Hyla versicolor / Hyla chrysoscelis (complex)… new froglets!

•July 27, 2008 • Leave a Comment

here are a few shots of the Hyla versicolor / Hyla chrysoscelis (complex) morphlets… acquired these guys on July the 9th, 2008… they were collected from a sight in SC as tads, and morphed in captivity to the best of my knowledge. there are three in my possession at this time, perhaps another three to follow (replacements for missing or deceaced frog via improper shipping technique.)

the following three pictures of the morphlets were taken by my friend, Ryan, on July 13th, 2008. it must be nice to have a decent macro lens… bastard! ha ha! just kidding, Ryan… the shots are phenomenal, as is all of your work….

there will be follow-up photographs, etc… as i’d like this to eventually manifest itself into a photojournal of sorts…. i’d like to document their entire lives here. i need to collect more detailed data on their development anyway, lol… oh, by the way…. enjoy!!

was able to snap up a few fairly decent shots this morning ( July, 28th, 2008 ) of the little ones…. they’re certainly starting to more closely resemble adults… they’re develping rapidly… and they are quite the lookers, in my opinion.

an interesting side note: before the little guy in the picture below jumped to it’s current perch, it was perched towards the camera on the light gray “dead tree” (the light gray blob at the bottom of the picture) which is the centerpiece of their enclosure… lol, the little guy was washed-out in a “white-ish” light gray to blend in, and after only about 2 seconds after having jumped from the tree to the leaves, it’s completely changed it’s color to be more suitable… you can actually see the color change, and it’s phenomenal…. they’re certainly the chameleons of North American hylids…

and, a few more shots…

and, lastly… even though none of these photos are very good ones, i still really like the look i’m getting from this little creature. if looks could kill, lol….

i’ll try and get some better shots soon….

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“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson

•May 14, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Shirley Jackson\'s \

“Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut: silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”

– Shirley Jackson, from her classic 1959 Gothic novel, The Haunting of Hill House

the aforementioned quote is one of those passages which, once read, lingers in the brain like some, dark, sticky resin.  it almost refuses to be forgotten.  the following short story by the same author has much the same effect.  i highly recommended this to any fan of short fiction (or to any fan of Shirley Jackson.)  Shirley Jackson’s, “The Lottery” has to be one of my all time favorite short stories if for no other reason than the humanity it unmasks (rather violently) with both hands. …equally, terror is just as at home at the hight of a muggy, lazy, summer day as it ever was during the darkest recesses of the night. terror comes in all shapes and sizes, mind you …just like the stones of the earth.

…the story may be found and read here, should you wish: “The Lottery”

another brilliant work of Jackson’s is The Haunting of Hill House,… the quintessential “haunted house” / ghost story… often imitated, and one of the influences of most, if not all modern horror literature in some form or another… again, often imitated, however always paling by comparison. Shirley Jackson is a genius, and should be shared with others. ( …another work i’ve yet to read [ i do own it, though, and will get to it sooner or later…] is We Have Always Lived in the Castle which is also supposed to be really good.)

The Haunting of Hill House

Blaptica dubia: the colony…

•May 2, 2008 • 2 Comments

the common house cricket

[ Acheta domestica, the common house cricket. ]

So, I’ve grown dreadfully disenchanted with A. domestica… a.k.a… the “common house cricket.” they are, unfortunately, the “par excellence” of feeder insects because of their inexpensive upkeep and prolific breeding. they are also, unfortunately, highly over mass-produced, and are often the only feeder insect available to most of the population. what led me in the direction of Blattaria in the first place was that creeping feeling after being sold a crap-load of half-dead crickets that “there had to be a better alternative… other than what i’m being force-fed to force-feed my tree frogs by the super-pet-centers, etc.” i’m sure that if you’re still reading this, you feel the same way i do about your animals, and the mass-produced, semi-nutritional, half-dead crickets just won’t do (it’s akin to feeding your children McDonalds everyday because it happens to be readily available, fairly inexpensive, and what’s flashing in your face all day via advertising anyway. ) I could utilize this space for ranting about how wretched the little, filthy, bastards are, or how much they stink, how noisy they can be as adults, and how fragile they are as far as mortality goes…… not to mention the fact that ( for some reason unknown to me ) crickets ( mind you, not other Orthopterans… no grasshopper aversion here… ) come closer than any other Hexapod ever has to “grossing me out.” I’m not scared of crickets, damn you!! Really… sorry…. let’s move on now.

