Rhyming week 6 has me in a fix!

Sent: July 14, 2014, 8:51 am
To: White, Peter S
Subject: Rhyming week 6 has me in a fix!

Hello Dr. White,

So, week 6…

Well, I saw another sloth! This is notable because this time it was a 3-toed sloth instead of a 2-toed. It is the arguably cuter of the two sloth varieties and is generally the type people think of when they think of sloths (because who doesn’t often think of sloths!?). This time was also great because my friend had her camera so the poor thing was the subject of an impromptu photo shoot, though, again, no sloths were touched in the taking of these photos.Brianna sloth 2

I learned about mimosa pudica this week. There is a class from ECU here. I got to teach them about tungaras and our experiments the other night. I ran by them on the side of the road sitting on a giant cardboard box and I needed to see what they were up to. They were seeing how long it took for the mimosa to re-open after being kept in the dark for a certain period of time, hence the giant box. I’d run by these plants a thousand times and never knew what they were capable of! It was fun having them teach me in turn. How neat are these!? I can’t believe they are in the same family as the silk trees. Those are among my favorite trees as their blooms remind me of miniature truffula trees of Lorax fame.

We had a mini drought. For one full week we had no rain, nary a drop! As a result, most of our collection sites dried up and the tungaras were not calling. We were averaging perhaps 6 pairs a night (split 50/50 with other tungara lab, so 3 apiece) whereas as usually we can find at least 12 pairs on a slow night. Further, of the pairs we found, the females were not responsive at all. It didn’t matter if we played her the Sinatra of tungara calls, she would not budge. We think it’s because they knew how dry it was so they didn’t want to drop their eggs because there wouldn’t be enough water to keep their foam nests from drying out. Well, as you can imagine, this made for a series of very frustrating nights made worse by long, stifling days. Out of desperation (and looking for a way to evade the mosquitos who were doing just fine without the rain), my friend Adam and I did a rain dance after our 7th slow night of frog collection and wouldn’t you know it, the next morning the skies opened up and everything became wonderfully drenched. It must have been raining frogs, too, because that night we found 26 pairs, and that’s not including the pairs we left behind because we ran out of collection cups. What an experience! Had you jokingly posed me switching to doing a rare orchid PhD at the end of the no-rain week, I would have been sorely tempted, but hearing the happy chorus of my tungaras once more pulled me back to the fauna side; I’m a sucker for a well sung whine-chuck.

I finally held my favorite frog here, the gladiator frog. They are a lovely golden tree frog, roughly 3 inches long with a very round head and bug eyes. They have a deep, powerful boom-boom-boom call, made even more impressive seeming by their habit of calling from high perches such as the eaves of a roof or a tree branch, which also makes it difficult to catch one since they’re often out of reach. What you can’t see unless you hold one is the feature that gives them their name. The males have little cartilaginous spikes on their front two feet which they use to do battle with other males. During these duels they attempt to use the spikes to pierce their opponent’s ear drum because if they deafen the other male, they no longer call, which means one less competitor for the lovely female gladiators. Who knew that even frogs could be so fierce!? On the note of deaf animals, I also learned this week that wasps are apparently deaf. I’m not sure what function that serves, perhaps it was just a waste of energy during development to form auditory organs, but still, an interesting little fact.

One last really cool occurrence. I was reading and walking on pipeline and eventually found myself at a waterfront. This was new to me so I decided to explore. There were boats on the water and when a tugboat came onto the scene, I think it was one of the tugboats used to lug the huge boats through the canal, I decided to watch it chug by. I went to go perch upon a piece of driftwood lying on the beach but as I approached something flashed out from behind it and splashed into the water. It was a 4-ft. crocodile!!! I’d yet to see one here and I’d certainly never been that close to one before (we were maybe 20 ft. from one another). As he bobbed upon the waves he took on the look of a harmless log, so deceptive, and I watched him from afar until he sunk beneath the surface. I then beat a controlled, but hasty retreat as there was no way of knowing where he may resurface…

Just another week in paradise, you know how it is. Speaking of paradise, how has your week been in heaven on earth, A.K.A Chapel Hill?

Wishing you all the best,

Brianna 🙂