BALAM JA WAY and the SARTENEJAN REGION
Very little is known about the amphibians of the Sartenejan Region, with only two broad
species surveys published that included frogs.
Amphibians are notoriously difficult to survey due to
many species only been found during a limited breeding season, and some species being very
difficult to locate even when calls are heard. Due to their conservative morphology there are also
many cryptic species of amphibians that can only be distinguished by calls or DNA and not
by colour or form.
Dedicated surveys over years are required to provide
complete inventories of amphibian species. Because some species may only call for days in a year at
very specific seasonal events, such as the first drought breaking rains or in periods of
exceptional rainfall, superficial survey can often only find common species. In fact these common
species may be considered common only because of their easy location through limited survey
For instance in coastal Australia, near Sydney a large
city of 5 million with many universities, a lot of attention to amphibians, and many herpetologists
living in the habitat of the frog, a frog was considered as perhaps extinct as it had not been seen
for many years. This region is semi-tropical with an extended dry season; a similar climatic
pattern to that found in Sarteneja. After a period of exceptional flooding rain this frog was
widespread and abundant with large numbers seen on roads.
The case of extended dry seasons with a break in the
wet is also found in the Sartenejan Region. The breeding period for some frogs may be one
event over days in a year. Because travel and surveying are arduous during the break of the
tropical wet season, and the time of the break is unpredictable, most surveys for amphibians are
conducted weeks or longer after the initial rains, and perhaps not during the breeding
There have been two published surveys of the
amphibians in the Sartenejan Region, both in Shipstern Nature Reserve about six miles from
Sarteneja. Their findings are listed in the table below. One survey by Nathalie Nguyen
Quang Minh, did not focus on breeding events, and the other more productive survey by Jan Meerman
was conducted as a general species inventory of Shipstern.
Herpetofauna of Shipstern Nature
Reserve Nathalie Nguyen Quang Minh, Zoological
Institute, University of Neuchâtel, rue Emile-Argand 11, 2007 Neuchâtel, Switzerland, for the
obtention of a master degree in biology 2004-2005. 26p.
Shipstern Nature Reserve Species
Inventory Jan Meerman, 1993. Checklist of the
Reptiles and Amphibians of the Shipstern Nature Reserve, Jan C.
Meerman. In "Occasional Papers Of The Belize Natural History Society. A journal of Belizean
Natural History". 2(1-11): 1-84. Also has a checklist of
flora, insects, birds, and mammals and some valuable biogeographical information.
Of interest is the finding of a species, Gastrophryne elegans, not
previously considered to be possibly found in the region. There are also a number of other species
possibly found in the region that have not yet been seen.
Neither survey was based on calls or DNA evidence. It
is often difficult to decide whether two amphibians belong to the same or two distinct
species. This can be especially challenging for frogs and toads which externally look
very similar. Male frogs have to attract their females via species specific calls, so call
characteristics (e.g. duration, frequency) reliably tell whether animals belong to one or several
District names refer to Balam Ja Way property (BAW),
Corozal District (CO; northern end of Belize next to Mexico and Yutacan Peninsula) and Orange Walk
District (OW; 30 miles inland from Sarteneja. M Ship is Jan Meermans survey, and N Ship is
Nathalie Nguyen Quang Minh's survey.