Again, this probably isn’t the place to tell you how vile and disgusting I think they are. Instead, i’ll use this space to post some information, and perhaps document my experience with a more suitable alternative, Blaptica dubia. I intend to utilize this species as a self-replenishing, ‘organic’ and nutritious feeder insect for my current dealings with Litroria caerulea ( see The Strange Case of Dr. Spekyll & Mr. Hyde for a peek at my two baby Litoria caerulea, ) as well as all future dealings in Hylidae. ( Phyllomedusa savagei is next on the list, and should be accomplished by this September. )

Blaptica dubia, adult female

[ adult female Blaptica dubia with wing stubs ]

Based on the research I’ve done, as well as a growing enthusiasm within the hobby for this particular specimen, I’ve decided to opt for Blaptica dubia as opposed to any other readily available species of Blattaria. In spite of the fact that there are other Blattaria which breed faster than B. dubia, the overall quality of the species in all areas of consideration for my project overrides any desire to go with any other potentially available specimen. As its common name would suggest, this is a South American specimen which under natural parameters spends its life as a nocturnal, terrestrial, detrovore amongst the leaf-litter on the forest floor.

B. dubia.... Adult Male

[ adult male B. dubia ]

As well as being a medium-fast breeder relative to other large tropical cockroaches, B. dubia is also oviviparous, meaning that like you and I, B. dubia gives birth to live young…. typically around thirty a brood. This (again, as opposed to breeding captive crickets ) eliminates the need to use a substrate for depositing eggs. The species is sexually dimorphic, the adult males having fully developed wings ( though flightless, ) whereas the adult females posses only vestigial wing buds. Optimal breeding temperatures appear to be between 85*F – 95*F. ( as far as the entire set-up, I usually provide a temperature gradient of between room temperature and 96-97*F ) The gestation period ( I think ) is close to 30 days, with instars / nymphs taking approximately 3 – 5 months to become sexually mature. The adults typically live anywhere between one and a half to two years in age, with the males living significantly shorter lives than the females. So, one could deduce that under optimal environmental conditions, one healthy adult Blaptica dubia female could potentially produce 24 broods of 30 roaches over a lifetime… giving her a net yield of some 720 roaches over the course of her life to the collective colony. Not bad at all.

Compared to other similarly kept species such as Blaberus discoidales ( Discoid Roaches ) or Eublaberus prosticus ( Orange-Headed Roaches, ) B. dubia has a softer exoskeleton, making it more desirable as a feeder. The trade-off, however, is that Blaptica dubia is not quite as ‘meaty’ ( I prefer to use the term “big boned” especially within earshot of the roaches, of course..) as the aforementioned. This, in my opinion, is a very minor and almost insignificant factor in light of the numerous traits which make the species desirable as a feeder. another phenotypical trait conducive to breeding the species in captivity is that they are literally horrible climbers ( that is, compared to other roaches, mind you.) They cannot climb up smooth plastics or glass, which of course, makes them that much more ‘acclimated’ for captive breeding, as this ( under the correct conditions ) limits the potential for escape to almost zero.

There’s typically ( under optimal husbandry, that is ) also zero odor associated with the colony. A. domestica, on the other hand, pretty much just stinks…. to put it mildly. For the most part, the B. dubia colony is very low maintenance – also a huge incentive to go with this species. In spite of being moderate in size, they’ve a high mass, or ‘meat’ to shell ratio. The list of perks seems to go on and on with these guys.

B. dubia undergoes simple metamorphosis, wherein the intermediate stages / instars or nymphs of the species are smaller representations of the adults. Blaptica dubia nymphs will often ‘play dead’ when disturbed. This, along with the fact that they’re much slower and less ‘shy’ than many of their counterparts, makes B. dubia that much easier to handle or capture for feeding. however, this roach will typically and immediately seek shelter when light is introduced to their environment. When the lights are on, these guys are hiding. This species should be housed in a dark / opaque container ( like many others, I’ve opted for the standard Rubbermaid 18 + gal. Storage container set-up, which i’ll go into more detail with later on. )

all things considered, B. dubia is an ideal feeder insect, or an ideal pet. Under nominal conditions Blaptica dubia is a prolific breeder, and an all around low maintenance as well as enjoyable species to breed in captivity. Blaptica dubia may well be ( again, all things considered ) one of the best possible feeder insects available – bar none. It’s moderate size, slower speed, and soft body compared to most other arthropods make it especially suitable as a feeder. Add in the lack of flight, the lacking of a substantial ability to climb smooth surfaces, and a docile nature, and the optimum choice for a feeder becomes blatantly obvious.

A quick break-down:

male and female b dubia

[male and female Blaptica dubia, respectively]

Binomial: Blaptica dubia

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Arthropoda

Class: Hexapoda (Insecta)

Order: Blattaria

Family: Blaberidae

Genus: Blaptica

Species: B. dubia

Geographic range: northern South America… Brazil, Guyana, French Guyana, Etc.

