Animals galore during week 4!

From: Osinski, Brianna
Sent: Sunday, June 29, 2014 8:53 PM
To: White, Peter S
Subject: Animals galore during week 4!

Hello Dr. White,

Oh my word, I saw a SLOTH! My goodness, it was amazing. My lab mate and I were on a rather late frog return drive (this particular pair had taken their dear sweet time making a foam nest, turning a 1 hr. process into a 3 hr. affair). As we trundled down the pot-hole filled, dirt road to the forest at 4 a.m. we noticed a big blob in the distance. Shuddering to a stop we saw in the beam of our headlight a sloth crossing the road. Well of course we got out and stared at him as he slooooowly pulled himself along with his spindly front legs. We did not touch him, both out of respect for the little fellow and for our own well being (as enamored of them as I am, I do not particularly want to pet their moss, urine and bug caked coat). It has been days since this occurred and I still can’t keep from beaming as I recount this event. But, yes, I have now been looked upon by a sloth and another item on my Must-Do in Panama list has been crossed off.Brianna sloth 1

As if that wasn’t cool enough, the animal sightings continued:

-This week also held my first capybara. I saw a mom and her baby ambling across the path to the forest.

-On the same night, I briefly got to see an anteater dashing between our collection sites.

-My lab mates and I found a baby bat stuck in the mud behind our lab. As none of us have our rabies shots (one boon of working with amphibians), we couldn’t pick him up. So, we used one of our frog collection cups and a very sturdy leaf to scoop him up and run him down the street to the “bat people.” They knew what to do so we left it in their able, vaccinated hands.

-Luckily, I have had no further fer de lance sightings but my parents (and I) very much appreciated your extra warnings to me. 🙂 And, yes, my boots are mighty thick and insulated by my field pants and knee high socks.

Beyond the menagerie of memories I’ve collected this week, I also helped run a new experiment. Sadly our time with the robofrogs has ended, it was only meant to be a one week thing for our lab. In their place we helped a visiting scientist from Holland with his project testing to see if the Tungaras’ preference for a certain call is strengthened by the addition of ripples, which were meant to mimic the ripples produced by the inflation of a male’s vocal sac. To test this we put the frogs in the center of a little pool and played calls from the left and the right in addition to producing ripples via a garden hose hooked up to a couple of subwoofers. We varied which side the calls/ripples came from and watched to see how the frog’s behavior changed in response to the stimulus change. Well, I don’t think the ripples really added anything but it’s somewhat difficult to say because a large portion of our sample size spent the duration of the experiments trying to escape the cage they were in. The cage consisted of two cylinders of plastic with metal dowels connecting them and then fishing wire strung vertically between them to be the “bars.” While the space between them was too narrow for a frog to slip through if they were facing the bars, they were a nugatory obstacle for a determined Tungara pushing against two wires while simultaneously turning their body sideways. I was really too impressed by the frogs to care if that data was rubbish (easy for me to say, it’s not my experiment). The females were far better at it than the males, they were both quicker and had a higher escape rate. This was made even more impressive given the fact that the females are normally bigger than the males but they were also bloated with eggs so they had much more to squeeze through those bars. We hypothesized that the female’s heightened Houdini skills was perhaps because they had more to lose; those eggs are quite the investment and time is of the essence! Caitlin (my lab mate) and I now sort of want to make an obstacle course in the sound chamber and see what the frogs would be willing to surpass to reach an admirable call.

Till next week!

Brianna 🙂