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Volume 68, Issue 150, Monday, June 23, 2003 


UH biologists forage the campus at night

Cougar News Services

To most people summer means having fun in the sun, but to UH biologists it means spending the warm nights crawling across the campus with flashlights in search of a species that could shed new light on evolution and the environment.

Biology and biochemistry professor Dan Wells and his crew are scouring through the campus brush in hopes of finding the Rio Grande chirping frog, an amphibious species that skips the metamorphosis phases of normal frogs by hatching from the egg as a froglet.

"Amphibians are supposed to lay their eggs in water, hatch, swim around and metamorphose to become terrestrial -- to a large extent, that defines an amphibian," Well said in a press release. "This frog doesnit like water at all. It buries its eggs in the ground and in about three weeks, they hatch out as tiny froglets."

A genetic master switch that controls metamorphosis in the Rio Grande frog is believed to be the cause of the unusual evolution.

"To know the evolutionary and environmental answers, we need to understand early development, such as how the early embryo forms," Wells said. "To be able to do that we need to be able to raise the frogs." 

Previous efforts to study the frogis breeding instincts in the lab have been fruitless, so Wells and his team have taken the research back outdoors to the understand the frog in its natural environment.

"Itis a slow process," Wells said. "On a good night, five or six people may only catch 10 frogs."

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