Size: Adults range 1.5 – 2”

Metamorphosis: simple

male female, and nymphs - Blaptica dubia

[ male and female B. dubia, along with various stages of nymphs/instars ]

Food & Hydration: omnivorous, therefore a diet supplemented high in protein is a must because of potential canabalilsm within the Blaptica dubia colony. Fresh, ORGANIC, fruits and vegetables which HAVE NOT been subjected to pesticides, herbicides, etc., etc., etc. there’s not only the risk of killing off the colony, but let me remember why i’m going through all this in the first place: to provide a safe, nutritious, pesticide / poison free, parasite / pathogen free natural, replenishing food source for my Hylids ( tree frogs.) I would recommend a mixture of whole grain oats ( pulverize with mortar and pestel ) and high quality / high protein fish flakes… supplemented at least three times a week with various organic fruits and vegetables. Stay away from foods high in oxylic acid ( as was first pointed out to me by a very experienced and highly reputable Hylid breeder… ) based on the following research i’ve done it appears that this substance binds with vital nutrients inside the frog’s body such as Ca (calcium) and Fe (iron,) preventing uptake, and instead depositing the metals / minerals, etc. in he liver and kidneys… …thus, bypassing any potential benefits, and potentially causing serious injury. perhaps even being a caustic agent of Metabolic Bone Desease in young, quickly growing frogs needing a good deal of Ca. Quickly, some foods rich in oxylic acid: rhubarb, buckwheat, sorrel, star fruit, black pepper, parsley, poppy seed, amaranth, spinach, chard, beets, cocoa, chocolate, most nuts, most berries, and beans. If you’re using B. dubia as a feeder, just remember that what you feed your roaches is what you feed your frogs, lizards, inverts, etc.

as far as hydration goes most water uptake is accomplished via feeding fruits and vegetables which have a heavy volume of water. Although this species seems to handle the lack of moisture better than many, it is essential (especially for molting, breeding, as well as juvenile development ) to have an adequate amount of liquid available. I also use water bytes / water crystals which are jelly-like and absorb huge amounts of water for their size, as well as mist the enclosure once every other day. Other possible alternatives are using a sponge or cotton balls to hold the water ( you typically don’t want to use open water as nymphs and sometimes adults will drown. ) another consideration when using a sponge or cotton balls is the fact that they make perfect little petri dishes for bacteria to grow inside of…. I would not recommend the latter method, as it excludes possible negative factors. Be sure that you’re using dechlorinated water! If you must use tap then there are water conditioners available to deactivate the chloramines and chlorines, and if that is not a possibility then you can leave the water – uncovered – for 48 -72 hrs. to allow said chemicals to evaporate. I prefer the conditioner when using water from the tap for the peace of mind.

Life cycle: after copulation, and an accompanying 30 days of gestation, females give live birth to around 30 or so nymphs. Metamorphosis is simple, and it takes between 3- 5 months until maturity is reached. Adults live between 1.5 to 2 years, with the females outliving the males considerably.

Description: adults 1.5” – 2” (inches). Adult males have a full set of wings, however are flightless, while adult females have only vestigial wing buds. The pronotum covers almost all of the head, and they have flat, oval bodies, with long, slender antennae. Nymphs are typically mottled grey/brown and orange, however more drab than adults. The adult females may be splendid in their coloration, giving he roach it’s common name. Females may have brilliant orange spots set on a dark black background which can be very beautiful.

Housing / Captivity: this species is a piece of cake. No substrate, and you’re typical Rubbermaid set-up with stacked vertical egg-crates, ventilation, and heating elements. (will describe in detail later. ) an ideal temperature range is 75*F – 95*F. Make sure to use an opaque / dark enclosure.

The Strange Case of Dr. Spekyll & Mr. Hyde

•April 26, 2008 • Leave a Comment

on April 4th @ 09:50 hrs. the stork ( in this case, UPS Overnight Air… ) brought me a package… from that moment on i became the proud father of little “Spekyll & Hyde.” their names a tribute to Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, as well as being indicative of their relative ‘personalities’ ( *gasp* …if i may be so bold as to be anthropomorphic for a moment, that is..), and – of course – their phenotypical traits.

Picture 1: this first shot, taken shortly after their “sunrise,” is of Hyde on the way to his favorite sleeping perch, which is in a crook at the top of the back rock wall… ( Litoria caerulea, like most tree frogs and their immediate kin, are nocturnal. ) here you can see him ‘eye-balling’ it on the way there. he’s very methodical in his daily routine… for instance, almost every day he typically spends the first hour after ‘sunrise’ soaking in his pond / pool before climbing up to his perch to sleep the day away again. they, like us, are ‘creatures of habit…’

eye-balling favorite sleeping perch

Picture 2: this next shot is Hyde’s aforementioned favorite sleeping perch…. here he is settling down for sleep. sleep tight, little friend….

