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Uncovering the Secret Lives of Reed Frogs

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How do tiny reed frogs see the world? What benefits to they get from being so colorful? “If the Gulf of Guinea islands are Africa’s answer to the Galápagos,” CalAcademy explains, “then the African reed frog (Hyperolius spp.) might just be its Darwin’s finch.”

From variations in body size and color to sexual dichromatism (the difference in coloration between the sexes) and specialized reproduction, [Rayna] Bell has a hunch that the diversity within Gulf of Guinea reed frogs might be directly related to the islands’ unique biogeography…

Assistant Curator of Herpetology Dr. Rayna Bell studies frogs at the California Academy of Science in San Francisco. In the video above, she introduces the cute creatures and explains more about why she studies them.

two tiny reed frogs at CalAcademy

…Reed frogs are a hugely diverse group and they’re really really colorful. And in many species, males and females are different colors. And so I became really interested in what are these color differences being used for.

We, of course, need to think about what the frogs are seeing. What is the range of eye size and then, alongside that, we’re collecting data on the genes that are involved in vision, the cells in the retina that actually receive the light signal, and what wavelengths of light they’re sensitive to that can tell us things about what the frogs are actually able to see…

That’s one of the parts that’s really fun about this particular career is that it can take you in really unexpected directions as you follow one research question to the next.

Dr. Bell in the field
frog specimen from Ghana
Watch more videos about frogs on TKSST:
The formidable fighting poison dart frog
The mysterious purple frog of the Western Ghats
• Sounds of Survival: The quest to record an exquisite spike-thumb frog mating call

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