Atlanta Airport, 3 January 2018
I am very pleased to announce that I am en route to Congo once again, and if all goes well, I expect to arrive in the country on Friday. The plan is to sample treefrog biodiversity (Leptopelis and Hyperoliidae) in the Kabobo and Itombwe Plateaus, which I have visited before, but both areas require extensive additional herpetological work. Of course we will also sample all amphibians and reptiles (herps) that we encounter as well. This year we will be joined (again if all goes to plan) by two students from the Université de Kisangani /Centre de Surveillance de la Biodiversité (DEBRT)- Franck Masudi Mali and Gaby Badjedjea. The expedition is funded by the National Geographic Society’s Research and Exploration Grant Program (No. WW-R018-17).
One of the treefrogs that I am especially keen to find is the unique hyperoliid Callixalus pictus, which is one of the world’s top ten “Lost Species” of frogs according to a recent post and “wanted” poster from the Amphibian Survival Alliance and Amphibian Specialist Group. According to a 1964 paper published by Belgian herpetologist Raymond Laurent in the journal Evolution, Callixalus is a beautiful frog with a chocolate brown dorsum and orange spots, and to the best of my knowledge, nobody has found an adult since Laurent conducted fieldwork in the area in the 1950s. I think I found a metamorph from Itombwe in 2008, and tadpoles from Itombwe and Kabobo on subsequent expeditions, but other than a really interesting phylogenetic result from their DNA, I can’t be 100% certain they are Callixalus until I can match their genetic data to an adult that is identified, beyond any reasonable doubt, from its unique morphology and coloration.
Stay tuned for more posts in the coming weeks as time and satellite access allows, but for now, enjoy this photo of a Hyperolius that we found in Katanga in 2010 (NOTE: province names for Congo were updated recently, but none of the maps I have access to have updated these names yet, so I refer to the older ones for now).