HSI Project: Documenting Predation During Amphibian Reproductive Events.

Science Officer Colllie Ennis. Photo credit: Rob Gandola

Science Officer Colllie Ennis. Photo credit: Rob Gandola

The global crash in amphibian populations has created a strong focus on protecting these species from extinction. Efforts to protect these species are often borne from a desire to protect these charismatic animals from harm and to ensure they remain an integral part of a nation’s natural heritage for future generations. However, it is also important to recognise the slightly morbid need to protect these animals for the benefit of the ecosystems at large, and in particular, the predators that feed on them.

Here in Ireland, frogs are an important part of the diet of many avian and mammalian species. Herons, otters, corvids, foxes and many other species prey on our frogs, and this predation is made easier when amphibians aggregate during the breeding season.

This opportunistic heron avails of the sudden glut of prey.

This opportunistic heron avails of the sudden glut of prey.

With this in mind, the Herpetological Society of Ireland (HSI) Science team, set up camera traps at a breeding pond that was known to be highly productive. The pond was surveyed during the height of the breeding season and documented several predation events. The camera traps primarily caught avian predators such as herons and hooded crows, but a visual inspection by the Science team also found evidence of mammalian predators in the area.

A hooded crow caught feeding at night.

A hooded crow caught feeding at night.

Of course, frog spawn is a very important element of the native newt’s diet as well, and evidence of newts eating frog spawn was found at the site as well. All in all, the survey was very encouraging. The local amphibian population appears to be thriving, and the benefits to the ecosystem as a whole are quite obvious. The HSI remain committed to further revealing the integral role amphibians play in Ireland’s ecosystems and we would encourage anyone who has observed breeding or predation events to submit your records to us via the contact form.

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