In 1987, my PhD work at the University of Tasmania was beginning to take shape, and I produced a technical report with some preliminary results. I also started a side-project on functional programming language implementation which was to result in the design of a novel computer (a computer, sadly, that was never actually built, although many people joined in on the hardware aspects).
Horror writer Stephen King had a good year, with The Tommyknockers and several other novels being published. The term “steampunk” was coined in 1987, and Orson Scott Card’s Speaker for the Dead, the sequel to Ender’s Game, won the Hugo Award for best science fiction or fantasy novel (it also won the Nebula Award in 1986, the year it was published).
In music, The Alan Parsons Project released their album Gaudi (which included the single below), U2 released The Joshua Tree, and Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, and Dolly Parton released Trio. The Billboard top song for 1987 was the rather silly 1986 single “Walk Like an Egyptian.”
Author and nature artist John Muir Laws blogs many interesting things at www.johnmuirlaws.com. One interesting recent post explains how to draw a frog step-by-step (the image below shows steps 4 and 17). He has also written about drawing insects, plants, and birds. Anyone interested in nature should take a look!
Predicted suitable range (in blue) of frogs from the Leptolalax applebyi group in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos (modified from Rowley et al. 2015). The vertical colour scale shows elevation in metres. Frog images are by Jodi Rowley.
The Leptolalax applebyi group discussed in the paper hides a number of similar-looking but distinct species of frogs, often restricted to small geographic areas (DNA and acoustic evidence can be used to distinguish them). Ecological niche modelling using climatic and terrain data produced the above map of areas predicted to be suitable for these frogs. Unfortunately, as of a 2008 satellite study, only 55% of this suitable area (in blue on the map) was covered by the broadleaf evergreen forest which these frogs need. The resultant habitat loss may therefore have already led to the extinction of frog species which we will never know about. Less than a third of the remaining area has government protection, so further habitat loss is, sadly, a strong possibility.
The example of the Leptolalax applebyi group underscores the need both to strengthen conservation efforts around the world, and to put more effort into describing the world’s species diversity, so that we know what needs protecting! Losing a species (like the passenger pigeon or the gastric-brooding frog) is tragic, but sadder still is losing species without even realising that they existed.
The Indonesian frog Limnonectes larvaepartus, formally described last year, gives birth to live tadpoles. It is the only frog to do so – the overwhelming majority of frogs lay eggs (and a handful give birth to tiny froglets). A recent paper by Mirza Kusrini, Jodi Rowley, Luna Khairunnisa, Glenn Shea, and Ronald Altig describes the reproductive biology of this unusual frog in more detail (the photos above and below are from the paper). This post from the Australian Museum has more details.
Limnonectes larvaepartus tadpoles
In biology, every rule seems to have exceptions! And the unusual is always waiting around the corner, ready to be discovered – especially in the world’s tropical forests.
The more common reproductive strategy: most other frogs lay eggs like these
The thorny tree frog (Gracixalus lumarius, photo above by Jodi J. L. Rowley, Duong Thi Thuy Le, Vinh Quang Dau, Huy Duc Hoang, and Trung Tien Cao) was recently discovered in Vietnam at an altitude of around 2,000 metres on the slopes of Ngọc Linh and nearby mountains.
These fascinating little frogs breed in water-filled tree hollows (phytotelmata), rather than in ponds or streams. They are about 4 cm long, and coloured pink and yellow. Curiously, the males are covered in sharp thorny spines. For more information, see this report from the Australian Museum, and also the published paper by Jodi Rowley et al.
Jodi maintains a website at jodirowley.com. If you’re passionate about frogs, take a look.