Unusual weather reveals new discoveries about toads
UNRC co-director Dr. Greg Pauly and National Park Service biologist Dr. Katy Delaney report that an observation of western toad tadpoles from November 2015 is the latest breeding activity ever observed in that species. Tadpoles, some already transforming into frogs, were photographed by Delaney in a pond in Ventura County. She submitted these photos to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Southern California (RASCals) citizen science project, which allowed Pauly to confirm her suspicions that this was a very strange time of year to see breeding activity. Usually western toads breed from January to July, but an unusually dry winter, followed by a rare rain event as remnants of Hurricane Linda passed over the Los Angeles area, filled a seasonal pond and triggered breeding activity very late in the year. Some toads were probably able to breed in the pond in September, and the tadpoles were nearly frogs by the time they were observed in November. This observation illustrates how much we still have to learn about local wildlife and also the potential for biological discoveries to be made from photographs, whether they are taken by professional biologists or citizen scientists.