Thursday, June 3, 2010

On the Fringe

We've had a lot of rain over the past week. Makes me believe wet season is well and truly here. Apparently the frogs and toads agree. They are chorusing like crazy, gathering at the seasonal pools that have accumulated, looking for one thing: love.

It seems that any time in nature when there is an aggregation of animals, there is another species standing by to take advantage of it. That would be the case with the fringe-lipped bats (Trachops cirrhosus; above) whose specialty is frogs. Notice the warty-appearing "papillae" around the mouth and chin? These are not just decoration. No, they have a very specialized purpose. Since frogs don't necessarily want to be eaten, many have evolved distasteful chemicals secreted through the skin. The bat flies by, brushing the frog with just a little "kiss" with the papillae. That tiny taste test tells the bat whether this frog is a prey possibility or better left alone.

The red-eyed tree frog (Agalychnis callidryas) has evolved a neat defense against the fringe-lipped bat. The males chorus in short bursts -- ack! ack! ack! -- and then abruptly fall silent. After all, just one lonely voice calling out ... and the bat can home right in on that one foolish individual. Bon appetit and good by Mr. Big Mouth!

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