The first and third prize in the GNHS Photography Competition 2011 went to these amphibian themed photos taken during my field work:

A male palmate newt in breeding condition, as can be seen by his bright orange crested tail. Taken at the base of Ben Lomond during the 2011 breeding season.

This photo actually shows a water mould (Saprolegnia sp) attacking and killing common frog eggs. The photo was taken looking down a microscope. Saprolegnia initially attacks dead eggs within a clump, but spreads rapidly to live eggs. It can cause widespread mortality within a pond and is of economic importance to fisheries as it also infects fish eggs.


The programme for the Scottish Herpetology Meeting 2011 is now available. With such a diverse and interesting group of speakers it looks set to be a great day. The event is being held a week on Saturday (the 5th November) at the University of Glasgow.

Registration closes THIS FRIDAY (the 28th October), so sign up now to be part of the meeting. Registration is only £10 and includes lunch and only £5 for students or local amphibian and reptile group members.

Head to now to register.

The Scottish Herpetology Meeting will be held on Saturday 5th November 2011 at the University of Glasgow between 9:30am and 4pm.

The Scottish Herpetology Meeting 2011 is a day meeting designed to bring together researchers, workers and hobbyists involved with amphibians and reptiles throughout Scotland. The day will comprise of a series of talks, introductions and discussion groups.

Registration and further information can be found at

Hope to see you there!

Back in March I was contacted to say a mass mortality event had been seen, with hundreds of dead toads found at a loch on the Isle of Islay. The toads showed horrific injuries, their back legs turning white and beginning to break down. The symptoms were exactly the same in all the victims, with wasting always starting from the hind leg toes and working up to the midriff (see picture). What was discovered on closer inspection was that these toads were actually often still alive, even when wasting was very far progressed. Both the toads on the picture are still alive. Nothing like this had ever been observed at this loch before.

I had never heard of a disease that caused such symptoms and sent the details to a number of amphibian experts across the UK. Nobody had an idea what could be causing it. I was kindly sent a specimen, which I forwarded to disease experts at the Institute of Zoology for post mortem.

Katie Colville sent this explanation in return:
Both hind limbs had been completely ‘degloved’ – the muscle and bone of each limb had been ‘extracted’ leaving only the skin ‘shell’ of each hind limb in place. There was an associated ‘cut’ across the back of the abdomen at the level of the pelvis. It’s thought that these kind of lesions are the result of otter predation. It’s thought that otters deglove the legs in order to avoid the noxious glands in the skin.

So the mystery is solved, a very clever behavioural adaptation of otters to avoid the toxins in toad skin. Many thanks to Justin Ruthven-Tyers for such an interesting case. It will be very interesting to see how the toads fare next year.

Amazing National Geographic pictures of common frogs breeding in frozen pools at high altitude in the Alps. Found at about twice the altitude of our Munros, frogs in the Alps can’t wait for their ponds to melt before they start breeding.

A common frog on it’s way to breed and a palmate newt larvae I found this week. After asking around I’ve discovered that newt larvae are often found at this time of year at this late stage of development. They must overwinter as larvae, which gives them a head start the next season.