would you offer captive Phyllomedusa bicolor in order to add some variety to the standard captive diet of cricktes and the like? Are you aware of anyone breeding P. bicolor in capyivity other than the few that have occured by inducing. Fresh imports to breed or by collected leaf funnels?
Dante - I would try to include roaches in the diet of P. bicolor and I would feed adults a pink mouse every second or third month to change things up.
Dante - No one is breeding that species with regularity. The Baltimore Aquarium bred them once and I think a breeder in S. California did it once but no one has figured them out to the point that they can do it predictably.


Jeffcenchria - Any plans for Green Tracks tours further south into southern Peru?
Jeffcenchria - Political problems?
Dante - I can ask about southern Peru for Green Tracks trips. Things there seem bad but they really are mellow in Iquitos. Things in Lima might be crazy on TV but I think it is safe. Southern Peru would be a blast!


nate56 - what types of things are preventing you and others from exploring certain areas of the amazon, like northern Amazon i think you meantioned earlier? anything besides Government???
Dante - There are very srtong drug operations established throughout the Amazon although I can't say I have personally had a problem that way. Access to isolated tracts of forest is still largely restricted to helicopter access or pontoon plane landings and these things are very costly.
Dante - I can think of some great forest though that is in close proximity to drug operations and I wouldn't try it


Sulcatta- do you know what millapieds eat? i know its a strange topic, sorry
Dante - As far as I am aware, some millipedes are detritavores, feeding on decaying vegetable matter. I think in captivity they will eat squash, sprouts, ect.?


boastud - when is the next central american adventure with green tracks
boastud - i am very interested in going on the next herp adventure
boastud - when and how much would it be?
Dante - I might go to Central America (Costa Rica) in the middle of next year but I am probably going to spend most of my time in Brasil. Look up the green Tracks web site and they have a list of all of the Central American adventures they have planned for next year. I know there are several.
Dante - my recollection is that trips to Costa Rica run under $2000
Rhinocheilus - $1725 + airfare I think
Dante - That sounds like it. Their Costa Rica trip is a fun one, I have done several


dow-kiet - Have you ever encountered Agalychnis craspedopus in the field? If so, where were they observed? In a treehole? What country? Its been great thanks Dante!!
Dante - I have observed A. craspedopus. Males move to the ground and congregate around tree stumps filled with water. This is exactly the situation where I observed them.
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