Steve's Herpetological Blog

An insight into the life of Steve, his research and the many books he reads

#SciFri

#SciFri: We described a new species!

Back in October 2015, I was sitting in the Cambridge Blue (on Gwydir Street, Cambridge) when I got a phone call from John W. Wilkinson of the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust (ARC). He had rang to tell me about a stowaway toad that came into the country with some holiday makers from Mauritius – the interesting thing is that Mauritius has no native amphibians. The stowaway turned out to be the guttural toad (Sclerophrys gutturalis) and found it’s way to just outside of Cambridge and of course I was the natural the natural go-to in collecting and rehoming it.

The stowaway female guttural toad (Sclerophrys gutturalis)

Unfortunately I was at work when the holiday makers were free, so my herpetological brother in arms Mark Goodman went and collected the little guy (turns out the toad was female). Whilst the toad was in our care, before it went off to live with John W. Wilkinson, it shed a ton of parasitic worms in it’s faecal pellets. I first noticed them when I cleaned it’s water and saw what looked liked small beansprouts in the water. Now me being me, I collected the worms and sent them off for analysis. The toad survived a trip in the washing machine (see below for more) and we think this is maybe what killed the parasitic worms.

After a few years and after the worms had been all over the world, it turned out that the worms were indeed a new species. After morphological confirmation, a small team (including myself) set out to name this new species. We decided to name it after my colleague Mark Goodman giving this new parasite the scientific name Pseudoacanthocephalus goodmani for his help with collecting the species and for his passion for amphibian conservation. I mentioned above that Mark is my herpetological brother in arms – take a look at my publications and just see how many we’ve worked on together! You can find the paper where we described the new species in the Journal of Helminthology here, although it’s behind a paywall. If you’d like a copy – get in touch! You may have also seen that I teased this discovery on Instagram some time ago.

For regular listeners of Herpetological Highlights, you may have heard that the paper was mentioned in Episode 63 (you can find it here). One aspect that Ben and Tom picked up on was the fact that toad survived a spin cycle before being found. Whilst this is interesting, to me the most interesting thing is that the toad had a species of parasitic worm living inside it that were new to science. If you’ve got any questions, feel free to ask them and I’ll try to answer them later (maybe in a follow-up post if there are enough).

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