Croaking Out Loud
Presented are the winning images from a nationwide amphibian photography contest conceptualised by Lost Amphibians of India (LAI), powered by Sanctuary Asia with Dr. Caesar Photography (DCP) as the operational partner. The objective was to promote amphibian conservation awareness, using conservation photography as our liet motif. Judges: Dr. Robin Moore, Dr. Caesar Sengupta, Dr. S.D. Biju and Bittu Sahgal.
Photo: Bert Willaert.
FIRST PRIZE: This image of the Bombay night frog or Humayun’s wrinkled frog Nyctibatrachus humayuni, with inflated sacs, positioned on a branch overhanging a stream and calling out for a mate in its wet, moss-laden evergreen habitat conveys key behaviour. This is the only known old world frog species in which males do not grasp the female while egg laying. Instead the female deposits a clutch of eggs at the spot where the male calls out and when she moves away, he fertilises them. The photographer’s use of a wide angle lens that reveals the hill stream in this moist, Western Ghats forest (where the frog normally stays hidden under rocks or crevices) won favour with the judges.
Photo: Amit Rane.
SECOND PRIZE: This is not a frog with four eyes! The judges debated whether to award the first and second prize to images featuring the same species – Nyctibatrachus humayuni – but felt that the different behavioural perspectives merited selection of both photographs. Here we see a frontal view of the frogs with the prominent, forward-facing eyes and rounded snout with the pearl-like eggs nearby. “Although there is no real amplexus in this frog, there have been observations in which male and female do indulge in pseudo-amplexus and body play before egg-laying,” said Dr. Biju.
Photo: Sunil Sachi.
THIRD PRIZE: This unusual image seems almost artificial, like an acrobatic stunt. The (possibly accidental) art is impressive enough, but the natural history depiction is even more so. A pair of breeding gliding frogs Rhacophorus lateralis had fallen inside a water tank and the opportunistic aquatic skittering frog, Euphlyctis cyanophlyctis that is rarely seen outside water, enjoyed feasting on the hapless victims. The Euphlyctis are voracious predators that largely feed on aquatic insects, beetles, dragonflies, grasshoppers, and tadpoles!
Photo: Abir Jain.
SPECIAL MENTION: Belonging to the Nyctibatrachus genus, this image was chosen both for its abstract artistry and the representation of the amphibian in precisely the aquatic habitat it needs to survive. Initiatives such as the Lost Amphibians of India (LAI), have led to the discovery of nearly a dozen frog species. Endemic to India, this is a very ancient member of the true frog family, Nyctibatrachidae.
Photo: Hemant Ogale.
SPECIAL MENTION: The frogs of the genus Micrixalus are endemic to the Western Ghats of India. Males are territorial and put out their unique display from wet rocks. This frog was caught in the act of waving its foot. Males of some species perform this foot-flagging display with one or sometimes two legs to indicate their intent to defend territory. Scientists believe that foot flagging also works as a spacing mechanism to minimise physical attacks.
Photo: Saurabh Sawant.
SPECIAL MENTION: The genus Duttaphrynus comprises true toads that are endemic to southwestern and southern China and across South Asia from northern Pakistan and Nepal through India including the Andaman Islands, Sri Lanka, Sumatra, Java, Borneo and Bali. In the breeding season, males gather in shallow side pools near fast-flowing streams where they can be heard calling and aggressively jumping over each other in pursuit of suitable females to hold in a nuptial clasp. These two were clicked in the Eravikulam National Park along the Western Ghats in the Idukki district of Kerala.
Photo: Saran Vaid.
SPECIAL MENTION: The skittering frog Euphlyctis cyanophlyctis is common along the edges of ponds, reed banks and marshes. The frog gets its name from the fact that it retreats hastily from danger, while making ‘skittering’ sounds. It probably took a great leap because it was disturbed… right onto its unique feline perch. The frog is rarely seen out of water, which makes this image even more unusual.
Photo: Saurabh Sawant.
SPECIAL MENTION: This image was also awarded a Special Mention at the Sanctuary Wildlife Photography Awards 2013. A skittering frog Euphlyctis sps. is seen surveying its domain in a rock pool at the Kanheri caves in Mumbai’s Sanjay Gandhi National Park. It is almost impossible to approach a frog without its knowledge – its bulging eyes allow it to see in all directions without shifting its head. The eyes are positioned on top of the head, allowing the amphibian to remain submerged and hidden with just the eyes visible.
Photo: Amol Bais.
SPECIAL MENTION: Usually solitary, these nocturnal bull frogs occupy nooks, crannies and holes near waterbodies. Males and females are a dull khaki-olive-green but things turn colourful and crowded once the mating season kicks in. Males now turn yellow, with bright blue vocal sacs. And does it get noisy! In the mating season, when competition can be really rough, mounted males may hold on to females for as long as an hour with rivals trying to kick them off.
Photo: Hemant Ogale.
SPECIAL MENTION: This mating Rhacophorus malabaricus pair, webbed feet outstretched, makes for a striking image. The mating location is selected by the (larger) female, which is treated to a back rub by the male! A foam nest will be constructed to protect the eggs. The largest among the Indian tree frogs, R. malabaricus are arboreal and only drop to the lower canopies to mate and build foam nests, just above small pools of water into which the tadpoles drop to develop into adults.
Photo: Bert Willaert.
SPECIAL MENTION: The breeding season of Nyctibatrachus humayuni coincides with the start of the southwest monsoon. The male maintains a territory (leaf or branch overhanging a small stream), and calls repeatedly for potential mates.
Photo: Sandeep Pangerkar.
SPECIAL MENTION: The Indian bullfrog Hoplobatrachus tigerinus is the largest of frogs in India. The adult seen in the image was clicked beside a road in a rainwater pool at Navi Mumbai. Tadpoles of the species feed on mosquito larvae, thus serving as a vital bio-pesticide for humans.
Photo: Bhavik Thaker.
SPECIAL MENTION: Indian bullfrogs Hoplobatrachus tigerinus are known to eat any animal they can overpower, from insects and rodents to turtles, snakes, small birds and even other bullfrogs. However, they also make a tasty treat for birds such as egrets and in some cases, a crow, though this frog was lucky to escape, says the photographer.
First appeared in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXIV No. 1, February 2014.