( i really like Hyde’s two little white spots on his right side…… so out of place on his otherwise uniform green body….. totally unlike Spekyll, who’ll you’ll meet in a moment.)

Picture 3: i really love this shot. Hyde seems almost noble… regal…. in his “king of the hill” pose… just brimming with pride from his successful cricket hunting ( A. domesticus ) and his obvious conquering of the drift wood jungle gym… this shot was taken just prior to the previous two… again, on his way to sleep for the day. i’ve owned a large female Aphonopelma seemani [ a very large Costa Rican tarantula ] before, and these guys ( yes, my little, cute, smiling tree frogs ) put her to shame as far as predation goesany day of the week. these little sweeties don’t ‘sit & wait’ for a damn thing… oh no, they’re active hunters. if they see movement with those large, light-gathering, pretty eyes of theirs, it’s all over for the responsible party (that is, if said party will fit inside their mouths.) Hyde in all his glory:

\

Picture 4: here’s Hyde in his ritual morning soak before sleep….

morning soak...

Picture 5: another shot of Hyde perched on the back rock wall….

Hyde perched on back rock wall of vivarium...

Picture 6: the following picture is yet another of Hyde having a nice, refreshing soak… post sucsessful cricket hunting. giving me the cold shoulder this time…. i don’t blame him, though…. i’m the huge, ugly primate chasing him with a box full of lightning!

Hyde giving me the cold shoulder...

Pictures 7 & 8: the following two shots wrap up this set of pictures of Hyde. i’m positive there will be much better material in the very near future, so check back if you like. the first is a cute shot of Hyde peeking out at me taking pictures…. the second, another shot of Hyde in the pond. i love this little guy, he’s great!

peek-a-boo!

Hyde in pond...

…. and, now: Spekyll…

Pictures 9, 10, 11, & 12: unfortunately, Spekyll was hiding when i had the good camera for the above shots… ( i’m not going to disturb my frogs for a damn picture… these guys have a typical lifespan in captivity of 15 – 20 years – i’ll get my shots, lol…) i used my brother’s cell phone to snap these shots, and the quality is poor to say the very least. (at least i was able to post some pictures of him, though… thanks Lawrence!) so, without further adieu…. i give you Spekyll.

blue froggy....

( he looks ‘big’ in these pics… but he’s only slightly larger than Hyde (4-ish cm.) …still tiny, yet. i love his spots, (hence the name, of course!) and his blue coloring! both are of an Aussie blue morph stock.

goblin!

i see spots!

( i’ll be posting some high quality pics of Spekyll very soon. these are horrible, and really DO NOT do him justice…. he’s a real beauty.)

Spekyll sleeping...

(if you look closely in the above photo you can see Spekyll’s “beauty mark” – the white spot on his upper lip. i think that’s so awesome! oh! there’s a much better shot of this mark in the very 1st picture of Spekyll too! … four images up.)

btw: i’ve been referring to both of these little guys as ‘he,’ however sexing (other than very invasive and very expensive methods) isn’t easily determined until they reach at least a semi-mature age… around a year old, from what i understand… at this time the males will expose themselves as such via their calling for females at night, etc…. and by the nuptial pads on the inside of the thumbs [ this helps the male grasp the female during amplexus]… the males will also generally have darker, looser skin under the neck than females… )

note: this is essentially only a VERY ROUGH DRAFT of this post… i wanted to at least get a shell up so people could finally see my new little friends… expect better quality shots and more information in the near future.. END.

Update: here are a couple of much better shots of Spekyll… more to follow relatively shortly.

Picture 1: here’s a much better shot of Spekyll…. ( again, as the guys were getting ready for sleep in the morning… typically, this is a period of time when they are neither hunting nor sleeping, and i can risk disturbing them with the camera’s flash… ) apparently, one of the crickets fed to them last night had managed to slip through the nightly gambit known as Spekyll & Hyde, and had survived… it was perched up top between the ‘rock’ wall and the screen top. …..hence Spekyll’s acute interest.

Spekyll with left foot on Hyde\'s head...


Picture 2: a few seconds later… after said cricket jumped for his life. he got away…. briefly.

** now, the funniest part about these two shots is the placement of Spekyll’s left foot during the entire process… all of about five minutes… that’s Hyde’s passive face Spekyll happens to be standing on. if you look under Spekyll’s left foot you can see Hyde’s nose and the top of Hyde’s left hand as well. Hyde was trying to sleep and never once ‘complained.’ …….what an alter-ego! More photographs and information to come relatively soon! END.

Spekyll with his left foot across Hyde\'s face... they stayed like this for like five minutes.. Hyde never \'complained.\'