YouTube videos reveal why some amphibians become invasive

YouTube videos that people upload of their amphibian pets are helping researchers understand what types of frogs and salamanders may become incursive .
“ The lapp traits that make some species successful invaders are identical exchangeable to the traits that make them successful pets, ” said John Measey, a biota professor at Stellenbosch University in South Africa and the lead author of a study published recently in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. “ You can breed them well, and they survive in very poor conditions. ”
invasive amphibians are a huge trouble in north american and throughout the world. Alien species — whether invasives from other continents, like the African clawed frog ( Xenopus laevis ), a cannibalistic amphibious invasive in Florida, California and Mexico, or domestic species like the american bullfrog ( Lithobates catesbeianus ), which is expanding its traditional easterly territory westwards on the continent — can outcompete other species due to size and aggressiveness. They can besides be vectors for disease like the deadly chytrid fungus or the salamander-killing Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans ( Bsal ), or cause problems for native predators such as the deadly cane frog ( Rhinella marina ) in Hawaii or Australia .
many of these amphibians enter raw environments when they escape their aquariums, or when unintentional pet owners release them into the wild. Measey and his co-authors wanted to understand precisely what made these invasive species popular among darling owners in the first stead in an campaign to curtail some of the bigger threats.

“ It has often puzzled me, ” Measey said. “ It ’ s not wholly obvious why person wants to have a frog sitting in an aquarium in their living board. ”
He and his co-authors watched 847 videos uploaded on freely accessible platforms like YouTube. They recorded 173 captive species in the television and found the most popular natural process people filmed involved the amphibians eating—a surprise to Measey, who assumed that breeding natural process would be the most popular due to the bombastic diverseness of breeding behaviors used by amphibian species .
From YouTube videos, Measey said that managers could tell whether encroaching species are popular in the pet trade — information that could inform decisions to ban the trade in particularly dangerous cases .
They could besides look at the types of traits that make amphibians better feeders, allowing managers to home in on potential invaders. Species with bigger mouths, for model, which eat larger prey items, may be particularly democratic in the pet craft. Amphibians that fit this beak and carry a high risk of becoming invasive could be monitored or regulated in the darling trade, he said, even if they are not presently sold as pets .
“ We might be able to flag those as being things that shouldn ’ metric ton be traded flush though the grocery store may move in that guidance, ” Measey said .
A few particularly dangerous invasives like African clawed frogs and tiger salamanders ( Ambystoma tigrinum ) were involved in a disproportionate numeral of videos. But Measey said that video featuring these animals were still less than those involving non-invasive native species like american english toads ( Anaxyrus americanus ). While the high number of native species may seem like good news program, Measey besides said that the researchers observed a number of inappropriate or barbarous videos posted on video platforms involving american toads likely taken from the angry.

These included kids putting toads in Lego cars and driving them about, and tying frogs to helium balloons and letting them fly off — a vector for invasion possibly unconsidered by wildlife managers. One evening showed a chef in China preparing a critically endangered giant salamander for pulmonary tuberculosis in a restaurant. fortunately, Measey said, threatened species were underrepresented in the video the team observed .
While it ’ sulfur quite common for people, specially kids, to capture frogs and bring them home, Measey said, this behavior can besides be harmful to populations at boastfully, since individuals kept in captivity have higher stress levels that can make them more susceptible to disease. When these individuals are released, they can infect healthier individuals and populations with pathogens like the chytrid fungus .
Measey said this kind of report could besides be used to track the success of wildlife management measures such as the U.S. and Canada ’ s decision to ban the import of pet salamanders in face of the deadly fungal Bsal threat .
View two of the video that the researchers analyzed below .

Joshua LearnJoshua Rapp Learn is a science writer at The Wildlife Society. Contact him at jlearn@wildlife.org with any questions or comments about his article.
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